Chief-Leader

August 29, 2016: 1:38 p.m.


Arbitrator Plans to Sue PBA Over $18,000 It Owes Him for Award

Union’s Anger Over Outcome Led It to Stop Payment; Ads Attack City Bigs

By RICHARD STEIER

PATRICK J. LYNCH: Staying on the offensive

Even as the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association launch­ed an ad campaign assailing both Mayor de Blasio and his chief negotiator for hypocrisy when it comes to treating its members fairly in contract talks, the union has continued to withhold $18,000 it owes to the arbitrator who decided its most-recent contract last November.

On Top of Insult

Howard Edelman, who was the target of a blistering union campaign that assailed his integrity and fairness while claiming he had an undisclosed conflict of interest after he issued what the union considered inadequate terms, said during an Aug. 25 phone interview that he would take legal action to receive the unpaid balance of the $115,000 fee that was to be split evenly by the PBA and the de Blasio administration.

‘I’ll Get It in Court’

“There’ll be a court case in the next couple of months and I’ll get the money that way,” he said.

Asked whether it surprised him that the union was refusing to pay the final installment of what he was owed, he replied, “Yeah, it does. It is what it is.”

He said the union had paid a bit less than $40,000 of its share of the bill for his services, but ceased payment once it knew what his ruling was going to be.

Mr. Edelman awarded union members raises of 1 percent in each of two years, which is the time limit for an arbitrated contract under the rules of the state Public Employment Relations Board unless both sides agree to a longer duration. That matched the wage increases negotiated by other city uniformed unions over the preceding year under contracts that ran for seven years, providing total hikes of 11 percent for that period.

PBA President Patrick J. Lynch, however, had made clear his disdain for raises in that neighborhood from the time that the first contract deal of the de Blasio administration was reached in May 2014. He unsuccessfully sought to persuade Mr. Edelman to disregard the existing bargaining pattern because his members were the only uniformed group whose pay badly trailed that of their counterparts in neighboring jurisdictions.

In its arbitration case, the PBA had sought what it termed a “market-rate” increase of 17 percent over two years. Mr. Edelman noted that this was more than 50 percent above what the other uniformed unions had negotiated under deals that run five years longer.

Didn’t Hide Unhappiness

Even before his ruling was finalized, the union held an early-morning rally outside his apartment building on Manhattan’s Upper East Side and a separate protest in front of Gracie Mansion. For several weeks after the award was issued, it ran full-page ads—some of them in this newspaper—claiming that Mr. Edelman had been compromised by his having a couple of other arbitration cases concerning the city and smaller unions assigned to him, accusing him of failing to disclose what it claimed was a conflict of interest.

Other arbitrators scoffed at those charges, saying it was common for those who were in demand to be hand­ling multiple cases involving either a single employer or a single union. When Mr. Lynch lodged a complaint against Mr. Edelman with the National Academy of Arbitrators, the head of its disciplinary panel two months ago dismissed it as unfounded and wrote that the union had abused the process, which he said was “not a cudgel to be wielded against an arbitrator who has acted in good faith, but whose decision is unpopular with one side or the other.”

The issue of Mr. Edelman’s unpaid balance surfaced in an Aug. 18 Daily News op-ed by city Labor Commissioner Robert W. Linn, who wrote it in response to an op-ed Mr. Lynch penned two days earlier explaining that the union was once again seeking arbitration because of Mr. de Blasio’s refusal to treat it fairly. He noted in it that the PBA was “required by law” to pay Mr. Edelman’s fee in full.

Mr. Lynch responded last week in a statement, “Billing questions are a matter between Mr. Edelman and the PBA. If Commissioner Linn has intimate knowledge of a supposedly ‘neutral’ arbitrator’s bookkeeping, that fact should be troubling to every labor organization in this city.”

Upon learning from this newspaper of Mr. Edelman’s plan to pursue the issue in court, Mr. Lynch responded, “In the event that he files suit, we look forward to receiving responses in the court case to the questions that Edelman refused to answer” about the other city contract-arbitration cases he took on while handling the PBA pay dispute.

Ads Target Mayor, Linn

PERB has not yet responded to the PBA’s request for a declaration of impasse—which if granted would lead to the appointment of a mediator to see whether the differences between them could be bridged. While it waits, the PBA has launched a new series of ads questioning the good faith of Mr. de Blasio and Mr. Linn.

The first one took issue with the Mayor’s claim that after Michael Bloomberg’s final term as Mayor consisted of an extended bargaining stand-off, contracts were being reached under his administration because there was “real respect, real cooperation, real dialogue.”

“How Much Respect?” the ad asked in large block letters. “Not Much At All.”

A subsequent ad quoted Mr. Linn’s statement during a 2002 arbitration—at a time when he was working for the PBA as its outside bargaining counsel—that “New York City police salaries are a laughingstock; throughout the nation everyone knows that city cops are underpaid.” The ad went on to claim that the gap between salaries for Police Officers here and in neighboring departments had widened since then, questioning how the Labor Commissioner could in good conscience expect them to accept what he was offering.

Linn: Paying Police Well

In his op-ed, Mr. Linn had stated, “NYC pays police very well, and will continue to do so under the city’s contract proposal,” which consists of a five-year pact providing 9-per­cent raises that is consistent with the other uniformed-union deals.

He continued, “Lynch states that this compensation is inadequate. In fact, the total cost of NYPD officers’ sal­aries and benefits ranks third among officers in the 20 largest cities in the nation, and only 50 percent above the average.”

By framing the comparison around large cities, he avoided discussing the growing pay gap between NYPD Police Officers and their counterparts in Nassau and Suffolk counties.