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Spano Tells Unions: Agree to Givebacks or Go to Arbitration Vows No Pattern Bargaining

Bring Our Jobs Home Founder Frank Spotorno recently wrote this Op-Ed, which appeared in Yonkers Rising newspaper last month, in response to a story in Yonkers Rising regarding negotiations between the 6 city unions and Mayor Mike Spano on a new contract. Since Frank’s Op-Ed ran, one City union has a new contract, but five other unions are still working without a contract for more than 5 years.

First read the story and then Frank’s Op-Ed

Spano Tells Unions: Agree to Givebacks or Go to Arbitration Vows No Pattern Bargaining

By Dan Murphy
One of the critical issues in the City of Yonkers over the past 70 months has been: Can the government afford to give its municipal employees and union workers a new contract? While six of the city’s unions remain without a contract and held another protest outside City Hall on Tuesday, Mayor Mike Spano spoke with Yonkers Rising for an extensive interview to discuss union contracts, and the affordability of new contracts for the Yonkers taxpayer.

This reporter also interviewed Yonkers Firefighter Local 628 President Barry McGoey last week, with Yonkers Tribune Editor Hezi Aris on Blog Talk Radio to discuss the lack of a new contract for most of the city’s workforce.

To date, McGoey has been the most vocal union leader, speaking out at City Council meetings and leading several rallies outside City Hall over the past year, demanding a new contract for his members and the other five city unions without a contract – SEIU, Teamsters Local 456, AFSCME, and the Yonkers Captains, Lieutenants and Sergeants Association, CLSA.

Spano came out this week, both on News 12 and in our Yonkers Rising interview, to present his argument for fiscal sanity and the protection of the Yonkers taxpayers.

For the past 18 months, Spano has remained silent on the issue of union contracts, apparently in an effort to try to sit down and obtain an agreement and new contract. But Spano came out Tuesday to state that after meeting 132 different times with the city’s union leaders to try and hash out a new contract to no avail over the past two years, the other side of the labor-management argument needed to be told.

Here is a give-and-take between Spano and McGoey, based on both interviews and the key points in the negotiations, and the hopes for a resolution of union contracts moving forward:

I: Arbitration:
Spano said he will immediately agree to settle all union contacts, specifically the Yonkers firefighter contract, before an independent arbitrator.
“We have gone to mediation, and the way it works is that after three mediation sessions, an impasse is declared and you then go to arbitration,” said the mayor. “But the firefighters don’t have to participate in arbitration. We went through the entire process and at the end, he (McGoey) walked away. I will go to an arbitrator tomorrow and will put the outcome before it. If he is so confident about the outcome from arbitration, let’s do it tomorrow. We will win some and lose some but in the end, I believe we will save taxpayer dollars.”

Spano added that he does not believe arbitration will be required to settle contracts with every union, except for the firefighters.
“We continue to have substantive talks, and fruitful discussions, with some of the unions and I believe we are very close to closing it down and coming to a contract settlement. And I’m hopeful that we can close them all down,” said Spano McGoey has also publicly stated and agreed to arbitration as a final solution to contracts that cannot be resolved through negotiations, and believes that in the end, the firefighters – and other union workers in the city – will receive a similar contract in arbitration that the Yonkers police unions, PBA and CLSA, received, which is a 10-year contract with salary increases over the last five years of the contract.

This practice is known as pattern bargaining, and is another issue of dispute between the mayor and the union leaders.

II: Pattern Bargaining:
Spano continually vowed in our interview “not to pattern bargain or re-open contracts.” While the mayor will not negotiate with the other unions based on the Yonkers police contract, he did say the police contract includes “significant givebacks” which so far, the other unions are unwilling to provide in exchange for cost-of-living increases and a new contract.

“There has been a last minute hardcore push for pattern bargaining, and while I respect their position, the union bosses need to know that I can’t go back to the taxpayers and have them pay for contracts we can’t afford,” said Spano. “When the unions rally outside of City Hall and say that I’m not at the table, it’s not true. We have had over 100 official meetings, and 50 off-the-record conversations with union leaders. And I will continue to meet with them, but I am not pattern bargaining and not re-opening contracts.” McGoey said pattern bargaining has been a part of contract negotiations for 50 years and will continue today.

