Labor leaders were in a tizzy last month when a group of state Senate employees announced their intention to unionize. But if the group achieves its objective – subjecting senators to broader union rules Albany imposes on local governments and schools – the result could be more than it bargained for for Labor.
About 80 of the Senate’s 1,000 employees New York State Legislative Workers United is formed. In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the group demanded that Taylor Law grant state and municipal employees and teachers equal bargaining privileges in New York City.
In other words, employees want state regulators to force senators to negotiate with them and force lawmakers to contract terms.
The legality of that plan is, at best, highly questionable. A union will run into constitutional issues if it asks a judge to enforce a labor contract on the Legislature, a separate and independent branch of government. But if the nascent union succeeds in bringing senators to the table, lawmakers will be in for a rude awakening.
That’s because Taylor Law does much more than just negotiate salaries and benefits to the owners. The law has been interpreted to mean close to everything in a workplace that is not negotiable on the floor. And it essentially prohibits employers from managing their own workforce without union permission.
After 55 years of the bill on the books, Taylor Law contracts control, among other things, the length of the school day, prohibits state and local managers from firing employees who commit crimes at work, and prioritizes an employee’s seniority. That’s how well he does. Work.
Even the smallest reasonable changes to make the government more efficient – such as eliminating vacancies, modernizing performance appraisal forms or asking employees to punch in from time to time – have to be Special permission from the union may be required.
Taylor Law is in many ways the Empire State’s overlooked policy villain, contributing to most of the city and state’s top challenges but always evading scrutiny.
The United Federation of Teachers’ dominance of the city’s schools, the rank inefficiency of the New York City subway, and Long Island’s crushing property tax all trace their roots to Taylor’s Law. (The maintenance nightmare Residents of the New York City Housing Authority endure and the city’s beaches’ Lifeguard-Scheduling Drama Most are tied to a similar local collective-bargaining ordinance covering city workers.)
But while state lawmakers are clearly concerned about the student consequences, the plight of straphangers or Nassau County’s cost of living rarely spell the words at the heart of the issue—”Taylor’s Law!” Lest they annoy the union leaders before the next election.
And Taylor’s law makes those elections less meaningful because union contracts often determine how a government operates more than what voters make.
Lawmakers can ignore the negative consequences of legislation in part because most do not live directly with them. Nothing, however, will evaporate the flexibility of the Senate faster than making that body subject to Taylor legislation. Aides in many senators’ offices wearing multiple hats, working odd schedules and traveling with their bosses from Albany would likely be a given.
The experience can be just as disruptive to Albany breaking through generations of cognitive dissonance. Losing almost complete discretion over their individual taxpayer-funded vassals could eventually lead senators to recognize how much control they have taken away from other elected officials.
Everyone – from progressives frustrated about police accountability and public transit to limited-government conservatives eager to cut taxes – stands to win if lawmakers get a close and personal encounter with the law. and decide to adopt overdue reforms such as limiting the scope and duration. of union contracts.
Enforcing Taylor’s law, with all its extremes and excesses, would be a good thing for the Senate staff for the Senate – something one of his laboring brother and sister might soon regret.
Ken Girardin is a Fellow at the Empire Center for Public Policy in Albany.