by Bill Jones
Patrolman’s Benevolent Associations (PBA’s) are driving Long Island governments to bankruptcy in the same manner as the United Auto Workers’ union was a driving (pun intended) force in the bankruptcy of the auto industry. Do I have your attention?
Local governments are crying “uncle” for a number of significant reasons, but the cost of police is at the top of the list. The unions, however, will not listen and due to their past labor victories, they remain arrogant and uncompromising.
Truthfully, what I care most about is that the tail is wagging the dog, and that must stop. The mistreatment of local governments, the taxpayers, the community, and non-police government workers must stop.
It is unfair that the police have been awarded outrageous awards that have created deficits for local governments.
In these times, common sense dictates no salary increase for the police. Zip. Zero. Zilch. These are very difficult times, but the PBA does not care. They are too arrogant to care. Case in point is the 4.5% increase sought by the Sag Harbor PBA. Who, but an uncaring union would make such a demand in these economic times?
It is unfair that a handful of arbitrators have set the arbitration table with the supposition that it is not relevant to consider a municipality’s “ability to pay,” as outlined in the Taylor Law, because local governments have the unrestricted “ability to tax” and can, therefore, afford any award. “To heck with the community: pay the union what we tell you to pay” — that is their message.
A previous PBA arbitration award is often used as a “comparable settlement” to settle a current dispute. This is called the “leap frog” effect, the unions have been using it with abandon, and it is unfair. For example, Riverhead police were recently awarded raises of about four percent, so everyone expects that increases for other municipalities would be about the same. We have become so accustomed to this abuse that we simply throw our hands up and remark how there is nothing that we can do, that we are the powerless victim.
Most elected officials work hard to have a budget surplus, a “rainy day” fund. The rating agencies love to see such nest eggs. In fact, state and local laws require them. Yet, surpluses are bad when it comes to arbitration for the unions argue – to great success – that the municipality with rainy-day funds is in great fiscal shape: “Why, just look at its fund balance,” they say. It is a case of “no good deed goes unpunished.” In fact, this was the primary argument of the President of the Village PBA in a Letter to the Editor of the Express. Since the village has a $2 million reserve, he noted, it is in great fiscal shape and therefore should have no problem paying increased salaries to the police. That is not fair.
The arbitration process has become a rigged process. For more than 20 years, local governments have sought change to this absurd, unsustainable system through state legislation. Guess who won? The PBA. Guess who lost? The taxpayer.
Like most injustices, it will take a public outcry for change.
Are you ready to cry out? But people are busy and many do not want to go up against the police unions. So, probably nothing will happen, but I thought that maybe, just maybe this time might be different. Perhaps we can join together to have our voices heard as the present arbitration continues over the next five months. Are you game?
I close with part of the statement that I gave after an incident at town hall a couple of years ago. I believe every word of it. These words come from more than twenty years of experience. And as John Adams said, “Facts are a stubborn thing.”
My statement is, “Citizens are demanding fundamental change at every level of government and in particular, they want government to spend less so that it will tax less. What the people need to recognize and understand is that the fundamental change they seek is impossible without a monumental reduction in police costs.”
And that is a fact.