The Chief
May 5, 2006

For the Record...

People rarely confuse Mayor Bloomberg with the late Jackie Gleason, but Hizzoner did a variation on The Great One's "homina, homina" routine April 27 when asked about a union call for the city to pay interest on late contract settlements.

Patrolmen's Benevolent Association President Patrick J. Lynch pushed for an amendment of that nature to the Taylor Law during a City Council hearing a month ago. While he's an unlikely messenger, given his own penchant for delaying contract deals, the message has resonated with other labor leaders. One source said Uniformed Firefighters' Association President Steve Cassidy was trumpeting that issue at a Municipal Labor Committee steering committee meeting last week.

Asked whether the union leaders have a point, Mr. Bloomberg tap-danced, saying, "Traditionally contracts have been negotiated for periods that were past." He then spoke about what the Taylor Law permits and what it forbids, accenting the prohibition against striking.

His questioner reminded him that the issue was not modifying Taylor Law penalties - which the unions have also advocated - but whether employees should be entitled to interest that they could have been collecting if their union contracts had been settled in a timely fashion and they put the raise money in the bank.

Mr. Bloomberg responded that if interest were accruing for employees, "There'd be less of an incentive for [unions] to settle right away. That's part of the mix when you come to negotiate."

He had a point there, but then he added, "It is also true that the city has to live within its means." If it were required to pay interest, he said, it would insist on smaller wage settlements so as to limit its overall costs.

That made it sound as if the city was not earning any interest on the money while it marinates in its bank accounts and would therefore have to dip into one of its pockets - as opposed to that of the collective work force - to cover employees' interest.

It was enough to leave us longing for an appearance from the beyond by Art Carney to make sense of what we'd just heard.