The city of White Plains is the latest example of how arbitration can produce bloated and unaffordable labor contracts.

The twist, in the case of White Plains, is that the unaffordable arbitration award reportedly was recommended by the city’s former mayor over the opposition of the city council.

In December 2008, the Common Council rejected tentative three-year contracts with police and firefighter unions, saying raises of 3.75 percent and 4 percent were too generous in a recession.

Then-Mayor Joseph Delfino and the unions moved to voluntary arbitration with Delfino offering unusual demands, according to the Journal News (here).

In the original fire union agreement, the city’s demands were that the union receive every benefit from the council-rejected contract, including the 3.75 percent and 4 percent raises, setting the minimum for what the union could receive uncharacteristically high. The police union agreement included no city demands.

The 2009 arbitration awards granted both unions two-year contracts with 3.75 and 4 percent raises. The newspaper reports the contracts cost the city $5.4 million. Richard Zuckerman, the city’s outside labor lawyer since 1985, learned about Delfino’s signed statements later in the arbitration process. In an email at the time, he said the city’s demands “appear more like those that should have been submitted by a union (rather) than an employer.”

For background on arbitration, see the Empire Center’s report Taylor Made: The Cost and Consequences of New York’s Public-Sector Labor Laws (here).

Originally Published: NY Public Payroll Watch

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