New York Daily News

July 25, 2005

PBA prez fights for reform, respect


Patrick Lynch  
Patrick Lynch  

They are the people who work for New York's working people. This is the latest installment in the Daily News' series of profiles of city labor leaders - the powerbrokers who work behind the scenes in crucial contract negotiations and in front of cameras as the public faces of New York's union workers.

When Patrick Lynch started as a cop in Brooklyn in 1984, Williamsburg was far from the trendy and pricey hipster haven it is today.

"People were afraid to walk down the streets," recalled Lynch, who worked at the 90th Precinct. "It was drug-infested and crime-infested."

But now, in a bittersweet side note to the crime drop that helped revitalize the city, Lynch says the neighborhood has become so upscale, many fellow members of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association can't afford to live there.

"It really epitomizes the change that New York City cops brought to the City of New York," said Lynch, who has served as president of the city's largest police union since 1999.

Lynch, 41, is the seventh child of a subway motorman. He cut his union teeth with his father on a picket line during the 1980 transit strike.

"I saw that you could get together and change things," he said.

During his tenure as PBA president, Lynch has worked on issues ranging from pensions to prescription plans and cop safety to police brutality. But his main duty, at least in the minds of the city's cops, is to get them better pay.

He calls the Bloomberg administration's attitude toward labor "dangerous."

"They're looking at the bottom line for the city and they're ignoring the fact that the people that built the city are the union workers and you have to pay them," he said.

Lynch was elected in 1999 as a reformer. In the 1990s, the PBA leadership was rocked by charges of corruption, and PBA lawyers had been convicted on racketeering charges involving another union.

And cops were still furious that former union heads had accepted a contract that provided no salary increases for three years.

"That was the image of the union at the time," Lynch said. "We were falling behind in salary structure, and the people that represent us are all going to prison."

With the internal staff cleaned up and cleaned out, Lynch and his new administration visited precincts and commands, and set up canteens at parades and emergency events.

He complained publicly and loudly about the dwindling number of cops, the loss of veterans to better-paying police departments and the need for a better contract.

But Lynch the reformer was now Lynch PBA president. He was under pressure to deliver a good contract to the disgruntled troops.

Last month, an arbitration panel handed down 10.25% in salary increases over two years. It came with a big price: a dramatic slash in starting pay.

The next class of cops entering the Police Academy will make $25,100 instead of $36,000. After graduation, pay will rise to $32,700.

Lynch and Mayor Bloomberg have battled publicly over that pay cut, each blaming the other.

For Lynch, it all comes down to respect. And for cops, that means salaries in line with other departments.

"We put on a shield on our chest, a gun on our hip and we go out and we go where no one else goes," Lynch said. "And you're not going to respect us?"