white-plains-21-9959054In a case with potentially far-reaching implications for local taxpayers across New York, a labor arbitrator has ruled that the city of White Plains, in Westchester County, has the right to require police retirees to begin contributing to their health insurance.

Last year, the city moved to curb its retiree costs by requiring police and fire retirees hired before 1995, as well as elected officials, to start paying 15 percent of their (previously free) health insurance premiums.

The arbitrator’s decision is not posted online, but today’s Journal News summarizes it as follows:

According to the 45-page arbitration decision, the police union argued that its retirees have been given 100 percent health care coverage for decades and so the city could not change those past practices unilaterally. It also said the coverage level was contractually protected.

The city argued that the 100 percent coverage was never mentioned in any contracts with the union. Because it was not obligated to pay 100 percent, it could change the contribution level if it wanted. The city did not dispute that 100 percent was paid for decades.

The arbitrator, Arthur Riegel, agreed with the city’s claims and wholly denied the union’s grievance.

As the Journal News reports, the city’s action has also given rise to at least three other arbitration proceedings and five federal lawsuits from public employee unions. Last year a federal court granted a preliminary injunction temporarily preventing the city from collecting premiums from retirees while the case is pending.

As calculated in the Empire Center’s “Iceberg Ahead” report, the state and its local governments collectively have amassed completely unfunded retiree health care liabilities totaling more than $200 billion.  White Plains residents alone are on the hook for an unfunded retiree health liability of nearly $261 million, including the city school district.

Requiring some retirees to kick in 15 percent would save the city an estimated $500,000 a year.

About the Author

E.J. McMahon

Edmund J. McMahon is Empire Center's founder and a senior fellow.

Read more by E.J. McMahon

You may also like

Thanks to Unions, NYC’s School Reopening Deal Was Costly and Educationally Hazardous

New York City schools reopened this fall under terms dictated by the city's teacher and principal unions. Now, as city schools close -- once more at the unions' behest -- the city is left with thousands of extra teachers hi Read More

De Blasio’s (Apparent) Good Move Dissolves Into Phony “Savings”

Late Thursday, as hailed in this space, Mayor de Blasio finally made a decisive move—or at least seemed to make a move—in the direction of actually saving some money on labor costs by getting tough with a powerful (and powerfully self-entitled) municipal union. Read More

Cahill Charges Are An Indictment Of Cuomo’s Policies

Yesterday’s indictment of the state’s top construction union official on federal corruption charges raises a big question: if private companies are paying bribes to avoid having to work with certain construction unions, why is Governor Cuomo insisting that the state keep doing it? Read More

Cuomo’s ‘Reinvent Policing’ Order Dodges Confrontation with Police Unions

Governor Cuomo has ordered local governments to “reinvent” their police departments or risk losing state and federal funding, but the back-up guidance from Cuomo's office sets up an arduous process that likely will conflict with other parts of state law. To put it plainly, the guidance shows the state’s “New York Tough” governor won’t take on its police unions. Read More

Lawmakers Look To Dump More Public Cash On Teamsters

State lawmakers this week moved to make public construction more expensive in a bid to steer work to one of New York’s struggling construction unions. Read More

Big Apple Pols Have Played Both Sides in NYPD Fight

New York City’s police department has come under criticism in recent days, with some city officials saying NYPD funding should be reduced. But many of the same New York City Council members parroting calls to “defund” the NYPD were just a year ago pushing Mayor Bill de Blasio to give city cops a big pay hike. It’s a reminder that New York’s elected officials, no matter how principled, routinely don’t want to say “no” to public-sector unions. Read More

Union pay remains non-“prevailing”

Barely one in five private construction workers in New York State was covered by a union contract last year, according to newly released statistics that call into question a state public works "prevailing wage" mandate that assumes 30 percent union coverage of building trades occupations across New York. Read More

Counties’ Medicaid role dwindles

New enrollment numbers from the state-run health insurance exchange confirm a trend relevant to budget talks in Albany: The role of local governments in signing people up for Medicaid is smaller than ever. Read More


Sign up to receive updates about Empire Center research, news and events in your email.


Empire Center for Public Policy
30 South Pearl St.
Suite 1210
Albany, NY 12207

Phone: 518-434-3100

General Inquiries: Info@EmpireCenter.org

Press Inquiries: Press@EmpireCenter.org


The Empire Center is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank located in Albany, New York. Our mission is to make New York a better place to live and work by promoting public policy reforms grounded in free-market principles, personal responsibility, and the ideals of effective and accountable government.

Empire Center Logo Enjoying our work? Sign up for email alerts on our latest news and research.
Together, we can make New York a better place to live and work!