Bloomberg to the Unions: No Money, No Raises (To the next Mayor: Remember Mike Quill)

As I write the following I am watching the Senate debate and vote on Hurricane Sandy funding. The senators are working their way through a host of amendments and in a few hours will vote on the substance of the bill, of course the House has not yet returned and chances of passage in the Tea Party dominated House are in question.

Sandy funding is a piece of the teacher contract negotiations.

Although the democratic primary is months away (most probably in September) the mayoral candidates are jockeying. Council Majority Leader Christine Quinn and former Comptroller Bill Thompson are the leaders with Public Advocate Bill Di Blasio and Comptroller John Liu in the race. A mid-October Marist poll,

Looking ahead to the 2013 Democratic primary for mayor, New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn has the support of 23% of Democrats citywide. Former City Comptroller Bill Thompson follows with 15%. Nine percent of registered Democrats citywide are for current Comptroller John Liu while 8% support Public Advocate Bill de Blasio.

If no candidate receives 40% of the vote the top two candidates will runoff three weeks after the primary.

Joe Lhota, the just resigned head of the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) is being touted by Rudy Guiliani as the Republican Party challenger; however the Wall Street Journal sees an enormous uphill battle for Lhota.

If Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman Joe Lhota runs for New York City mayor on the GOP line next year, he would lose to an unnamed Democrat 60% to 9%, a poll released Wednesday showed.

As the mayor retreats from engaging with city unions it increasingly looks like the unions and their members will have to wait another year until the new mayor takes office.

Thompson fired an opening salvo criticizing both the Mayor and Speaker Quinn for failing to deal with city unions.

The NY Post reports  that the Independent Budget Office (IBO) presages substantial unfunded budget gaps due to expired union contracts,

The next mayor is facing a daunting multibillion-dollar bill for retroactive pay hikes because the entire city-labor force has been working for more than two years under expired contracts, the Independent Budget Office warned yesterday.

The IBO estimated that by June 2013, the tab will hit $3.8 billion — and that assumes most unions accept retroactive raises of just 2 percent, about the rate of inflation. If the city has to cough up 4 percent settlements, the IBO said taxpayers would have to fork over more than $5.4 billion.

Bloomberg has insisted there’s no money in the budget for retroactive pay hikes. He has set aside enough cash to cover pay hikes of 1.25 percent in both 2013 and 2014.

Both sides, the unions and the mayor are in the early stages of the negotiations dance. All mayors start the process by averring the pantry of empty and the unions look for loaves instead of crumbs.

Under New York State law negotiations between public employees and cities fall under the Public Employee Relations Board (PERB). The Triborough Doctrine requires expired contracts remain in effect until the successor contract is negotiated, it is commonplace for contracts to expire and negotiations lag. The UFT (Teacher Union) contract expired on October 31, 2009 and the mayor has claimed he has used dollars put aside for raises to avert layoffs.

Under PERB the process moves from mediation to impasse to fact-finding, a panel of three fact-finders, arbitrators, selected by PERB are assigned to hear the issues and render a non-binding report.

In a letter to the parties, PERB said: “Whereas, the New York State Public Employment Relations Board has determined that an impasse exists in the negotiations … a Fact Finding Panel is hereby appointed for the purpose of inquiring into the causes and circumstances of the dispute.”

The panel has the power to subpoena witnesses, documents, and other material; to administer oaths and take testimony; and after hearings will transmit “findings of fact and recommendations for resolution of the dispute” to the parties and the public. The recommendations, while not binding, are expected to help provide a framework for a final settlement.

The panel, in consultation with the parties will establish a calendar, if the past is an indication something like two days for each party to present their case, through the testimony of witnesses and the submission of evidence, documents, laying out the position of each side. A day each for rebuttal and a day for closing arguments.

In crafting a recommendation for salary the panel will have to examine “comparability,” to whom should we compare New York City in determining an increase: suburbs, other large cities, other civilian employees? In the past the UFT has argued that suburban school districts should determine the pattern and the city has argued for other large urban school districts or other civilian employees. In this set of negotiations the city may point to the “Big Four,” Buffalo, Rochester Syracuse and Yonkers, all cities with extremely shaky finances. The UFT will submit documents showing the city agreed in the MTA arbitration that they had put aside dollars to fund a 4 + 4 increase for the UFT. The city will argue those dollars were used to prevent layoffs in 2011 and 2012, and, the union will respond that they did not agree to the city’s use of the dollars.

“Ability to pay” requires an in depth examination of city finances now and projecting into the future. The cost of Hurricane Sandy may impact the arguments.

The Taylor Law establishes “Mandatory/Non-mandatory Subjects of Negotiation;” if the city argues that seniority layoff rules should be changed the union would respond that the rules are embedded in law and not a mandatory subject for negotiations. The city will argue that some iteration of merit pay be included in any report and salaries are a mandatory subject of negotiations.

Read the 2005 fact-finding panel report here (

The report is a recommendation – the mayor – who abjures decisions of arbitrators – may ignore the report and, Bloomberg’s world may be best described in the final stanza of T. S. Eliot’s poem, The Hollow Man,

This is the way the world ends

This is the way the world ends

This is the way the world ends

Not with a bang but a whimper.

Thompson or Quinn or Lhota or some yet to emerge mayor will raise their right hand, swear to protect and defend the City of New York, and face over 100,000 angry, expectant UFT members. Let’s not forget John Lindsay on New Year’s Day of 1966,

When John V. Lindsay became Mayor of New York City on January 1, the strike deadline laid down by the Transport Workers was only five hours away and negotiations had already been broken off. Twelve days later, Wall Street businessmen are still bitch-hiking to work, and garment center laborers aren’t getting to their jobs at all.


2 responses to “Bloomberg to the Unions: No Money, No Raises (To the next Mayor: Remember Mike Quill)

  1. This Mayor is likely to be very involved through a super PAC or other funding stream in the next Mayoral race in order to preserve his legacy. Unfortunately it is in most respects a negative legacy when it comes to dealing with the workers who make the city run.

    Dollars are fungible so the city’s argument that it used the money set aside for teacher salary increases to avert layoffs is non-nonsensical. What were other dollars used for is the real question. How many dollars of city money were spent to bring in the Barclay’s center over neighborhood objections. How many dollars are being spent for the increased police presence and traffic control that the arena requires? (Of course, we’re not to supposed to ask about the promised jobs that have not materialized or the affordable housing that has been cut back.) How many dollars were spent on settlements of lawsuits against city for things that should have been prevented through good management?

    Fact finding will, hopefully, address these questions as it seeks to determine what is real and what is not in the negotiations as the panel crafts its recommendation. That recommendation will be hanging over the head of whoever becomes the next Mayor.

    What we need to do is to ensure that whoever is elected, she or he will be committed to negotiating and collaborating with public sector employee unions to help the city move forward.


  2. Lhotka crawled to Johnny Gats to beg! Half the gap Bloomberg found was from Lhotka. Who trusts a guy from Choochtown, after all that was President Clitman’s school. And who trusts a leader called Scamming Fellow? Guy is the mole in a hurry.


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