“The blueprint has already been set,” he said. “The city’s firefighters, police, DPW, Teamsters and SEIU have always gotten the same financial package as the other. Each contract is different, and every employee’s salary range is not the same. We are all asking for cost-of-living adjustments, and we haven’t had one in six years.

“The days of politicians adopting a budget and patting themselves on the back are over, because when you pass a budget, but 80 percent of your expenses haven’t been adjusted, you are neglecting to fund an outstanding liability,” continued McGoey. “Eventually these contracts will be settled, and the longer it takes the more significant the cost will be. Any reasonable person will conclude that the outstanding contracts will be settled somewhere in the range of the police contract.”

III: Money Budgeted for Contract Settlements:
The other key piece to the disagreements, and the lack of a new contract for most of the city’s union workforce, is based on tax dollars, budgetary issues and affordability. Spano argues that he needs concessions and givebacks in order to afford new contracts and salary increases; McGoey argues that the mayor and council needs to prioritize their budgets to find the money for contracts.

The mayor budgeted $8.75 million in the current city budget for new contracts; McGoey claims that the $8.75 million included monies for every union except the firefighters. The City Council added $5 million to the budget for firefighter contracts, but none of either pot of money has been allocated because there have been no contract settlements. Both McGoey and Spano agree that the funds put aside will not be enough to settle all six of the unions’ outstanding contracts. “If everyone were to get the same contract as the police it would not be enough to fund every contract. It’s still very challenging,” said Spano.

“There’s always a budget crisis because of systematic underfunding from Albany, and there’s never funds for a new contract,” added McGoey. “But you have to prioritize and make a commitment to the workers and the people of Yonkers and find the money.” Spano spoke about the givebacks needed for the city to afford new contracts. “If they really want to talk about pattern bargaining, I got five concessions from the police unions, including relief on rule 207 changes and modification before they got a raise,” he said. “The other unions say they won’t agree to concessions but they want the same raise the cops got. If you can’t possibly give me any concessions then I can’t discuss salary increases.

“I’ve also asked other unions what workers are earning in the region, and what package of benefits they get. Show me the other contracts and if you can show me what they are earning outside of Yonkers, I will listen. We can’t afford to re-open contracts and pattern bargain, it’s not in the interest of the taxpayers and I’m not going to do it. We need relief but there’s no give on the other side.

“We need our workers to pay more than $750 per year for their health insurance,” said Spano. “We need to combat abuses of overtime and sick abuse, and we’ve begun to address it. The unions deserve raises and I’ve offered raises and compensation packages that are very generous in comparison to other communities. But there’s no giveback on the other side and that’s my bottom line. We need some givebacks before any new compensation package.”

III: City’s Negotiator:
The mayor said the city’s negotiator for union contracts is Joe Spano, a cousin of his. “Joe has impeccable credentials, as a union president for 10 years and also corrections commissioner, and the president of the corrections union,” he said. “Joe has a great understanding of labor and management and that’s what he can bring to the table and help with.”

IV: Promises Made and Politics:
When asked what can be done to resolve the contracts, McGoey answered: “By holding rallies and by getting the City Council to push the administration to come to the table and reach an agreement. The City Council realizes this is the number one priority.

“There is a never-ending process of delay by the mayor and administration,” he continued. “They should be encouraged to get this done as soon as possible, and sit down and work through the night if needed. Badgering the workforce in the public affects morale, and six budgets in a row without a contract is ridiculous.”

Democrats on the City Council last week issued a joint statement, which read, in part: “It is unfortunate that negotiations between unions and the administration have been unsuccessful to this point. There must be transparency in dialogue and honesty with regard to expected cost and savings. With the morale across the union workers low, we are committed to open communications, between all parties, in support of moving talks forward. With the PBA contract settled, we are hopeful that all unions will be able to obtain contracts that will benefit all, taxpayers and union members alike, and create financial hardships for none.”

Spano said: “I understand the Legislature and the fact that you don’t want to offend the labor leaders, but we have a job to do and my job is to negotiate contracts. They would like us to get this done, but it’s easier said than done. I respect the council and their wishes but my job is to get it done.”

Spano said that the day after the last union demonstration at City Hall, four weeks ago, 31 of 51 firefighters called in sick the next day. “Was this a job action? I will leave it up to you to decide, but it’s this type of abuse that we are trying to combat,” he said.

