Jammed Sessions

35th annual NJSPBA Collective Bargaining Seminar packs the latest and greatest information

Story by Mitchell Krugel with Photos by Ed Carattini Jr.

For the previous 34 years of the NJSPBA Collective Bargaining Seminar, attorney Paul Kleinbaum began the proceedings with a “Legal Update.” The presentation from the PBA attorney has been as traditional as the national anthem being played before the start of any sporting event or an overture at a Broadway musical.

But as Kleinbaum stepped up to the podium to start the 35th edition, his session played as “Pandemic Year Issues.” He delved into the latest and greatest affecting contract negotiations, union rights, navigating discipline issues and host of other issues that have bubbled as labor relations responded to COVID-19 during the past 18 months.


Members of the NJSPBA Collective Bargaining Committee.

From that point, the PBA’s comprehensive crash course on everything you need to know to run a PBA Local emerged as a refreshed and recharged seminar. And a testament to how the NJSPBA continues to make labor relations leadership perhaps its most valued benefit.

“Things kept changing throughout the year, things we’d never experienced before,” PBA Labor Relations Coordinator Mike Freeman confirmed. “I had been keeping an eye on the questions that come into the office every day about what people want to know, what they need to know and what they don’t know. It was very important to get experts to come out and talk about it.”

The 2021 seminar showcased a new look starting with being pushed back from its usual February timeslot to Aug. 24-26 because of the pandemic. But with sessions featuring Mercer County Prosecutor Angelo Onofri educating about “The Giglio-Impaired Officer” or attorney Jim Mets of Mets Schiro & McGovern, LLP bringing some of the arguments he is preparing to make in front of the U.S. Supreme Court about “Major Discipline,” this year’s seminar seemed to surpass the wealth of knowledge presented in years past.

The experts who presented were not just the state’s foremost experts. They could be known as the “contract whisperers” for all they have done to represent PBA Locals and their members and help them procure successful collective bargaining agreements.

More than 600 members attended this year’s seminar.

Mets’ partner, Leonard Schiro participated in another other great brainstorm into this year’s seminar. Alongside attorney Jonathan Cohen, they exchanged a point-counterpoint in “Advocacy – Union & Management,” a session to present the union and management sides to many of the current issues.

As many of the 600 members who attended wrote furiously to record all the impacting takeaways, they filled many legal pad pages with the insights from attorneys Stuart Alterman and Arthur Murray once again presenting their cathartic session on “Law Enforcement Officers Rights.” And the morning of the third day couldn’t have been more stirring with attorney Frank Crivelli reprising the wisdom packed into his presentation on “The Negotiations Process.”

Attorneys Leonard Schiro and Jonathan Cohen join PBA Labor Relations Coordinator Mike Freeman for the session “Advocacy – Union & Management.”

The topical importance of some sessions never seems to wane, and those filled the bill accordingly this year. Encores included attorney David Beckett of Beckett & Paris, LLC presenting “Negotiating Health Benefits” with PBA Health Benefits Coordinator Kevin Lyons, Beckett’s partner, Peter Paris, presenting “Me-First Policing,” attorneys Peter Chammas and Michael Rose of Gil & Chamas on “Worker’s Compensation Law” and, of course, PBA attorney Robert Fagella, Kleinbaum’s partner at Zazzali, Fagella, Nowak, Kleinbaum & Friedman, articulating the finer points of “Navigating Arbitration and Civil Service.”

Freeman noted that this year’s seminar evolved up until the final days. Keeping up with the times allowed for a presentation about “Qualified Immunity & Civil Litigation” from attorney Lori Dvorak of Dvorak & Associates, LLC.

“Between labor negotiations, healthcare benefits, worker’s comp benefits and all the discipline information, every presenter has given something they’re pretty much a master in,” praised Artie Cronk, the Manchester Township Local 246 State Delegate who serves as the PBA Collective Bargaining Committee chair and host of the seminar. “Whether you are new on the job, a 10-year veteran or a 25-year member, there was something here to take back to the job.”

