Chief-Leader

August 29, 2016: 11:30 a.m.


Editorial: PBA Stiffs an Arbitrator

By RICHARD STEIER

Nearly 10 months after Howard Edelman issued an arbitration award that greatly displeased Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch, the union still has not paid Mr. Edelman the $18,000 it owes him from its half-share of his $115,000 fee.

The excuse given by Mr. Lynch last week appeared to be that Mr. Edelman had not responded to questions it posed late in the process about an undisclosed alleged conflict of interest he had because at the time he was deciding the PBA case, he was also the arbitrator handling two other contracts involving the city.

But other arbitrators have said that this is a non-issue, because in-demand arbitrators are often dealing with multiple cases in which either the employer or the union representing employees has an interest. If one side or the other has concerns that this may affect the arbiter’s neutrality, it has the option of choosing somebody else. In this case, the PBA didn’t make an issue of Mr. Edelman handling the cases involving smaller unions until it saw he was not leaning in its direction.

And the notion that he owed the PBA a response about the alleged conflicts got blown to smithereens by the manner in which it attacked his character in a series of newspaper ads and an early-morning protest outside his Upper East Side apartment building last fall. Those attacks prompted 27 other arbitrators to write a letter asking not to be considered in future cases involving the PBA; more tellingly, they produced a stinging rebuke by the head of the disciplinary panel of the National Academy of Arbitrators a few months ago after the PBA lodged a complaint with that body questioning Mr. Edelman’s ethics.

There was nothing shocking about Mr. Edelman’s decision to honor the basic pattern that was already in place for other uniformed unions. As he noted, the PBA’s request for a “market” adjustment that would have granted 17-percent raises over two years was more than 50 percent above what those unions received under pacts that ran five years longer.

Arbitration has always been a gamble for a union such as the PBA that perennially seeks wage hikes above the prevailing city pattern. By contrast, the United Federation of Teachers, which 31 years ago had limited success in beating the pattern in its one try at arbitration, has not gone back to that well since.

And so Mr. Lynch, having not gotten what he hoped for and promised his members he would get, seems to be looking to punish Mr. Edelman, adding financial injury to the flurry of insults he has hurled at him. It is somewhat reminiscent of the behavior of a man with a long record of stiffing contractors out of all or part of what he owed them for work they performed either because he wasn’t satisfied or claimed not to be: Donald Trump.

We believe Mr. Lynch is a far more honorable person than Mr. Trump. He might want to start acting that way, before suffering the further embarrassment of having a court order him to pay what Mr. Edelman is owed.