Employee Relations

Legislative Changes to the Taylor Law that Undermine the Collective Negotiation Process

The Mandate: The Taylor Law provides public employees in New York with a right to: (1) join an employee organization; (2) collectively negotiate with public employers over their terms and conditions of employment; and (3) invoke procedures to resolve an impasse in negotiations. This law has been in existence for nearly 40 years and was originally modeled after a federal law which allows private sector workers to unionize. In addition to New York, numerous states have adopted similar bargaining statutes which permit public employees to unionize.

With limited exceptions, one of the common characteristics of any bargaining statute is that both an employer and an employee organization representing workers must comply with the same standards with respect to their conduct as it relates to (1) interactions between themselves and (2) their conduct regarding employees who have chosen to unionize or not to unionize. For instance, under the Taylor Law, both a public employer and an employee organization have the affirmative obligation to negotiate bargaining subjects in good faith, and both are prohibited from interfering with, restraining or coercing public employees in the exercise of their Taylor Law rights. Additionally, an employee, an employee organization or a public employer can seek to require compliance with such obligations through the filing of an improper practice charge with the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB).

In recent years, the State Legislature has attempted to circumvent the negotiation process by passing legislation that would provide employee unions with certain benefits they were unable to successfully obtain at the bargaining table. Examples of such bills include: extending the length of time an employee could be absent on leave due to an occupational injury from an already generous 12 months to 18 months; prohibiting the termination of an employee represented by a union unless the disciplinary hearing were to be conducted by an independent hearing officer; and several bills increasing pension benefits, something which should only occur if organizations representing those public employers effected were to consent.

The Cost: Mandated benefit enhancements via legislative intervention into the collective negotiation process over the past decade, have added several hundred million dollars of expense onto local governments and their property taxpayers, with no commensurate benefit in return.

The Solution: The State Constitution should be amended to prohibit any one-sided changes to the Taylor Law that would undermine the collective negotiation process or jeopardize the balance between the negotiating power of public employers and that of public employees.