Last week, Reuters reported that enthusiasm for local public safety personnel in Suffolk County, NY has declined, due to increased awareness of their generous compensation packages. But as EJ McMahon's most recent Newsday column demonstrates, this decline, if real, has not yet registered in the actual police union contracts. McMahon likens the proposed new contract between Suffolk County and the Police Benevolent Association to the infamous 2007 $275 million deal between the Yankees and Alex Rodriguez, whom McMahon generously refers to as an "aging slugger."
Why A-Rodesque? Because of the proposed contract's extraordinary 10-year duration and the fact that labor will bear so little risk. In addition to the guaranteed pay increases, there's a no-layoff clause for the life of the contract.
Management got a 15% employee contribution rate for health insurance for new police officers (current officers pay nothing and will continue to pay nothing), some reform to accidental disability pensions, and modest adjustments to the police salary schedule.
McMahon concludes that labor made out better, but don't blame management, blame state government. Suffolk County's executive's hand was forced by the threat of binding arbitration, which could easily lead to a worse outcome for taxpayers. Whence this threat? State legislation that allows police and fire unions to demand arbitration in the event of a contract impasse (see here).
The point can't be stressed enough: most of local governments' collective bargaining problems originate with state government, beginning, of course, with the 60s-era state legislation that enabled public sector collective bargaining in the first place. It's not enough to enjoin local officials to "bargain tough"; state government must get involved.
The good news is that the New York law that allows for public safety unions to force binding arbitration is set to expire this coming July 1st. So there is yet hope, assuming that sufficient political will exists in Albany next summer.