In addition to the sessions, several of the presenters hung out with members outside the meeting room, providing almost personal consults for members. The information exchange was so enlightening as members took in such nuggets as:

  • It is important not to let employers use COVID as an excuse to implement changes that they could not otherwise adopt.
  • In a critical incident, what you say to a PBA rep is not protected or confidential. What you say to an attorney is.
  • Be careful when writing reports. You can make a mistake, give the appearance of suppressing evidence or even lying and become a Brady-Giglio cop.
  • In response to the attorney general’s directives about disclosing names of officers who receive major discipline, there is work being done regarding alternatives to discipline that would keep officers from being subjected to such treatment.
  • Proper preparation for contract negotiations can lead to the development of leverage that can be exerted on the opposition.
  • Presenting the municipal perspective, attorney Cohen noted, “Having an educated workforce is good. It is best for use to negotiate with you rather than to mandate and risk getting hit with an unfair labor practice.”

It was more than evident that the 600 members who attended got exactly what they came for. And then some.

“I think there’s a wealth of knowledge,” commented Tim Middlebrooks, the Union County Local 8 vice president who attended for the first time. “There have been several points that I wasn’t aware of, and due to coming here, I know have that information that I can take back to my members.”

Steve Moreta, who attended with fellow members from Passaic County Sheriff’s Officers Local 286, captured just how eye-opening, refreshing and comprehensive the seminar proved to be this year.

“There’s a lot of stuff that I didn’t know about pertaining to the protections that we are actually entitled to and some of the bargaining negotiations we should be more involved in,” he declared. “Little things like wordings can make or break contracts. Everyone should attend this seminar because it will help you become a better officer.”


Views from the Members 

Members offer their perspectives on the NJSPBA Collective Bargaining Seminar Aug. 22–24

Jeffrey Algor

Bradley Beach Local 50

State Delegate

First collective bargaining seminar

What were your objectives for this year?

I wanted to learn more about the contracts to help not only my department but other departments, to know what officers’ rights are and make sure I keep up to date on all the yearly provisions. Make sure I know what’s going on with all the legal updates.

What are some of your takeaways?

Really just making sure that we know all about the due process. Making sure that you know the Garrity immunities and make sure you know if you’re going to be getting in any kind of trouble, whether it’s going to be criminal or administrative. And just knowing your rights as an officer: what to say, what not to say.


Caitlyn Dean

Highland Park Local 64

Local Treasurer

First collective bargaining seminar

What made you want to attend for the first time?

We have a lot of people that are in steps. We thought that it was important for people in steps to know what’s going on. When it comes to contracts, there are a lot of times we get presented with contracts and we have no idea what we’re reading. I came here this year to get more of an idea of what we’re looking at, what can change, what new provisions are coming out, and have more of an idea of what’s going on in the world of policing right now.

What are some takeaways you can share with your members?

I didn’t think this much went into negotiating a contract. I think for people that are young and getting into this career, to have an idea of what you don’t want to lose and things that other departments are doing. Also, I’ll let my Local know that coming to this event, in the future, is a really good networking opportunity.


Rashun Davidson

South Bound Brook Local 148

Local President

Second collective bargaining seminar

What made you want to attend this year’s seminar?

We have contract negotiations coming up at the new year, but these seminars, or these events, they really provide an area where you can just learn. You feel like you’re going back to college, where you can take ideas, and you also get to networking, meeting people from everywhere, and just the whole experience of just being out with your fellow members.

Do you feel like, after this, you’ve got more tools in the toolbox to help members?

I think I’ve got more tools, but also I can give a better direction because I can explain things more from coming here and learning from the great lawyers and the great presenters that they have. I can bring that back to my members and we can all learn together.


