The 300 or so Police Officers and Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association officials had marched past the opened West Gate of City Hall Aug. 1 blowing whistles and chanting, “What do we want? Contract! When do we want it? Now!”
The rally on a steamy morning had been called to raise public awareness that the cops were marking the anniversary of the expiration of their last contract and had grown impatient with Mayor de Blasio’s resistance to giving them what union President Patrick J. Lynch called “a market rate of pay” to bridge the wide gap between their salaries and those of cops in other jurisdictions.
Give Him the Foam Finger
His absence was no obstacle to PBA First Vice President John Pugliese revving up union members with a call-and-response of: “Who’s a phony progressive?” “De Blasio!” “Who’s no friend of labor?” “De Blasio!”
Then Mr. Lynch stepped to the portable podium and declared, “We’re here to say to the Mayor: stop traveling the country and manage this city.”
He contrasted a characterization of Mr. de Blasio as someone “who gets up at the crack of noon every day” with Police Officers he said endured the travails of shift work while being underappreciated and underpaid by the city.
A similar point was made earlier, before the cops strode through the parking lot and the plaza to the steps of City Hall, by Gerry Moscato, a union delegate for the 73rd Precinct in Brownsville, historically one of Brooklyn’s most-troubled neighborhoods.
Shorted and Second-Guessed
Asked what he hoped the rally would accomplish, he replied, “Basically, people need to understand what we go through: that we’re not being paid a living wage in the city we protect. We’re forced to make life-and-death decisions in an instant, and we’re second-guessed at every turn.”
Officer Moscato continued, “The shootings that go on with the gang wars, and a very challenged community…the City Council and the Mayor lie to residents about the crime” and what cops have to do to deal with it.
The PBA filed for arbitration in late March, and Labor Commissioner Robert W. Linn countered by accusing the union of not bargaining in good faith because it refused to respond to city wage proposals with any counter-offers. The Public Employment Relations Board dismissed that complaint in mid-April, but it has yet to rule on the PBA’s claim that an impasse exists, a conclusion that would trigger a process to appoint a third party to decide the contract.
Neither Mr. Lynch nor Mr. Linn offered an explanation for why PERB was taking so long in deciding that matter. The PBA leader told reporters, “It’s time the Mayor realistically negotiates. Start talking realistically, stop with the stalling tactics. Stop trying to delay our arbitration.”
‘Respect and Pay Us’
He continued, “Why will the Mayor’s Office not appreciate us, respect us and pay us?”
Mr. Linn responded in a statement emphasizing his belief that the PBA was more inclined to go to arbitration than to bargain within the framework favored by the city, in which a pattern set by the first union to settle a contract is closely adhered to by the deals that follow.
“We have been working in good faith with the PBA to come to an agreement that is both fair to Police Officers and New York City taxpayers,” he said. “In 2015, the PBA went through an arbitration that led to the arbitration panel upholding the pattern that the city had negotiated with other unions,” providing two annual 1-percent raises that corresponded to what was given to other uniformed unions in the first two years of a seven-year pact.
“Last year,” Mr. Linn’s statement continued, “we reached a five-year agreement—only the second voluntary agreement between the city and the PBA since 1995.”
He described that deal as “both consistent with the cost of the city uniformed pattern and overwhelmingly ratified by the PBA membership.” He left out an important detail, however: that pact included an additional 2-percent raise for incumbent cops above the pattern for the final five years of the other uniformed-union deals. The de Blasio administration, saying it was awarded in recognition of line officers’ work in the neighborhood-policing initiative—although even members not involved in that program got it—noted that the added cost of that raise was offset by givebacks imposed at the expense of future hires.
Backlash in Higher Ranks
That point did not mollify other police-union leaders, who accused the city of breaking faith with them by granting the higher raise to incumbent Police Officers, which sparked angry objections from their own rank and files.
Mr. Lynch, asked whether that backlash had made city officials leery of negotiating anything similar this time, said such concerns shouldn’t be relevant. “It’s about a willingness to negotiate: formally, informally or through arbitration,” he said. “Other unions negotiate for their members; I negotiate for our members…We’re 30 percent behind other professionals” in neighboring police departments in terms of maximum salary. “I know what the problems are for our members, because they tell us.”
Mr. Linn in his statement noted that “this round the PBA has again decided to seek a third-party arbitration instead of negotiating at the collective-bargaining table. We are ready to continue conversations to reach the fair contract our police officers deserve or continue again through the arbitration process.”
Mr. Lynch, contending that Mr. de Blasio was distracted by dreams of national office and raising his profile outside New York, had said to cheers from his troops that as he spoke, “The Mayor is inside on the computer, trying to book a flight to New Orleans.”
Cites Cops Moving On
What should concern him, he continued, was that city cops had been doing some traveling of their own: last year, he asserted, “five hundred New York City Police Officers said, ‘I’m not paid like a professional, I’m not respected here; I’m going someplace else where people will respect our work.’“
That exodus will continue, he said, unless Mr. de Blasio agrees to raises above the 2-percent annual pattern recently accepted by District Council 37.
Wherever he goes, the union leader concluded, “It’s important that this message follows the Mayor: set your alarm, come to work in the morning and come to the table.”