The Public Employees Fair Employment Act (more commonly known as the Taylor Law) refers to Article 14 of the New York State Civil Service Law, which defines the rights and limitations of unions for public employees in New York.
The Public Employees Fair Employment Act (the Taylor Law) is a New York State statute named after labor researcher George W. Taylor which authorizes a governor-appointed State Public Employment Relations Board to resolve contract disputes for public employees while curtailing their right to strike. The law provides for mediation and binding arbitration to give voice to unions, while work stoppages are made punishable with fines and jail time. The United Federation of Teachers and the Uniformed Sanitationmen’s Association challenged the Taylor Law at its 1967 inception. Following a 2005 strike, Transit Workers’ president Roger Toussaint was incarcerated for three days as per a Taylor Law ruling.
The Taylor Law grants public employees the right to organize and elect their union representatives. It defines the boundaries for public employers in negotiating and entering into agreements with these public unions. The law also defines the terms for the foundation of the Public Employment Relations Board, a state agency that administers the law in matters related to public strike negotiation. The board consists of three members appointed by the governor. Each member must be approved by the senate, and only two can be of the same political party.
One of the most controversial parts of the Taylor Law is Section 210, which prohibits New York state public employees from striking. For certain unions, primarily law enforcement (e.g., police officers), it provides for compelling binding PERB arbitration in the event of an impasse in negotiations. For other, non-law enforcement unions it provides for non-binding "fact-finding" where a panel of arbitrators make a recommendation to the parties on what they think a fair settlement of the dispute should be. The fine for striking is an additional day of pay for each day of a strike, totaling two days' loss for each strike day. The law does not apply to Long Island Rail Road, Metro-North Railroad and Staten Island Railway employees, who are subjected to the jurisdiction of the Federal Railway Labor Act of 1926.
- The law was put into effect in 1967, following costly transit strikes the previous year.
- The Taylor Law is named for George W. Taylor, chairman of the commission appointed by Nelson Rockefeller to propose amendments to the Condon-Wadlin Act. Taylor was a professor of industrial research at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton school for forty years before his death in 1972. He served as an advisor on labor relations issues to Presidents Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson. Taylor was a strong supporter of the strike in private sector bargaining.
- Since its declaration, the law has been cited in preventing public employee strikes. However, public employees have struck since the introduction of the law.
- The United Federation of Teachers struck in Ocean Hill-Brownsville strike of 1968.
- The UFT struck for five days over the issue of class size in 1975.
- The fine was applied during the New York City Transit Authority 1980 transit strike and was applied again in the 2005 transit strike (involving both the Transit Authority and a separate unit of the MTA, MTA Bus Company (for the latter, only workers who were members of Transport Workers Union (TWU) Local 100).
- During the 2005 transit strike, both the strikers and the MTA violated portions of the Taylor Law. Section 210 states that the workers are not allowed to strike; Section 201 Part 4 states that employers are not allowed to negotiate benefits provided by a public retirement fund or payment to a fund or insurer to provide an income for retirees.
- In addition, in the wake of the 2005 strike, the New York State Supreme Court in Kings County (Brooklyn), declared TWU Local 100 in violation of the Taylor Law, and issued a fine of $1,000,000 per day, pursuant with the guidelines set forth in the law. Two smaller unions also representing NYC Transit Authority workers, Amalgamated Transit Union Locals 726 and 1056, were fined smaller amounts.
Criticism and reform
While government officials support the Taylor Law as a way of preventing strikes by municipal unions in New York, the unions contend that the law is harsh on them. The labor unions also contend that the Taylor Law does not provide government agencies the incentive to negotiate contracts on a timely basis and negotiate the terms of the contract in good faith. There have been lobbying efforts by municipal unions to the New York state legislature to change the Taylor Law. There is some resistance or reluctance to modifying the law.
With the creation and assistance of the Taylor Law, members of many organizations including the Albany, NY Fire Department were able to unionize, becoming one of the strongest political organizations. The year 1970 saw the birth of Union Local 2007, which was also responsible in paving the way for all other public sector unions in the City of Albany, New York.
The Taylor Law has been a frequent target for upstate New York anti-union activists; they claim that it severely limits the ability of governments to limit spending on unionized labor, with minimal recourse in the event the unions illegally strike. One particular clause, the Triborough Amendment, mandates that in the event of a lack of a contract, the terms of the previous contract continue indefinitely, leaving governments (and, by extension, taxpayers) with virtually no leverage to force concessions if an overly generous contract becomes unsustainable. While raw salary increases are generally negotiated on a year by year basis (and are thus frozen at the expiration of a contract), "step increases" (which are based on an individual worker's longevity and are additional raises above and beyond general salary raises) are still required in most state contracts, and must be given even when a contract expires if the previous contract stipulated such. Thus, raises can theoretically continue in perpetuity. As a result of this, numerous activists and government officials have moved to either suspend or repeal the Triborough Amendment. The Conservative Party of New York State, which seeks the abolition of the amendment, argues that the amendment's guarantee of a perpetual contract eliminates any incentive for unions to negotiate in good faith.
Others have made the argument that while there is no corollary to the Triborough Amendment under the National Labor Relations Act which governs private sector workers, those workers may strike at impasse. Some Unions believe it would be fundamentally unfair to eliminate the Triborough Amendment while at the same time continuing the Taylor Law's prohibition against strikes. To do so would provide no incentive for management to negotiate a fair contract since it could always just change the contract as it saw fit after reaching impasse, leaving the workers and unions with no legal recourse. This would be completely unprecedented in American Labor Law.
The Buffalo Teachers Federation, for instance, illegally struck in September 2000, which delayed the start of the school year; the consequences was a fine of double a day's wage for every work day the teachers were on strike, most of which was implemented during the days leading into the Christmas holiday.
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- Niki Cervantes (2010-08-21). "Teachers are learning Economic Reality 101 - City & Region". The Buffalo News. Retrieved 2011-03-28.
- RICK KARLIN Capitol bureau (2011-01-19). "Save more, pay less". Times Union. Retrieved 2011-03-28.
- Conservative Party says 'Make sure you vote on Tuesday'. Albany Times Union. Retrieved 2011-05-13.
- New York State Public Employees Fair Employment Act — The Taylor Law from the NYS Governor's Office of Employee Relations
- NYS Public Employment Relations Board (PERB)
- Full Text of the Taylor Law from the NYS Public Employment Relations Board (PERB)