Monday, September 3, 2012

N.Y. unions and employers did some serious bargaining this year

On Labor Day, they can look back on some successful negotiations 

Con Edison workers protest during lockout in July, That was followed by a new contract.

A fact worth proudly noting on this Labor Day: Collective bargaining is alive and well in New York.

Since America last celebrated the country’s end-of-summer holiday honoring working people, some of the city’s major private-sector unions and their employers came to terms after hard-fought bargaining.

The achievement is notable both because unionism in the general economy, as opposed to the public sector, is often thought of as a spent force and because this era of high unemployment, globalization and downward pressure demands enlightened approaches be taken on both sides of the table.

Most well -known, Con Edison locked out 8,000 members of Utility Workers Local 1-2 in July, replacing them with 5,000 managers and substitute workers. After four weeks, Gov. Cuomo used the threat posed by a massive storm to move the parties.

Con Ed ended the lockout. Then, quick bargaining produced raises of more than 10% over four years, plus bonuses. Workers kept coveted pensions, but agreed that newly hired staff would be enrolled instead in a retirement savings plan.

Far smoother talks between the city’s booming hotel industry and the New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council, representing 30,000 housekeepers, produced a seven-year contract calling for wages to rise 29%.

Because of the union’s long-established and visionary chain of industry-financed clinics, the workers pay nothing out of pocket for health care. The members also enjoy two negotiating advantages: their jobs can’t be outsourced and upscale hotels want to avoid downscale employees. A win-win.

After going more than a year without a contract, the District Council of Carpenters hammered out an agreement with the Association of Wall-Ceiling and Carpentry Industries, which represents employers of more than half the union’s 25,000 members.

Surrendering the right to dictate which specific members could be hired on a particular job, the council won raises, totaling almost 17% over five years, that will bring the wage and benefits package to $99 an hour.

The union also gained a guarantee that a member would be hired for every non member carpenter put on a job. An official estimated that the rule would create 1,000 new union jobs a year.

In the high-culture arena, the staggering New York City Opera worked out a pact that kept the company in business. With ticket sales expected to bring in only 14% of a $14 million budget, and with the opera’s endowment dramatically reduced, General Manager George Steele looked to the performers for givebacks.

Their unions helped out in exchange for getting a guarantee on health insurance, as well as a voice in artistic, planning and fund-raising strategies.

As Labor Day approached, construction unions reached a deal in principle with the designated developer of the $15 billion Hudson Yards project on Manhattan’s West Side.

Representatives of nearly a dozen trades agreed with Related Companies on modifications of work rules and decreased wage and benefit packages to keep the massive project a union site.

Each of these pacts should keep New Yorkers working on good union jobs for many Labor Days to come thanks to healthy give-and-take and cooperative reasoning. Well done.

(John's note: I would like to wish you and your family a very safe and happy Labor Day).


  1. DROP DEAD DAILY NEWS! You missed the steamrolling of bad faith bargaining by Billelo. Reporting my ass!


  3. I bet they all got to ratify their contracts boy oh boy this is starting to be very selective reporting seems to me that the forces that be have beaten down John m into compliance with them sad sad very sad!

  4. Except for the hotel workers contract, all of those contracts sucked.

    New hires at Con Ed will no longer have a pension.

    We lost out Out of Work List and now you have to be a company man or a steward to get a job. That 1,000 jobs figure was pulled out of somebody's ass - it's total bullshit.

    We got fucked with no vaseline.

  5. How did this happens? why they did this?


I would ask that if you would like to leave a comment that you think of Local 157 Blogspot as your online meeting hall and that you wouldn’t say anything on this site that you wouldn’t, say at a union meeting. Constructive criticism is welcome, as we all benefit from such advice. Obnoxious comments are not welcome.