By John Burpo
CLEAT Executive Director
It is astonishing that 3-1/2 years have raced by since my return to CLEAT as Executive Director. Since 2008, CLEAT has undergone significant changes in how business is conducted and operations are executed. Because of these changes, CLEAT has enjoyed remarkable growth, new services, and success.
There is a famous but often overused adage that definitely applies to this article: There’s no “I” in the word “team.” CLEAT’s great success during this time has been entirely due to the contributions of the Executive Board members, the CLEAT staff and leaders at the local level. Without this incredible group of people, all working together as a real team, none of the great strides we have made would have been possible.
The dramatic changes in CLEAT are in large part because there is a plan of action. CLEAT’s first-ever strategic plan was adopted by the Executive Board in January 2009; additional revisions to this plan were made by the Board in July 2010. This strategic plan has been the guidepost for most of the changes that have taken place, so let’s take a look at what these changes are:
• CLEAT’s financial position has been secured by increasing the reserve fund from $300,000 to more than $1 million. God forbid that there will ever be a “rainy day” in our future, but if there is, CLEAT will be prepared.
• Legal services were expanded in 2011 with the opening of the Rio Grande Valley full service office staffed with attorney Bobby Garcia, Field Rep Perry Hyden, and part-time organizer Steve Ayala. This initiative has led to a net increase in the Valley of 242 members.
• There have been other improvements in the Legal Division as well. A data base for arbitration awards and briefs has been created so that our staff attorneys can have the most comprehensive information to assist our members in administrative cases and litigation. There have also been targeted pay increases for our very sharp younger attorneys so they can be retained to keep providing the best possible legal services to CLEAT members.
• In the Field Services Division, staff training on how to effectively organize, targeting of specific groups and more staff “boots on the ground” has meant that in the last 3+ years there has been a net membership increase of more than 1700 members. The Board and staff are all proud that we now have more than 18,000 members during a time of union membership constriction throughout the country.
• We have made a stronger commitment to the capacity of the Public Affairs Division. We have added Melinda Griffith as a fulltime employee in 2009 and Chris Jones in 2011. Director Charley Wilkison has been spending considerable time in the field educating local leadership on the creation of PACs and/or the effective use of their PACs. Public Affairs lobbies the state legislature, assists in the campaigns of our political friends, and works with Field Services on local issue campaigns.
• The Public Affairs Division has greatly improved membership communications systems. First we have substantially upgraded and improved the CLEAT website (twice in 3+ years) to make it more accessible and user friendly. Second, the Police Star is now on a rigid quarterly publication schedule. These 2 changes have kept our members up-to-date on all events going on inside CLEAT.
• The professional training of our membership has become an integral part of the CLEAT mission. Since TCLEOSE certified CLEAT last year as a training organization, the possibilities for training are now limitless. The Field Services Division and The Public Affairs Division are working together to make sure our training remains state of the art. CLEAT has established an exclusive relationship with Calibre Press, so that the street survival programs in Texas are a CLEAT-Calibre Press collaboration; in addition to 2 standard programs this year, CLEAT and Calibre Press will be conducting 4 additional regional street survival programs. The Leadership Academy has now incorporated TCLEOSE credits into our exciting annual event. Finally, CLEAT locals can request specialized programs for their group or area – contact your Field Rep for further information about this service.
• CLEAT has also established a relationship with the nationally recognized POLICEPAY.NET so that every local – whether one with negotiating rights are not, can request comparability data and employer financial analysis when trying to improve pay and benefits. This information has proven to be extremely helpful to our locals and made it more difficult for Texas cities and counties to use deceptive tactics when bargaining or discussing pay and benefits with CLEAT locals.
• While all of these exciting changes have been taking place, the ongoing business end of the organization is handled by the employees in the Administrative Services Division. The financial transactions, budgeting, membership and special events are handled by them with the highest degree of integrity and competence. The stability and continuity of their work supports CLEAT’s fundamental work as well as the changes that have occurred under the strategic plan.
CLEAT members should be assured that the Executive Board and staff will not rest on their laurels. There are still many more goals to set and achieve. Some of the projects we are working on right now include expansion of legal offices to other parts of the state; expansion of the CLEAT dental-vision plan to retirees and all of our locals; completion of revisions to the CLEAT Constitution; improvement of membership communication through new delivery systems; and expansion of regional local meetings for training, political coordination, and developments inside CLEAT.
These accomplishments – all because of our tremendous Executive Board, staff, and local leadership, are easily measurable because they are concrete, discernible operations. A less measurable accomplishment, but one that CLEAT President Todd Harrison and I are especially proud of, is the development among the Executive Board, staff and local leadership of an atmosphere that involves transparency, mutual trust, and openness to differing opinions. The result is a committed team that understands the importance of working together to best fulfill our pledge to provide CLEAT members with the best possible service.