NEPBA files unfair labor suit against WPD for alleged “retaliation”

Posted by Jeremy Shulkin

In a document posted on the New England Police Benevolent Association Local 911‘s website (dated back to December 24, 2010 but updated this morning), Stephen Gunnerson, president of the local that represents nearly 330 patrolman,  announced that the NEPBA’s executive board “voted unanimouslyto file an Unfair Labor Practice on behalf of Local 911.”

In a letter to union members Gunnerson writes that after NEPBA executive director Jerry Flynn wrote a scathing press release regarding the City’s appeal of a ruling overturning the termination of officer David Rawlston and a “confrontational Chief’s meeting” the next day, he received notice that his position as full-time union head would be scaled back and he would need written permission from a deputy chief to leave 9-11 Lincoln Sq. for any business pertaining to NEPBA.

Do you believe for one second, as the City has suggested, that it is merely a coincidence that this change occurred two days after the press release? Is it a coincidence that this change occurred only one day after a meeting in which the Chief, upset by the press release, told me that “all bets are off?” Of course it isn’t a coincidence – it is retribution for the union exercising its right to speak out in support of its members. As of my 350th day as union President, my current full time assignment is the Cell Room.

Gunnerson continues, rehashing each benchmark in the three year old Rawlston investigation and explaining he is the first president in 18 years to not have a full-time union assignment.

None of us want an adversarial relationship with the current administration; however, it is the administration’s actions, not ours, that have precipitated this situation. Consider that up until the union spoke out in favor of Rawlston, the administration expressed no concern with my conducting Union business full time, as the previous four Union Presidents had done for the past 18 years. This includes two former Union Presidents during the Chief’s tenure, and my first 349 days as Local President.

It was only following my Public Records request, my statements to the media regarding known issues with our radio system, and finally Executive Director Flynn’s press release that this administration suddenly reassigned me.

This isn’t a new allegation; a sampling of this fight appeared in a December 19, 2010 Telegram article:

Adding to the friction was another allegation last week by the union that Chief Gemme retaliated against Officer Stephen Gunnerson, the president of New England Police Benevolent Association Local 911, because Officer Gunnerson supports Officer Rawlston. At issue is the union’s contention that the city is making Officer Gunnerson the first patrolmen’s union president in 18 years to have to report for duty and ask permission any time he wants to perform union duties instead of police work.

In that same article, WPD Chief Gary Gemme denied that was the case, instead suggesting that Gunnerson wasn’t showing up for police work:

“I had a situation where the union president wasn’t coming to work, wasn’t reporting for his assignment, no one would know where he is,” said Chief Gemme, who served briefly as the patrolmen’s union president.

The chief made the order even stronger after “it kind of became a joke. He’d call in, he still never came in.”

In that Telegram article, and again in his letter to union members, Gunnerson pushes back at the accusations, writing that he complied with all that was asked of him: arriving on time to police HQ before going to the union office on Park Ave., and that there’s documentation showing it. “Anyone who says differently is simply wrong,” he charges.

In any case, this means it was a bad time to print this passage in this morning’s Telegram:

But the chief plays down the level of dissension in the ranks by noting that, outside of the Rawlston case, most of the disciplinary actions — from reprimands to terminations — sustained over his tenure have been done with the cooperation of the police union.

“We have not had one unfair labor practice complaint, and very few grievances from the union,” he noted.

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11 Comments

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11 responses to “NEPBA files unfair labor suit against WPD for alleged “retaliation”

  1. -Q

    This seems to be turning into a “disfunction junction” scenario all over again and we all know how the previous “disfunction junction” turned out………..
    but let us all be clear here – the one person most responsible for this travesty of injustice is the number one public safety official in the City of Worcester and that is City Manager O’Brien……………
    A city manager that is costing the taxpayers in excess of $500,000 in legal fees, back-pay and liability which does not include the upcoming lawsuits the city and the city manager has brought on for this quixotic quest……….
    Imagine the deficits our city is facing and the city manager continues to waste much needed revenues for city services only to satisfy his personal vendetta’s……….
    When is enough – enough?

  2. Padonkadonk

    I’m no big fan of unions but they exist for a reason. as long as gemme is chief he will lie bribe blackmail and threaten anyone if they do not kiss his ring. how many lawsuits are there on gemme right now. union lawsuits civil lawsuits over gun licenses etc. seems like gemme is on a power trip and is abusing his authority and goes after anyone he feels is a threat to his kingdom.

  3. Jose

    “Gunnerson… received notice that his position as full-time union head would be scaled back and he would need written permission from a deputy chief to leave 9-11 Lincoln Sq. for any business pertaining to NEPBA.”

    I may be misunderstanding this, but…

    Why are we (the taxpayers) paying for a full-time officer to do nothing but push the union’s agenda? With all the layoffs and cutbacks, let Gunnerson do some real policing, and if the union wants someone to represent them full time, let them pay for it with their dues.

  4. Chuck U. Farley

    A better question is why is this chief suddenly trying to convince everyone that he didn’t know the union guy was doing union business full time until now?18 years is a long time for this to have been going on and if other union guys under this chief were doing what this guy was doing then why all of a sudden did the chief reassign this one guy?Sounds like it was clearly payback for speaking out.You don’t get to pick and choose who gets to do union work full time based on if you can dictate what the union guy does.Im not one hundred percent behind paying this guy to do only union stuff but if that what has been going on for 18 years and under four chiefs then I guess the four chiefs knew what they were doing when they allowed all the other union guys to work full time on union matters.I dont buy that this isnt an attempt to control the union or at least try to intimidate them or punish them.Im pretty sure that isnt legal.

  5. -Q

    Chuck – there is absolutely no question that the chief is dishing out payback
    remember the Detective Sgt. that found Gunnerson acted responsibly and no dept.rules/laws were broken – he was transferred out of the D.B………and apparently its do as I say not as I do – the chief had the exact same set-up to do union business when he was the patrolmens union president…………that aside, the chief answers to the city manager and the city manager is soley responsible for this ongoing travesty of injustice………..

  6. peggy sue

    “remember the Detective Sgt. that found Gunnerson acted responsibly and no dept.rules/laws were broken – he was transferred out of the D.B”
    I Agrre with you Q on everything you say in your Comment but just wanted to correct one mistake, It was officer Rawlston and not Gunnerson on the above comment.

  7. -Q

    peggy sue thanks for the correction……..

  8. “soley responsible for this ongoing travesty of injustice………..”
    What the public doesn’t know is that Stevie, aka Q, has telepathic powers – he can read Gemme’s thoughts. Not to mention an uncanny ability to interpret his actions, a skill he acquired by meticulously deciphering the T&G’s slanted “journalism”.
    Excuse me Stevie, would you please use a metaphor checker, a spellchecker, and a fact checker?
    Folks, the only “travesty” around here is Stevie’s grammatical skills.
    Local pundit huh?

  9. Travis

    “the only “travesty” around here ” Is the fact that Chief gemme still holds the position of chief! Gemme has done so much wrong for the WPD and has ruined many innocent and descent peoples lives. Gemme has proven that he will stoop to the lowest levels to acomplish what he sets out to do. Let’s hope that the Ethics Commission that is investigating alot of Gemmes evil deeds will finally get rid of this CORUPT CHIEF once and for all!

  10. zed

    Nobody knows the truth when Gemme is concerned, least of all crusty ol’ Nemeth.

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