Thursday, August 11, 2011

Jurisdiction to resolve an impasse in collective bargaining under the Taylor Law


Jurisdiction to resolve an impasse in collective bargaining under the Taylor Law
Police Benevolent Association v City of New York, 285 A.D.2d 52

In a unanimous ruling, the Appellate Division, Third Department, held that the New York State Public Employment Relations Board [PERB] has exclusive jurisdiction insofar as resolving Taylor Law impasse situations are concerned.

The New York City Police Benevolent Association [PBA] had objected to the New York City Office of Collective Bargaining [OCB] assuming jurisdiction to resolve an impasse in collective bargaining, contending that the Taylor Law, as amended by Chapter 641 of the Laws of 1998 gave the State's PERB exclusive jurisdiction in such cases.

The Taylor Law permits a political subdivision of the State to set up a “mini-PERB” to oversee Taylor Law matters and the City's OCB was established for this purpose. Chapter 641, however, gave PERB exclusive “impasse jurisdiction” with respect to all fire and police departments across the State. The City's attempt to have the courts declare Chapter 641 inconsistent with “home rule” has thus far proved unsuccessful.

The court's rationale: “Chapter 641 does not violate the home rule provision of the State Constitution” since it creates a law of general applicability serving a “substantial state concern” rather than constituting a “special law.” Section 212.3 provides as follows: Notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, the resolution of disputes in the course of collective negotiations as provided by section two hundred nine of this article shall apply to any organized fire department, police force, or police department of any government subject to either subdivision one or two of this section.

Section 212.3, however, permits a recognized or certified employee organization representing law enforcement personnel or firefighters to “opt out” by electing “to continue dispute resolution procedures which existed on the day prior to the effective date of this subdivision” by notifying the appropriate mini-PERB* of this decision in writing.” The PBA did not elect to “opt out.”

The Appellate Division explained that in 1974 the Legislature amended Section 209 of the Civil Service Law to provide for binding impasse arbitration by PERB, but since OCB's procedures already provided for binding arbitration when an impasse was reached between the City and any of its public employee organizations, the City was specifically exempted from this requirement.

Although in 1996 the Legislature attempted to transfer jurisdiction to resolve impasses between the City and the PBA to PERB [Chapter 13, Law of 1996], the courts held that its action violated the “home rule” provision set out in the State Constitution. The Legislature's response to this ruling was to enact Chapter 641.

Observing that “[a]ll parties acknowledge that if Chapter 641 is constitutional, PERB has exclusive jurisdiction over impasse and negotiation issues and [OCB] has jurisdiction only over improper practice disputes under Civil Service Law Section 205(5)(d) and Section 209-a...,” the Appellate Division affirmed the Supreme Court's hold that Chapter 641 was constitutional.

* At one time there were 35 mini-PERBs; only four remain: New York City's Office of Collective Bargaining, and mini-PERBs for the Town of Hempstead; Suffolk County and Westchester County.
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