New York Post

October 7, 2002

Police Labor Contract Arbitration

In Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association of the City of New York Inc. v. City of New York, 12 the Court issued a declaratory judgment that chapter 614 of the Laws of 1998, which amended the Police Employee’s Fair Employment Act, does not violate the home rule statute of the State Constitution. Therefore, the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) has exclusive jurisdiction to determine the scope of collective bargaining.

Under the Taylor Law, local municipalities are free to enact their own procedures and to establish their own impartial administrative bodies to replace designated portions of the Taylor Law and their administration (PERB). Local governments that seek to create such an alternative administrating body must apply to PERB for determination that their procedures are substantially equivalent to those set forward in the Taylor Law. The City of New York unlike all other localities is exempt from this provision, and any procedures adopted are deemed effective unless adjudged otherwise in an action brought by PERB. In 1967, the City enacted the New York City Collective Bargaining Law which established the Board of Collective Bargaining (BCB) as an alternative to PERB. PERB has not sought a judicial declaration that the BCB is a functional equivalent, and thus it remained effective.

In 1966, the New York Legislature enacted chapter 13 which attempted to transfer impasse negotiations for City police and fire unions exclusively to PERB jurisdiction. The Court of Appeals found this violated home-rule principles. The Legislature sought to cure the defect by enacting §641 of the laws of 1998, which allows police and fire unions in any municipality with a local impasse resolution system to take their collective bargaining disputes to PERB.

The City challenged §641 because it singled out the City of New York and its three neighboring counties. Although in theory §641 allows police and fire union in any municipality with a local impasse to take their collective bargaining agreements to PERB, in practice only four localities – the City, Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester counties – had an existing alternative impasse resolution procedure. Thus, the change implemented under §641 really only affected the aforementioned localities.

Article IX, §2 of the State Constitution grants the Legislature authority to enact a “general law.” A general law applies in term and in effect to all counties, cities, towns or villages. On the other hand a “special law” applies to one or more, but not all, counties, cities, towns or villages. In order to pass a special law, the Legislature is required to show a request by two-thirds of the local legislative body or by the local executive officer backed by a majority of the local legislature, known as a home rule message. There is, however, a recognized exception to the home rule message. If an accompanying substantial state concern, the state Legislature may overcome the home rule message requirement.

The Supreme Court upheld the statute. The Appellate Division affirmed arguing that chapter 641 is not a special law subject to “home rule” requirements, but rather is a general law of statewide application. The Appellate Division also affirmed a Supreme Court finding that PERB has exclusive jurisdiction over scope of bargaining disputes.

The Court of appeals acknowledged that by its terms §641 applies to all localities, but, in effect, it only restricts New York City and its neighboring counties; therefore, §641 is a special law. Accordingly, §641 must either be accompanied by a home rule message, which it was not, or further a substantial state interest.

Looking to legislative history, the Court found the reasons for the legislation included the achievement of statewide uniformity with respect to impasse procedures available to police department members and achievement of greater parity between the salaries of New York City police and those on other metropolitan areas. The Court held this to be a substantial State interest. The fact that the legislation was uniformly applied, even if not in effect, ensured this substantial interest was rationally related to the legislation.

Even §641 is deemed constitutional; the City maintains that BDB still has jurisdiction over the scope of bargaining proceedings. Although the Court acknowledged that PERB does have jurisdiction over scope of bargaining issues to the extent necessary for PERB to exercise its exclusive jurisdiction to resolve impasses, it recognized BCB jurisdiction to determine scope of bargaining outside of the impasse context. The Court refused to adopt the Appellate Division’s proposition that PERB has exclusive jurisdiction over scope of bargaining disputes. The legislative intent was to resolve impasses uniformly, not to otherwise disturb BCB’s improper practice jurisdiction.

Conclusion

The court refused to extend unilaterally the scope of employee benefits in the majority of cases. Although coming to the aid of prison guards, the Court took a decidedly pro-employer stance in limiting an employee to worker’s compensation when injured while working on the employ’s personal residence, ruling an ordinal violation does not establish negligence and vitiating the re-employment rights of a school employee to be re-employed.

The court also limited the ability of the Department of Labor to collect on unpaid wages. Even in the aftermath of Sept. 11, the Court of Appeals refused to grant inflated benefits to injured New York City firefighters.

The dramatic exception, potentially, may be in the ultimate transfer of the locus of power from New York City’s Office of Collective Bargaining to Albany’s PERB in future arbitration of New York City police collective bargaining agreements. The PBA decision is a series of constitutional intricacies and complex state/municipal dynamics, but the most significant underlying possibilities may yet await. The Giuliani administration vigorously contested the successful initiative by the PBA to transfer from New York City to the Albany PERB the composition of future arbitration panels deciding the terms of regarding police and New York City collective bargaining agreements. The Court of Appeals has further insured the PBA’s successful strategy, with additional chapters to be written in the very real world of their future labor contract arbitrations.

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(1) No. 21, decided March 26, 2002.
(2) 241 NY 346 (1925).
(3) 280 NY 456 (1939).
(4) No. 161, decided Dec. 13, 2001.
(5) 59 Y+NY2d 1017 (1983).
(6) No. 18, decided March 14, 2002.
(7) No. 26, decided March 14, 2002.
(8) No. 74, decided June 6, 2002
(9) New York Education Law §2510(1).
(10) 43 NY2d 57 (1977).
(11) No. 11, decided Feb. 7, 2002.
(12) No. 171, decided Dec. 20, 2001.