WNYC's Bob Hennelly is an award-winning investigative journalist. While at WNYC he has reported on a wide gamut of major public policy questions ranging from immigration and homeland security to power outages and utility mergers.
A state judge has ruled the Bloomberg administration over reached when it unilaterally ended a 118-year-old practice that let the city comptroller set the prevailing wage paid to carpenters, plumbers and electricians doing city work.
State Supreme Court Manuel Mendez said the April change violated civil service law. He wrote the Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s move to compel the construction unions to engage in collective bargaining without the prior approval of the state's civil service commissioner as both "arbitrary and capricious."
"Salary, time and leave accrued under Consent Orders have been removed and unilaterally altered by the respondents without and proper notice, hearing or determination by the New York State Civil Service Commissioner," Mendez wrote in his opinion.
City Comptroller John Liu welcomed the ruling, which impacts about 10,000 city workers — roughly 3 percent of the municipal workforce. A spokesman for Liu linked Bloomberg's 'over reach' on the prevailing wage workers with the status of two thirds of the City's workforce that have collective bargaining agreements but are working under expired contracts.
“This office has set prevailing wages for more than a century and the mayor’s current labor strategy has resulted in 200,000 men and women working without a contract in this City," the comptroller's spokesman wrote.
In a statement, City Corporate Counsel Michael Cardozo vowed to appeal the decision.
"The administrative change the City made seeks to undo an expensive anomaly in New York City government, and was implemented by other major jurisdictions in the State years ago," Cardozo wrote. "These workers should bargain for their wages and benefits like other City employees, as well as other public employees around the State."