Union Says Unfair Law Hurts Public Workers

     MINEOLA, N.Y. – Long Island officials plan to trim $40 million from a county budget by illegally modifying wages, hours and other employment conditions, a union claims in court.
     The Civil Service Employees Association, Local 1000, AFSCME, along with its President Danny Donohue and Nassau County Local 830 President Jerry Laricchiuta say Local Law 315-2012 is unconstitutional.
     Passed by the Nassau County Legislature on May 21, 2012, the law authorizes County Executive Edward Mangano to take “any and all actions he deems necessary to create $40 million in savings for the county,” according to the complaint.
     These cuts would then be used to finance the payment of tax certiorari settlements and judgments, the union says.
     But such actions negate the collective bargaining and contractual rights of the union and its represented employees in violation of the New York Constitution and the New York Home Rule Law, the complaint states.
     Under Local Law 315-2012, Mangano could freeze county employee wages, furlough union employees one day per week, unilaterally modify the collective bargaining agreement between union and the county, and reduce or eliminate the county’s contributions to employee benefit plans, according to the complaint.
     The union also slams the meeting at which the law was voted upon as a farce.
     Republicans allegedly held a slim 10-9 majority over Democrats in the Legislature at the time of the meeting, but one lawmaker, Dennis Dunne, attended via speaker phone.
     Apparently confused about the matters of the meeting, the Republican repeatedly shouted, “Dunne votes aye,” at inappropriate times, according to the complaint.
     After the president of another labor union told the assembled lawmakers that the proposed law was unconstitutional, County Attorney John Ciampoli allegedly stood to speak next.
     Peter Schmitt, the Legislature’s presiding officer, asked why Schmitt was speaking on behalf of the County, according to the complaint.
     “Is it your opinion as attorney that the county executive has the right to reopen the contract,” he allegedly asked Ciampoli.
     Apparently unsatisfied with Ciampoli’s responses, Schmitt said, “I find your information sorely lacking” and “next to worthless,” according to the complaint.
     When Ciampoli finished speaking, Schmitt allegedly told attendees:
     “We’re gonna conclude this hearing and I’m not calling a vote today. I need more information. … We’ll vote at another time when the people who are supposed to be here, who aren’t here, can be here. And we’ll try to have one last bite at the apple to try and consolidate the 10 votes. Maybe we’ll get some from that side of the aisle. You never know. I’m an optimist.”
     Everyone then left the room, including the legislators, witnesses and the remaining members of the public, according to the complaint.
     But Schmitt allegedly then called Mangano on the telephone and reconvened the meeting away from the public eye. Dunne still participated via conference call, according to the complaint.
     Since the public received no notice that the hearing resumed, no members of the public attended, the union says.
     After the nine Democratic Party legislators left the meeting room, the nine remaining Republican legislators voted to pass Local Law 315-2012, according to the complaint.
     Mangano signed the law on June 19, 2012.
     Though the Open Meetings Law permits the usage of teleconferencing to satisfy presence requirement, Dunne’s attendance at the hearing solely by speakerphone, where no one could see him, was not permitted, according to the complaint.
     It says Dunne’s absence, along with the absence of the Democratic legislators, for the vote also contravened County Law and a state law definition of “quorum,” which requires “a majority of the whole number of a board in the presence of each other.”
     Union-represented employees had already made significant concessions to alleviate Nassau County’s financial problems before the passing of Local Law 315-2012, according to the complaint.
     The union says it and the county executive had previously agreed to a restructured lower salary schedule for employees hired in and after 2011, as well as numerous other cost saving measures which would have saved the county $61 million.
     These measures fell through, however, because the county executive allegedly failed to bring the agreement before the Legislature for approval.
     The Nassau Interim Finance Authority had also enacted a wage freeze on CSEA-represented employees in 2011, citing a fiscal crisis, though the measure had been earmarked for 2012.
     The union wants to restore the status quo ante and prevent any further action on the law.

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