Daniel Decristofaro

Shrewsbury Local 308

Local President

First collective bargaining seminar

What were your objectives for this year?  

To learn as much as possible about contract language. Our contract ends at the end of this year. Because we have a new one coming up, the timing of it is perfect. I just want my Local and I to be as prepared as possible in terms of what to expect.

What’s one of the biggest takeaways you can bring back to your Local?

Honestly, I’m glad we discussed the whole COVID situation. With everything going on right now and the different mandates, I really wasn’t sure which direction to go with that. At least we have a little bit of clarification with what’s going on. It’s a big topic in the world that wasn’t here in the last negotiations, that’s for sure.


Joe Kryzsiak

Bergen County Sheriff’s Department Local 134

Local Vice President

First collective bargaining seminar

What are some takeaways you can bring back to members?

The critical incident stuff was really good. It kind of makes you take a perception when something happens, take a step back, and what your priorities are. You don’t know you need it until something happens and you’re like, Oh my God, what do I do? Who do I call that’s gone through this before?

I also thought the takeaways from report writing were good. Because it’s really different now. Now it’s recommended that you sit back for a couple of days before writing anything. You shouldn’t write a report right that very second. Take a little time to digest what happened and then write it.


Charles Lamar

Mercer County Corrections Officers Local 167

First collective bargaining seminar

Why did you want to come and experience the collective bargaining seminar?

To learn firsthand what happens in the step-by-step process of negotiating contracts. Instead of learning all this information secondhand, from word of mouth, I can hear it from professionals that deal with this on a daily basis, and nothing will get lost in translation.

What information made the biggest impact on you?

It’s all important. It’s on the forefront of what a bunch of us at Mercer County are going through with the step-by-step process and being out of contract. Learning it and understanding what the contract says is the reason why you come here.


Tim Middlebrooks

Union City Local 8

First collective bargaining seminar

How would you describe the atmosphere?

I think there’s been a wealth of knowledge. There have been several points that I wasn’t aware of, and due to coming here, I now have that information I can take back to my members. Everyone just seems focused on trying to obtain as much information as possible regarding collective bargaining, negotiating contracts, overall just the welfare of their members. Each member is just displaying the hunger for more knowledge.

After discussing officers’ rights and bargaining contracts, is there any point that you learned about from today or yesterday that was really important?

Yeah, definitely. I mean, especially with the whole COVID issue right now, that’s the hot topic. And I’ve had several of my members that have been inquiring about that, as far as being mandated to take the vaccine. So that definitely was some good information to learn yesterday. Today, just regarding the grievance process, that’s an issue in my department.


Joe Maguire

Verona Local 72

Local Vice President

Second collective bargaining seminar

What were your takeaways from the very intense presentation on officers’ rights?

It’s extremely beneficial to contact your PBA rep and let them advise you. A lot of the younger officers, as the speaker said, aren’t aware of all their PBA rights and what the union rep and the lawyers can do for you. So it’s very important you contact them and get them involved in the process.

Are you hoping that you’ll come out of here with a greater sense of what you can do to protect your members?

Absolutely, from big to small issues. There’s always small issues that need to be addressed in the contract, and there’s big issues that need to be addressed, but a lot of the information provided here today will help us close any loopholes that we may have had in our contract in the past.

Steve Moreta

Passaic County Sheriff’s Officers Local 286

First collective bargaining seminar

What have you learned?

There’s a lot of things you talk about that every member should get a chance to come out and experience. There’s a wealth of information that everybody should take a look at and just reread. Things that can help you become a better officer and on top of that, protect you so you actually live out your full career.

Has there been any information so far that has been shocking or eye-opening?

Honestly, overall, everything was pretty eye-opening. There’s a lot of stuff that I didn’t know about pertaining to the protections that we are actually entitled to and some of the bargaining negotiations that we should be more involved in. There’s little things, little wordings, that can make or break contracts.


