An extra 2.25-percent wage increase under last January’s Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association contract—which the union funded at the expense of future Police Officers—has touched off a three-way battle pitting it against both the de Blasio administration and the NYPD’s other uniformed unions.
City Labor Commissioner Robert W. Linn emphasized at the time that the deal was reached that its value did not exceed the terms reached with a coalition of uniformed unions in December 2014.
Captains Head’s Objection
Roy Richter, the Captains’ Endowment Association President who headed the uniformed coalition—which included unions representing fire, correction and sanitation employees in addition to those for NYPD Detectives, Lieutenants and Captains and above—at that point did not question Mr. Linn’s assertion. He objected, however, to the fact that, in order to even out the extra cost to the city of the 2.25-percent raise tied to the neighborhood-policing initiative, the PBA had slowed the progression to maximum salary for future cops to such a degree that cops on intermediate steps of the scale would be making slightly more than $20 hourly at a time when “McDonald’s workers will be getting $15 an hour.”
Police unions representing cops above the entry level felt pressure in the past, whenever the PBA shaped its contract to get extra money for incumbent officers at the expense of the “unborn,” to match those raises for its veteran members. They generally reluctantly made similar, or slightly greater, givebacks affecting future promotees to balance the cost of those added hikes. That tended to hurt those union leaders politically once enough people promoted into a title had suffered through a reduced salary scale to form a bloc against them.
In this case, because their deals were settled well in advance of the PBA contract, it wasn’t necessary to figure out ways to make that union’s givebacks to fund the extra money, but there apparently was enough grumbling in the ranks that on July 20, the Uniformed Superior Officers Coalition filed suit in Manhattan Supreme Court alleging that the PBA deal violated a “promise” the city made to coalition members that it would hold the PBA to the same pattern it had reached with them: 11 percent in raises over a 7-year period. While the city’s cost for the five-year PBA deal, combined with a two-year pact reached through arbitration in November 2015, in fact also came to 11 percent, incumbent Police Officers actually received 13.25 percent in raises for the period, with the extra money coming at the expense of those who had not yet been hired when the deal was reached Jan. 31.
Lynch Brought It Out
Neither the coalition nor the de Blasio administration had disclosed the lawsuit; it came to light Aug. 3 when PBA President Patrick J. Lynch notified his members about the suit, whose contents, he said, represented “a remarkable and outrageous development in our collective bargaining environment.”
What incensed him, he continued, was that language in the uniformed-union coalition’s lawsuit included “a clear admission that those groups conspired with the City administration to interfere with the PBA’s contract process and suppress PBA members’ wages.”
He based that charge on a claim in the court papers that at the time the coalition deal was reached, “the City expressed its desire to reach an agreement with the supervisory unions ‘at a high speed’ in order to ‘obtain leverage over the PBA at the upcoming interest arbitration.’” The complaint went on, Mr. Lynch said, to state that to persuade the coalition to come to terms, Mr. Linn said he would do ‘everything possible to protect [the USOC’s] deal’ and to ‘defend to the death’ the supposed USOC pattern in its arbitration and subsequent negotiations with the PBA.”
Mr. Linn initially declined comment on both those statements and the accusations made in the coalition lawsuit when contacted Aug. 3. The coalition has requested a court order requiring that the city grant 2.25 percent in additional pay hikes without givebacks of the sought the PBA made at the expense of future hires.
‘Proves the Conspiracy’
Mr. Lynch went on to say in the message to his members that “we have long alleged that the City engages in an unlawful bargain[ing] strategy by obtaining its preferred settlement with another union and then attempting to use that agreement as leverage in the negotiations and impasse proceedings with the PBA. However, the USOC’s lawsuit represents the first time that other unions have admitted—in plain language in a sworn statement—that they knowingly and actively conspired with the City to try to achieve that goal.”
He was particularly critical of the police unions that were part of the coalition, stating, “Rather than fighting for a fair deal that addressed their own members’ compensation issues and, at a minimum, did not seek to hurt the police officers they purport to lead, these supervisors’ union representatives chose instead to ally themselves with management, apparently out of fear that their subordinates would be more successful at the bargaining table.”
There was an earlier outbreak of hostilities on this subject slightly more than a decade ago, when the PBA leader accused the heads of a couple of NYPD superior-officer unions of being too willing to ingratiate themselves with then-Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly and Mayor Michael Bloomberg to bargain hard for their rank and files. Leaders of those unions responded at the time that he was misrepresenting their reasons for preferring to reach their own deals: in the past, when they deferred to the PBA, that union more than once had reached terms that were difficult for them to match because their structures penalized unions that had lower turnover rates by forcing them to make greater concessions for the same wage hikes.
How He Got Elected
Mr. Richter, whose own ascension to the CEA leadership was propelled by fallout his predecessor faced because of problems he had matching a 2005 PBA arbitration award that used severe cuts in both starting pay and the salary scale to fund larger raises for incumbents, was reserved last week in commenting on both the lawsuit and Mr. Lynch’s claims.
He said in a phone interview, “It’s a set of facts that involve a complex legal issue that needs to be decided by a judge.”
As to Mr. Lynch’s accusation that he and his fellow coalition members had aligned with the city to undercut the PBA’s bargaining hopes, Mr. Richter said, “Every organization negotiates contracts with the city that are in the best interests of their members, and the CEA is no different than any other union.”