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May 21, 2009

Assembly handcuffs county lawmakers

The Assembly has passed a bill that could force county legislators to rubber stamp collective bargaining agreements with unions representing community college employees.

Basically, if there's money in the county budget and legislators reject a tentative contract, they would be guilty of an improper labor practice under the Taylor Law.

By a vote of 132 to 6, the Assembly approved the bill and sent it to the Senate. The New York State Association of Counties (NYSAC) opposes it.

The measure would abrogate the fiduciary responsibility of elected county legislators at a time when government budgets are being stretched by declining tax revenues and increased social service costs.

County budgets, which include funds for community colleges, are approved each November or December. If a labor contract is under negotiation, legislators may allocate funds in anticipation of potential labor costs.

If six months later, a tentative contract is reached, the county Legislature cannot reject it if "such agreement can be implemented within such allocated funds," according to the bill.

Note that it doesn't matter if county revenues have plummeted in the meantime. Or that the allocated funds are for only one year--and the contract has four years of ballooning costs. Or that legislators object to a nonmonetary provision of the contract, perhaps a change in leave time.

The bill memo offers this rationale:

When a negotiated agreement is reached and such agreement can be funded within the current budget of the college, the contract should be honored by all parties concerned.

Potential rejection by the county legislature serves to undermine the collective bargaining process and may give management an unfair advantage in that employee organizations must negotiate with two separate management parties [presumably this refers to the county Legislature and community college itself.]

It is not within the authority and it is not the intent of the Taylor Law for a county legislature to negotiate specifics of a collective bargaining agreement subsequent to the legal and good faith negotiation of the authorized bargaining agent for employees and the employer.


Posted by Lise Bang-Jensen

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