Mike Olson

Camden County Sheriff’s Department Local 277

Third collective bargaining seminar

What’s the value of coming to this event?

They give a lot of information, updated information. Every time you come, you learn something new. And networking is your main reason you come.

What takeaways can you bring back to help members?

My big takeaway was about immunity. They hit hard on the immunity at the end of the day. About what you could lose, how exposed you actually are. Something I can write back to the membership to really open their eyes.


Poila Pose

Essex County Sheriff’s Officers and Court Attendants Local 183

State Delegate

Fourth collective bargaining seminar

What makes you come back each year?

The material. The fact that it’s new and fresh, and it gives you a different perspective, helps you also to think about different ways to think outside the box. Plus the reinforcement helps a lot, too, because a decent amount of the information doesn’t change from year to year. I do feel that it basically makes sure that you’re on the right track.

Any takeaways that you think are going to be prominent parts of your discussions when you get back?

Well, I think the biggest part is the whole COVID issue about being vaccinated versus unvaccinated. Because some members are all for it, and others aren’t, you know? Technically, you figure if it’s a condition of your employment, it should be a negotiated item.


Dwayne Reevey

Fair Haven Local 184

Second collective bargaining seminar

What was your biggest takeaway?

Contact your attorney. Just make sure you know your laws and make sure you know your rights, first of all. And make sure the people in your department and your Local know their rights and just don’t go ahead with administration just because you’re scared. You have to know your rights.

What was your goal in attending this year’s seminar?

We’re a small Local. We only have 13 guys, so only two of us could be here to attend this seminar in person. Between the two of us, we need to make sure we retain as much information as possible. That way we can pass on anything we learned to our fellow members.


Glenda Rivera

Montclair Local 53

Local Trustee

First collective bargaining seminar

From what you’ve learned so far, how is this making you a better leader/trustee for your Local?

Well, the experience alone is extremely valuable. There was a lot of this stuff that I was somewhat familiar with, but I didn’t know the details and what to look for when you’re in contract negotiations, and what type of research can be done so that we have a great presentation to bring to the town.

After this seminar, do you feel empowered, knowing, “OK, I’ve got more tools, I’ve got a little bit more knowledge, I can better represent the members”?

For me personally, yes. There’s a lot of younger blood in our department, which is a good thing, and I think me being able to come back and explain, “Listen, this is why things are important” — because I think a lot of them come to work and they like doing what they do, but when it comes to the union stuff, they’re not very familiar. They’re just inexperienced in that type of stuff, and I think I can bring back now and articulate better why it’s important.


Bill Rodriguez

Tinton Falls Local 251

Third collective bargaining seminar

What were your objectives attending this year’s seminar?

Take as much information back to my union members and try to condense it to things that they can really take away and absorb to do with their day-to-day shifts and all that.

What are some takeaways you can share with your members?

Union representatives definitely need to inform their members on the right way to go about any critical incident that they go through and tell the truth. But also know your rights so you can protect yourself.


Mark Storch

Brick Township Local 230

Third collective bargaining seminar

What are the main points that you took away?  

A lot of it is just the trending with the new attorney general guidelines and all the changes that were made earlier last year. And now it’s just along the lines of getting back into the actual collective bargaining portion of it.

Is there anything you’re looking forward to hearing about?

You know what? Everything on the syllabus is a focal point. They don’t waste any time. Every subject has a portion of the seminar dedicated to it, and for good reason. It’s all beneficial to the PBA.


Joe Whittick

Camden County Corrections Local 351

Local Trustee

Second collective bargaining seminar

What did you learn here about how to deal with contract negotiations?

Yeah, that’s a tough question. Because with inflation, rising costs of healthcare, any raises we get, when you factor those in, they’re going to be net losses. And in this state, with the taxes, it’s how do you keep your head above water?

What are some takeaways you can share with your members?

The stuff they did with major discipline. I didn’t know about that. Our guys need to go and keep quiet during interviews.