The Empire Center has issued a 50th anniversary update of its seminal 2007 report on New York’s landmark Taylor Law, which governs labor relations in state and local government.

Taylor Made: The Cost and Consequences of New York’s Public-Sector Labor Laws” reviews the history and evolution of the Taylor Law, whose enactment in 1967 followed a series of disruptive strikes by municipal workers in New York City. The report is co-authored by Terry O’Neil, one of New York’s leading labor lawyers, and E.J. McMahon, research director of the Empire Center.

The law “was designed to create a comprehensive framework for orderly resolution of labor-management disputes in state and local government,” the report says. While public-sector strikes in New York—and across the country—have been rare since the 1980s, “New Yorkers have paid a steep price for public-sector labor peace,” O’Neil and McMahon write. “Salaries and benefits are the primary drivers of New York’s exceptionally heavy state and local tax burden. Efforts to reduce taxes are hampered by aspects of the Taylor Law that have evolved to the distinct disadvantage of management, and thus the general public.”

Key statutory reforms recommended by the report include:

  • require that arbitration panels in all police and fire union disputes give more weight to affordability (or “ability to pay”);
  • repeal of the so-called Triborough Amendment to the law, particularly its requirement for automatic continuation of added pay increments after expiration of a contract;
  • modify state Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) decisions that have tied the hands of the elected officials responsible for managing costs and delivering services by dictating the scope of labor negotiations; and
  • clarify the enforceability of minimum manning clauses, subjecting them to the “job security” guidelines laid out by the Court of Appeals in Johnson City.

The Empire Center, based in Albany, is an independent, not-for-profit, non-partisan think tank dedicated to promoting policies that can make New York a better place to live, work and raise a family.

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