February 11, 2014

Letter to the Editor

Revising PBA Pay, History

The Feb. 7 Razzle Dazzle column about former Commissioner of Labor Relations James Hanley is a well-deserved profile of a man who made an indelible impact during his 41 years of involvement in New York City labor relations. Commissioner Hanley understood the city workforce like few others and was a skilled negotiator and a powerful advocate for the administrations he represented, even as he was forced to defend their often-untenable bargaining positions.

Unfortunately, the column is not accurate in its description of the city’s recent bargaining and arbitration history with the PBA. It once again mischaracterizes the impact of our 2005 arbitration award: Newly-hired police officers ultimately did not suffer any loss of pay from the award’s starting-salary reductions, as the “lost” amounts were restored, retroactive to the date of the reduction, in the award for the subsequent bargaining round. Nor was the 2008 award devoted to addressing its predecessor: the basic maximum salary was actually increased in the 2005 award, and the pattern-breaking raises awarded in 2008 came on top of the reversal and restoration of the reduced starting salary. This was the outcome Chairman Schmertz envisioned when rendering the 2005 award, even as he knew he would suffer the slings and arrows of his efforts to save the city from itself.

The column also perpetuates the myth that New York City police officers are only underpaid in comparison to a couple of local jurisdictions that have seen “overly generous arbitration awards.” The truth is that we continue to be paid below the entire relevant market, with compensation that by any measure is well below that of our counterparts both locally and in major cities around the country.

Commissioner Hanley was indeed a formidable presence at the bargaining table and in arbitration hearings, and this fact makes the PBA’s gains over the past 14 years all the more significant. But more work remains to advance New York City police officers towards a wage that is not only competitive with the national and local market, but restores us to our rightful position at the top of it.

President, Patrolmen’s 
Benevolent Association