On a recent Friday afternoon, I shut off the lights in my office and headed home for the weekend. I had been the Pension Coordinator for almost a year. It was a great opportunity to help our members with the next daunting step in their careers. The position was personally rewarding and an amazing learning experience. I am still grateful for the opportunity that Tony and Keith gave me one year ago. But on the very next Sunday afternoon, I received the news that you all know by now and that took me completely by surprise; effective July 1, 2014, I would be the next President of the New Jersey State Policemen's Benevolent Association.
I would be remiss if I didn’t thank Tony and Keith for seven years of incredibly dedicated service to our organization. When you hear the phrase “Blood, Sweat and Tears,” it personifies their work here on our behalf. Whether you agreed or disagreed with how they did it, they did it with a passion and dedication that will be hard to duplicate. Nothing has come easy to any labor organization these past five years, but they never once gave up or felt that they weren’t doing the right thing for every single one of you. I have had the privilege to work closely with them during the years, and they are two men who can look proudly in the mirror every day and know they gave their very best. I was proud to work with them and serve on their Executive Board. I am truly honored that they gave me the opportunity to lead this organization into the next phase. I am even prouder to call them my friends.
Our great friend in labor, past FMBA President Bill Lavin proudly proclaimed on more than one occasion: “We don’t owe an apology to anybody for what we make.” I believe in that phrase so much that I hope one day it will be attributed to me! With few exceptions, we were here before our Local, County and State officials were elected and we will be here long after they are gone. Sometimes we benefit from the decisions they make, but more often than not we are left reeling in their wake wondering what the hell they were thinking. Despite the good or the bad, we continue to provide safety and outstanding service to the residents of this state. Our profession has come a long way in the past 30 or 40 years. We are more professional, better trained and much better educated. We are saddled with regulations, mandates and guidelines that were unheard of a few decades ago. We are doing much more with much less and many of us with a lot less people to do it. The last time I looked we are still doing it on weekends, holidays, midnights, anniversaries and birthdays. Sadly, in the past four-anda- half years we have been doing it with a knife at our throats not knowing what's next. Sick time? Benefits? Hybrid Pensions? I hear all of you every single day and at every single seminar I presented during the past year. The day I need to apologize for a competitive salary, comprehensive benefits or a sound pension is the day that I will resign from this presidency. An apology for defending you and what you earn every day on every shift will never come out of my mouth.
I chose Marc Kovar as my Executive Vice President. Marc is one of the most passionate union members I have ever met. He is fiercely loyal to the PBA and has served the residents in the City of Passaic for more than 20 years. Until his appointment, he was chairman of our Collective Bargaining Committee. His involvement with the Collective Bargaining Committee has given him the unique perspective of where the attacks are coming from and how to fight back. He has a great business sense and will be a great asset to our organization. He has been involved in many other committees and sits on the National Board of NAPO (National Association of Police Organizations).
Marc and I hit the track before the starting gate opened on July 1. With Rob Nixon, we developed a comprehensive Political Action Plan that we are already diving into. Appointments with Senate and Assembly leadership and union leaders from public sector labor organizations are already on our calendars. We are adding to the list every single day. Our immediate goal is to meet every single state legislator during the next six months. They will know our names, they will know our faces and they will even be left with our cell phone numbers. Whether they give us 10 minutes or two hours, they will know the frustration you all feel and exactly what has been taken from us all.
You all deservedly have great expectations in your new leadership, and Marc and I accept the tremendous challenges before us. Marc and I also have great expectations of you. After these past four-and-a-half years of attacks, I'm not quite sure what will get you all angry enough to get up and take some action on your own behalf. When you are on the street or in the cell block you take swift, decisive action when someone tries to attack you and you immediately subdue the threat. Most of you can get that all wrapped up before you even get a hand laid on you. There is a massive assault on our pension system and only one out of five of you took the 15 seconds to vote for your own PFRS Pension Trustee in the election this past April/May! We got you all registered to vote, now we NEED you to vote. Marc and I have to head to Trenton with a big stick. I feel like we are the sheep heading to the slaughterhouse and all we are doing is complaining about the long, sweaty line to get our throats slit! We could use some backup here and I sure hope you are all finally fed up enough to fight back with us. We sure can't do it alone. And so begins a new chapter in the New Jersey State PBA. We are still in the midst of what may be the most vicious, sustained assault on our rights, benefits and wages since our inception in 1896. It certainly would have been easier to pass and wait for a better time, but I believe we can make a difference and turn the tide in our favor. So the next time I hear "what is the PBA doing," my answer will be that we are doing more and we are doing it better than any other labor group in the State.
You have our commitment. Marc and I need yours.