Chief-Leader
November 16, 2015 5:00 pm

 

Letter to the Editor

Arbitration’s Not a Casino

Richard Steier has never been one to let the facts prevent him from serving as a mouthpiece for the Office of Labor Relations, but last week’s issue of The Chief marked a new low. Both his reporting and commentary on the outrageous draft PBA arbitration award and the history of PBA arbitrations under the Taylor Law were so riddled with inaccuracies, distortions and wild speculation that I can only correct a few of them here.

Mr. Steier’s central theme echoes a talking point that is now on the lips of every de Blasio administration official, including Police Commissioner Bratton: that binding arbitration is a gamble and the PBA simply “rolled the dice and lost” this time around. Is this how New York’s civil servants should understand the laws and processes that are meant to make up for the fact that they are deprived of the right to withhold labor during a collective-bargaining dispute? Is it the case—or should it be the case—that the Taylor Law’s impasse-resolution procedures are meaningless and arbitration is some sort of casino, rather than an impartial process through which civil servants can seek a “just and reasonable” resolution based on facts and the law? If “pattern bargaining” nullifies meaningful collective bargaining, its application as the controlling factor in arbitration nullifies public-employee unions’ only recourse when the public employer fails or refuses to bargain in good faith.

But aside from Mr. Steier’s troubling statements about the laws and processes, only the city and its co-opted arbitrator are responsible for this outcome. It was the city’s so-called pattern that the arbitrator adopted, not the PBA’s demand for market-based pay. For its part, the PBA will never agree that a compensation structure that lags 20 to 30 percent behind other police groups is fair to its members, no matter how many unlawful and unfair decisions are rendered by compromised arbitrators.

Mr. Steier’s assertion that the PBA “dragged out” the arbitration process—a charge he makes without citing any supporting evidence—is entirely inconsistent with reality or even the version of it that was previously reported in The Chief-Leader. He ne­glects to mention that the PBA bargained to impasse with the Bloom­berg administration, at a time when the city’s insistence on three years of zeros and dramatic health-care givebacks kept most, if not all, of the city’s other unions away from the table. After the de Blasio administration took office, the parties were ordered to resume bargaining on the strength of the new administration’s hollow pledge to engage in good-faith negotiations. Negotiations occurred, but “good faith” was entirely absent on the city’s side.

While the Mayor now claims that his administration “always” intended to provide a uniformed differential above the supposed “civilian pattern,” the only proposals presented by the city to the PBA across the bargaining table or in mediation included 18 months of zero wage increases and made no effort to address any of the PBA’s bargaining demands.

Once the arbitration process was underway, the city sought to subvert and delay the process at every turn: from naming Labor Relations Commissioner—and former PBA attorney and negotiator—Bob Linn to the arbitration panel, to delaying the submission of final briefs when another union’s tentative contract settlement suddenly materialized in the final days of the process. That Mr. Steier now attempts to lay those delays at the PBA’s feet only further proves his deep and abiding commitment to advancing the city’s “pattern and parity” fictions which, once again, ­essentially render collective bargaining in the City of New York meaningless.

As for the rest of Mr. Steier’s revisionist history and his unsourced “labor insider” speculation, we have corrected The Chief’s “record” on the PBA’s arbitrations and bargaining so many times in the past that there is no point in addressing it yet again.

PATRICK J. LYNCH

President, Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association