The politics of a lack of union contracts will come into play next year, as Spano is expected to run for re-election. When he won in 2011, Spano had the support of the firefighters union – and all unions. This time around it will be a different, but the mayor and his team clearly attempted over the past year to negotiate, and determined that it was financially impossible to give the unions what they wanted without breaking the budget, and politically, they had to move forward without their support.

McGoey, speaking into a megaphone at the rally this week, spoke about the broken promises of this administration. Clearly, he is looking for an alternative candidate, or candidates, to challenge Spano next year.

Finally, most of Yonkers was talking about the Journal News story last Sunday, which highlighted pensions given to Westchester union retirees that exceeded $150,000 per year, with seven of the top 10 coming from the Yonkers police and fire departments.
More on that part of the city’s budget problem, paying for pension, in next week’s Yonkers Rising.

Op-Ed: This is No Way To Treat Our City Workers

By Frank Spotorno

I have been watching the so called “negotiations”between our city unions and the mayor over anew contract. I also read the story last week in Yonkers Rising about the mayor’s comments on contract negotiations between the city and fire fighters union Local 628.

The people of Yonkers elected Mayor Spanoto lead, and leadership requires you to reach across the table and come to a deal. If you can’t come to a deal, then agree to arbitration if mediation doesn’t work.There are way too many facts out there for the people of Yonkers to make up their minds as to what parts of what Mayor Spano or YFD Local628 President Barry McGoey says as truth or spin.

The mayor said he has held 132 meetings with all the city unions, and that 31 firefighters recently called in sick after a union rally at City Hall; McGoey said the mayor is lying. Spano said he needs givebacks in a new contract in order to give salary increases; McGoey said he is willing to agree to give backs.

Who do we believe?

What I do believe is that our union workers and city employees are not being treated with the dignity and respect they deserve. Our civil servants,garbage collectors and firefighters keep our city moving every day.Mayor Spano says the city cannot afford new contracts without givebacks. I believe the mayor should lead and find cuts within his own budget, or other parts of city government, and come up with$5 million in cuts to bring to the negotiating table.

The recent raises given to high-ranking members of the mayor’s staff were a mistake. If you can’t afford to give new contracts to your city workforce,then nobody should get a raise.

We also need some type of public meetings to better inform the public about contracts, pensions and benefits for our city workforce. I understand that contract negotiations are private, but there are many pieces that the city and Local 628 could tell the public.Let us remember that there are six city unions working without a contract for almost six years.It’s not just the firefighters, but our DPW workers and parks employees, and the civil servants who could really use a raise.

Three years ago the city unions all supported Mike Spano for mayor, and he won. Now the unions are not supportive of Mayor Spano, who is up for re-election next year. The people of Yonkers need to ask why that is the case.I will always support our city workforce and civil servants across the country. But the best way to solve our budget crisis here in Yonkers, and have the money to give fair contracts to our workers,is to create jobs. We need to create private-sector jobs that create tax revenue and are not funded by the taxpayers.

As the founder of the Bring Our Jobs Home campaign (www.bringourjobshome.com), I have focused on creating good-paying jobs in America,and ensuring we support products and services made here in our country. As a resident of the City of Yonkers, I firmly believe that creating good jobs– not minimum-wage jobs that you can’t raise a family on – is the key issue for Yonkers, our state and our country.

Like so many cities across America, Yonkers’ humble beginnings as a farming community quickly turned into a manufacturing powerhouse in the 19th century, from Otis Elevator to Alexander Smith and Sons Carpet Company, to Edwin Armstrong’s first successful FM radio transmission. The term “American-made” had meaning,and carried with it a genuine pride that was uniquely ours. Most important, our success was largely determined by how hard we worked and our commitment to each other, no matter what race, color or creed – certainly not by restrictive trade agreements,fractured alliances and divisive political agendas.

We have too many people living in poverty in Yonkers, and too many people working minimum wage jobs that provide no future.Today, our city faces many challenges. The good news is that solutions to our challenges are available; we have the people, resources and the know-how to fix our problems.
During my campaign for City Council president in Yonkers, last year I stated many times that good-paying jobs, education and real commitment to transparency in government are all necessary“critical path” items for long-term recovery.

I have made the decision, with the strong support of family, friends and community members,that my business and political experience would benefit our City of Yonkers, our State of New York,our nation and most important, our children. My name is Frank Spotorno and I’m a candidate for Yonkers mayor. Let’s create a bold new future for Yonkers. Email me at bringourjobshome@gmail.com to discuss our city’s future.

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