Officials tout wage increases for Madison Heights employees

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison-Park News | Published February 29, 2024


MADISON HEIGHTS — Earlier this year, the city of Madison Heights completed negotiations with its labor unions for an increase in wages and benefits that officials say reflect a positive dialogue between the two sides.

Those involved were part of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union, representing 14 city supervisors and department heads; the Fraternal Order of Police, representing 48 patrol officers and 13 command officers; the Technical, Professional and Officeworkers Association of Michigan, representing 23 municipal employees, plus 20 employees with the Department of Public Services; and the Madison Heights Fire Fighters Association, representing 31 firefighter-paramedics.

The result of the bargaining process was a contract extension through June 30, 2026, that included an average 3% increase in wages, which is an increase averaging roughly $1/hour. The City Council unanimously approved the contracts in January, and the labor unions ratified their contracts shortly thereafter. The increases went into effect immediately.

“In my 10 years on council, I’ve yet to see a contentious union battle, and I credit that to our union leadership, city staff and labor counsel,” said Mark Bliss, the mayor pro tem. “Everyone at the council table understands the balancing act here: taking care of the people who take care of our residents on a daily basis, but also not running into a situation where there is not enough money to pay for services down the road.”

While the city is wary of increasing costs in an inflationary economy, Madison Heights City Manager Melissa Marsh said it was important to remain competitive in the current labor market, including with recruitment and retention.

“(Negotiations) were not actively open, but several unions asked that the city look at wages. The recent settlements and increases given in other communities resulted in the city’s wages falling behind others,” Marsh said via email. “In order to remain competitive, and to retain our skilled and trained workforce, the city offered wage increases and a one-year extension through June 30, 2026.”

Calls and emails to each union were unreturned at press time.

Madison Heights Police Chief Brent LeMerise said he was pleased with the process.

“It was a collaborative effort between the city and the police officers’ union. The raise was intended to improve recruitment and retention of police officers. We have already seen a positive impact in the quality and quantity of our applicants,” LeMerise said via email. “The Police Department also extends a thank you to the City Council for approving the wage increase.”

Members of the City Council touted the ratification of the contracts as a success.

“There are still many people who aren’t in favor of giving raises to our first responders, but to provide a safer environment for the entire community, we need to be able to pay them all a competitive wage that is comparable to cities around us. This is important for both retention of officers and their morale, as well as attracting new ones to replace those we’ve lost through attrition,” said City Councilmember Sean Fleming. “As a fellow union worker myself, I believe in the process of collective bargaining and working in good faith to make sure that our employees are paid a fair wage.”

In emails, Mayor Roslyn Grafstein and council members Emily Rohrbach and Quinn Wright said they felt encouraged by the results.

“I’m pleased to say that our city management is consistently working to maintain good relations with the civil servants who serve the residents of this city,” Rohrbach said. “Implementing raises in this contract is in line with continuing those good relationships, and ensuring our city staff are being fairly compensated — especially in this time of high inflation.”

Wright added, “Every step we take towards building a workplace where respect, fair compensation and mutual growth are the cornerstones of our collective progress, is a step forward for our city. I’m so glad the contracts were collaboratively agreed upon so quickly. It’s a true testament to all involved coming together for Madison Heights’ best interest.”

The mayor said that while the contracts were originally not set to expire until June 2025, inflation and the changing economy led to an early renegotiation.

“Considering the widespread effects of inflation that everyone, myself included, is currently experiencing, the renegotiations resulting in pay increases are timely and necessary,” Grafstein said. “Our dedicated employees, many of whom are our neighbors that live right here in our community, are not immune to increasing prices and other economic challenges.

“Our proactive approach to engage with the unions and discuss new contracts over a year ahead of schedule demonstrates our dedication to fair and competitive compensation,” she said. “This forward-thinking strategy aligns with our commitment to providing an environment where employees feel valued and appreciated.”