One of the main reasons for unfair taxpayer treatment in New York is the Taylor Law. The state's chief labor law emasculates cities, counties, authorities and other entities' abilities to negotiate because it grants unions huge advantages. Now in the Big Apple is a grim reminder that public unions -- whose contract settlements already far outpace the private sector -- thumb their noses at state law, demonstrating how broken it is.
If New York lawmakers had the nerve, they would fix the law to benefit workers, management and, lest anyone forget, taxpayers. The Taylor Law passed in 1967 after an acrimonious, expensive and disruptive New York City transit strike. What brings it to mind now is an acrimonious, expensive, disruptive -- and illegal -- transit strike. How can state leaders allow a city with 7 million commuters to be held hostage by a union breaking the law? Is that not the definition of a dysfunctional government, especially when it's estimated to cost New York City and state taxpayers $400 million a day? The Taylor Law formally authorized creation of public-employee unions, with restrictions and advantages. Foremost was a prohibition against strikes, a sensible limitation given the potentially disastrous consequences of strikes by police, firefighters, teachers and transit workers.
But after theoretically denying unions their traditional weapon, the law provided extraordinary benefits that private-sector unions do not have, including, for police and firefighters, a binding arbitration system. It hasn't worked for administrators and taxpayers, or for workers. Public-sector employees can wait years for a new contract, while their union leaders rely on such artifices as binding arbitration to wait out management.
Taxpayers, meanwhile, are abused by the law's failure to require arbitrators to consider a municipality's ability to pay for contracts they award; by the often unfair use of "parity" to justify costly contracts; and by the way the law and related court rulings disincline both sides from bargaining in good faith.
New York desperately needs to recast this law. If workers give up the right to strike, they should not strike, or lose the Taylor Law. Similar measures in other states drive the bargaining process instead of thwart it. New York's should as well.