When It Comes to Making Labor Contracts Readily Accessible, Albany’s Got Us Beat

Posted by Bernard O’Brien, August 13, 2009

More than 200,000 of the city’s municipal workers are members of labor unions. The wage and benefit levels set in the contracts for these workers make up a large share of the nearly $36 billion the Bloomberg Administration expects to spend on labor costs this year. Given the huge cost and the number of people affected, one might think that the terms set in these labor contracts would be online and readily accessible to analysts, researchers, and taxpayers in general. But the fact is you won’t find the contracts on the city’s Web site.

Putting labor contracts online is doable: for an example you have to look no further than Albany, where the state puts its contracts with union workers online along with other information related to employee compensation. In fact, the state site includes current as well as previous union contracts, some dating as far back as 1991.

The state Web site is available via Governor David Paterson’s Office of Employee Relations. The site is also accessible via the SeeThroughNY initiative sponsored by the Manhattan Institute’s Empire Center for New York State Policy at http://www.seethroughny.net.

The following questions can be answered by visiting the Governor’s Web site:

Which unions represent which state workers?
Taxpayers can determine that state police officers are represented by the Police Benevolent Association of the New York State Troopers, SUNY faculty members by United University Professions, and certain other categories of state workers by the Civil Service Employees Association. In total, 10 specific unions or negotiating units are identified on the Governor’s Web site.

How much do state workers earn?
The Governor’s Web site provides online access to both current and past state workforce labor contracts for each negotiating unit along with supporting documentation such as memoranda of agreement, salary schedules, and side letters associated with some labor contracts.

What other information related to the state workforce is available online?
The Governor’s Web site also provides certain demographic information such as breakdowns by age, length of service, and gender for each union representing state workers. An overall breakdown of state workers by race is also presented.

Here in New York City, some municipal labor contracts are available in hard copy and can be photocopied at City Hall Library located at 31 Chambers Street in Lower Manhattan. Yet none are available online for public review in the manner now made possible at the state level.

It should be noted that the city does annually publish its Civil List online each April. The most recent Civil List, an alphabetical snapshot of all city employees and their respective base salaries, can be accessed at www.nyc.gov/html/records/pdf/govpub/CIVIL_LIST_2008_Public.pdf.

New York City is often favorably compared with the state when it comes to matters such as budgetary transparency and fiscal reporting. But when it comes to information about labor contracts, the city has quite a ways to go to meet the standard being set by the state.

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