The Chief
April 1, 2005

Lynch to Boost PBA Dues 35% To Cover Costs

Loss of Members, Wage Arbitration Strain Finances

Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick J. Lynch has proposed increasing membership dues by $7 per paycheck, a 35-percent hike.

Mr. Lynch said the raise was necessary to cover the cost of recent contract arbitration hearings and to offset the loss of roughly 5,000 union members since 1999. Under the proposal, Police Officers’ biweekly dues would jump from approximately $20 per paycheck to $27.

Lynch: Resources Needed

“It needs to be done, Mr. Lynch remarked, after an unrelated meeting in City Hall. “You can’t have these different struggles on a regular basis and not have the resources you need.”

The Public Employment Relations Board selected a three-person panel last August to arbitrate the contract dispute between the city and the PBA. The PERB hearings have cost the union millions of dollars for expert witnesses and top-notch lawyers, said PBA spokesman Al O’Leary, who declined to be more specific about the cost.

“Our expenses have gone down,” he added. “The bottom line is that things just aren’t getting cheaper.”

Some delegates have suggested that the union should pare its staff and expenses to more accurately reflect its shrinking membership, which is now 22,700. But Mr. Lynch said that was not an option. “We are lean as it is,” he said. “We have been doing it on a shoestring for a number of years at this point.”

The dues increase was broached by Mr. Lynch at the last delegate meeting in early March. The issue has since been placed before the PBA’s bylaw committee, which will consider the plan and make a recommendation to the union’s 400 delegates who have final say on the matter.

Must Be Reviewed

The bylaw committee includes 20 delegates and has not yet reviewed the plan, Mr. O’Leary said. “There is no time limit on their consideration… so we cannot project if or when the dues increase will occur,” he added.

In four of the past five rounds of bargaining, dating back to 1991, the PBA’s contract has been submitted to arbitration because of stalled negotiations, with only a 1994 contract reached at the bargaining table. The current arbitration marks the second time it has been conducted under PERB’s auspices. The two previous arbitration awards were made by the city Board of Collective Bargaining.

Mr. O’Leary said the PBA believes the Bloomberg administration has been “intentionally driving” the union into mediation to undermine the organization’s ability to negotiate in the future. “That was the tactic that they used in the mid-1970’s that precipitated the [last] dues increase in 1980,” he asserted.

Bill Henning, the second vice president of Communications Workers’ of America Local 1180, remarked that fighting management can be expensive. In the past, he said, unions would use dues money to subsidize a fund to support workers out on strike. “The reality is for workers in the government sector, disputes are costly,” he said. “Unfortunately, in the public sector it comes down to my lawyer can beat your lawyer.”

Says PERB Only Choice

According to Mr. O’Leary, the PBA has been forced to turn to PERB because the city has refused to negotiate in good faith. Negotiations for the city have become a euphemism for, ‘What are you going to give back from what you gained in the past?’” he charged.

The city has sought to hold the PBA to terms whose cost does not exceed that entailed under a contract it reached with District Council 37 last April. But the PBA contends that the city’s salary offer of pay hikes totaling 5 percent over three years will be insufficient to attract and retain officers.

The union has based its arbitration case on a two-year contract, and under PERB’s rules the panel’s award cannot exceed that duration unless both sides consent.

The PBA is seeking an upgraded pay scale patterned after the Port Authority police, one of the best-paid forces in the region. An officer at top pay in the Port Authority receives $75,378 a year, about 30 percent more than the top rate of $57,793 in the NYPD.

As for the proposed dues increase, Mr. Lynch said he believed that the membership would back the hike. “We have educated them why it happens,” he said, “Our members are reasonable and they understand what their organization has done,”

Mr. O’Leary added, “This is imperative for the long-term strength of the union.”