LIBN Column: Nassau PBA deal works for all

Kris LaGrange's picture
Sep 13, 2013

We call them heroes when faced with tragedy, but sadly forget that when it comes to collective bargaining for fair pay.

We adore cops when they make the ultimate sacrifice, but demonize them when they retire with dignity and collect their well-deserved pensions. Just ask Nassau Police Benevolent Association President Jim Carver, who’s been on the job for 40 years and has seen it all, from fundamental-machine Republicans to populist, flaky Democrats – wild swings mimicking national political trends.

The average PBA member has also experienced it all: a county rolling in dough from big Gold Coast business, then barely making payroll when corporations evade taxes.

Most modern unions tout a 3 percent annual raise as the gold standard, but the Nassau PBA is in a delicate bargaining position in a county that loves antagonistic, ultra-conservative residents like Bill O’Reilly. So Nassau’s police officers, who put themselves in harm’s way every day, were able to bargain 1.75 percent annual increases into their two-year contract extension.

When the news of a deal between Nassau County and the battle-hardened Nassau PBA broke on Sept. 6, Carver told me – before the ink dried – that “this is a deal that is good for all, the members and the bewildered county taxpayer.”

When you dissect the details, you do find some good news for the on-the-job cop: retro pay that replaces the wage freeze with small increases. But what about those who don’t care for police, whether they’re criminals or tax-hating conservatives? What’s in it for them?

The givebacks in this deal save the county money and may not be so regressive that they demoralize young officers who are forced to work in dangerous conditions with half the county’s precincts shuttered. With crime up, those younger cops will be paying into their benefits and will enjoy fewer paid vacation days.

Other bottom-line benefits of the new deal: 50 formerly union positions will be filled by civilians and overtime, another big cost, will be limited.

Ultimately, the PBA drops its wage-freeze lawsuit and accepts these concessions knowing it will be bargaining over these factors again in just two short years.

The story behind the story is that these negotiations started back in January 2011 and neither the county’s Democrats nor its Republicans could hold them together. It was the due diligence of the Nassau cop and a charismatic union leader that crafted something we can all believe in.

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