Next week I will again be speaking at the New Jersey State Policemen’s Benevolent Association’s Collective Bargaining Seminar in Atlantic City, New Jersey.   Now that the two percent (2%) Interest Arbitration Salary Cap has expired and not been renewed, this will be the first time in eight (8) years that the seminar is being held where Labor and Management are again sitting at a bargaining table that is level.   Based on these facts, I wanted to present a small “primer” on “How to Prepare to Collectively Bargain” for Law Enforcement and Fire Labor Unions now that the salary cap has expired.

It is important to note that despite the fact that the two percent (2%) interest arbitration salary cap has been eliminated, your preparation as a union and approach to negotiations should not change. One must remember that the party that has the upper hand at the negotiations table is the party that controls the “leverage” of the negotiations. The party with the greater amount of leverage is not necessarily in the best position at the bargaining table. However, the party that has the ability to “control” their leverage by exerting it and utilizing it at the bargaining table at the right time and in the right way may very well be in the best position to obtain a favorable outcome in the negotiations short of proceeding to interest arbitration.

The way that leverage is obtained is through gathering all relevant and important information that is pertinent to negotiations, analyzing the same; and then manipulating the information to “construct” your leverage and then utilize it at the bargaining table.

It should always be the goal of the Union to avoid interest arbitration due to the uncertainty involved in the outcome as well the exorbitant costs associated with the same. However, it must be clearly communicated to the governmental entity at the bargaining table through and during the negotiations process that the Union is not afraid to go to interest arbitration because the Union:

  1. Is better Prepared;
  2. Is more skilled in the negotiations process and interest arbitration process;
  3. Has a greater command of the law and understands what they are and are not entitled to;
  4. Has gathered all of the necessary facts that support the proposals that have been communicated at the bargaining table;
  5. Has constructed clear and unambiguous proposals that support the economic and non-economic goals that the Union has set out to obtain; and
  6. The goals are realistic, not inflated, reasonable and obtainable at Interest Arbitration.

As stated in the beginning of this article, this is a nothing more than a mere “primer” for beginning the preparations process for collective bargaining.  Remember, if you are well prepared and have a solid strategy prior to beginning negotiations your chances of success will increase exponentially.

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Photo of Frank M. Crivelli Frank M. Crivelli

Frank M. Crivelli’s practice revolves around the representation of over eighty-five (85) labor unions in various capacities, the majority of which bargain for law enforcement entities. He is proud to be called on a daily basis to provide counsel to over 12,000 state…

Frank M. Crivelli’s practice revolves around the representation of over eighty-five (85) labor unions in various capacities, the majority of which bargain for law enforcement entities. He is proud to be called on a daily basis to provide counsel to over 12,000 state, county and local law enforcement officers, firefighters and EMS workers.

Mr. Crivelli specializes his individual practice in collective negotiations.  Over the past twenty (20) years, Mr. Crivelli has negotiated well over one hundred (100) collective bargaining agreements for various state, county, municipal and private organizations and has resolved over thirty-five (35) labor agreements that have reached impasse through compulsory interest arbitration.  Mr. Crivelli routinely litigates matters in front of the New Jersey State Public Employment Relations Commission, the New Jersey Office of Administrative Law, third party neutrals for mediation, grievance and interest arbitration, the Superior Court of New Jersey and the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey.

Mr. Crivelli founded and created the New Jersey Public Safety Officers Law Blog ( approximately fifteen (15) years ago where he and members of his firm routinely publish blog posts regarding legal issues related to the employment of New Jersey Public Safety Officers.  The blog now contains over six hundred (600) articles and is reviewed and relied upon by thousands of public employees.  Mr. Crivelli has also published books and manuals pertaining to New Jersey Public Employee Disability Pension Appeals and the New Jersey Worker’s Compensation System. Currently, he is drafting a publication on how to Prepare and Negotiate a Collective Bargaining Agreement.  He lectures annually at the New Jersey State PBA Collective Bargaining Seminar, the National Association of Police Organization’s Legal Seminar, the New Jersey Public Employment Relations Commission Seminar on Public Employment Labor Law, the United States Marine Corps’ Commander’s Media Training Symposium and to Union Executive Boards and General Membership bodies on various labor related topics.

Prior to entering private practice, Mr. Crivelli joined the United States Marine Corps where he served as a Judge Advocate with the Legal Services Support Section of the First Force Services Support Group in Camp Pendleton, California.  While serving in the Marine Corps, Mr. Crivelli defended and prosecuted hundreds of Special and General Court Martial cases and administrative separation matters.  In addition to his trial duties, Mr. Crivelli was also charged with the responsibility of training various Marine and Naval combat command elements on the interpretation and implementation of the rules of engagement for various military conflicts that were ongoing throughout the world at that time. After leaving active duty, Mr. Crivelli remained in the Marine Corps Reserves where he was promoted to the rank of Major before leaving the service.

For the past fifteen (15) years, Mr. Crivelli has been certified as a Civil Trial Attorney by the Supreme Court for the State of New Jersey, a certification which less than two percent (2%) of the attorneys in New Jersey have achieved.  He is a graduate of Washington College (B.A.), the City University of New York School of Law (J.D.), the United States Naval Justice School, and the Harvard Law School Program on Negotiation.