Tracie Hunte, Assistant Producer, WNYC News
Tracie Hunte is an Assistant Producer in the WNYC Newsroom.
Under threat of nearly 10,000 layoffs, members of New York's largest public employees' union will soon find out the status of a new five-year contract with New York State.
Members of Civil Service Employees Association voted on the contract and those ballots will be tallied starting Monday.
The proposed contract includes a three-year wage freeze and furloughs. It will also require members to contribute between two and six percent more to their health care benefits.
Union leaders have been telling their membership that the contract is the only way to prevent the loss of some 9,800 jobs. The contract affects employees of the state government’s executive branch. Ballots were sent to all 66,000 of them near the end of June.
Ken Margolies, Director of Organizing Programs at Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations, said he expects members to accept the deal because by ruling out tax increases, Governor Andrew Cuomo put the union in a tough position.
“The Cuomo administration is looking to hold the line on public employee settlements and get concessions when it can and perhaps small increases towards the end of agreements,” Margolies said. “There’s a very long history of agreement like these setting patterns.”
The contract is designed to save the state some $450 million in labor costs. According to the CSEA, the average member makes $40,000 a year. They work for the state government’s executive branch which includes the departments of Transportation, Environmental Conservation, Tax and Finance, Civil Service, State Police and others.
Teresa Ghilarducci, an economics professor at the New School for Social Research, said concessions in the contract aren't the only thing employees need to consider. They also think about the relationship they have with their leadership.
“If people trust what they’re hearing and they understand that their leadership and the state is concerned about their welfare, then they will make a trade that looks on the surface to be draconian,” Ghilarducci said. “They’ll take a 20 percent cut in wages if they feel and trust that it’s a trade for job security. But in some cases, they will not take a one percent cut because they don’t trust the promise.”
Once members accept it, the contract goes into effect immediately.