Triborough and interest arbitration: a balanced approach to collective negotiations

Source: Alan M. Klinger, Stroock Reports – Public Employee Law, Summer 2012
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…New York, long a bastion of public sector strength, proved not immune to anti-union sentiment with the recent legislative adoption of Tier 6 limits on pension levels for new hires. Now, labor’s opponents are targeting the Taylor Law, the statute enacted to maintain balanced labor relations throughout the state. Critics seem particularly intent on repeal, or at least reform, of the Triborough Amendment. This provision of the Taylor Law forbids public employers from unilaterally changing the terms and conditions of employment during negotiations after the existing contract has expired, allowing workers to “benefit” from the terms of the previous contract until a new one is reached. (As discussed below, absent from the discourse regarding the Triborough Amendment has been what unions agreed to forego in return for this protection.) Critics also are opposed to a provision of the Taylor Law that compels police officers, firefighters, and other uniformed personnel to resolve impasse via interest arbitration. They not only object to the provision’s interaction with Triborough, which ensures that employers cannot compel unions to enter into arbitration before there is genuine impasse, but also argue that interest arbitration should be more favorable to employers….

…These critics, however, ignore the delicate balance at the heart of the Taylor Law: protecting the public against the disruption of public services while simultaneously protecting the rights of public employees. They “forget” that the Taylor Law strips public employees of their essential democratic right to strike, making Triborough and interest arbitration essential protections during the bargaining process. They further fail to account for empirical evidence of how collective negotiations actually function. Ultimately, their myopic focus on making bargaining outcomes less expensive threatens to destabilize labor relations throughout the state….

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