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Transcript: Mayor de Blasio, Uniformed Superior Officers Coalition Announce Tentative Contract Agreement

December 9, 2014

Mayor Bill de Blasio: Well, good evening – and it’s a very good evening. It’s a good evening for New York City and we’ve got some really wonderful progress to announce here. We’re here to announce that we’ve just reached a contract agreement with nearly 12,000 uniformed superior officers. This is a very important step forward for this city – reaching agreement with those who, day to day, lead the work out in the field, protecting the people of this city, keeping this city safe, keeping the city clean. These are the leaders in agencies we depend on every day. We have deep respect for their work. We understand how difficult it is. We understand how dangerous it is. And it’s been a long process over months of negotiation, but it has been a respectful process wherein there was a clear recognition that we wanted to come together and we wanted to acknowledge the particular challenges of this work and how vital it was to the city. And I’m very, very proud to say that we’ve gotten to that point today.

I want to welcome, from the uniformed agencies, the leaders of agencies who are here represented – Fire Commissioner Dan Nigro, our Corrections Commissioner Joe Ponte, our Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia; from the NYPD, our First Deputy Commissioner Ben Tucker, and I also want to welcome Chief Morris of Manhattan South. Thank you for joining with us for what is a historic moment.

I want to, in a moment, talk about the labor leaders who are here and express my appreciation to them for their hard work getting us to this day and to the members of my administration who worked on these negotiations, but just got to begin at the beginning. We walked in the door, less than a year ago, on January 1, the entire city workforce was not under contract – zero city workers under contract. We had to start from scratch. And as I said as recently as this weekend, when we reached an agreement with the Council of Supervisors and Administrator – I said, we thought at the beginning, what was a realistic goal? What could we get to? In the course of this year, since we were starting at zero, and since years had passed with these unions and so many others not having contracts, how far could we get in the first year? When I hired Bob Linn, who’s had an extraordinary history of doing this work for the city of New York, I said, “Bob, get me to 50 percent by the end of the year. If you can do that for me, that will be a game changer. Get me to 50 percent.”

What was so clear from the beginning was the possibility of treating the men and women who do the work with respect, treating these unions with respect, treating the leaders of these unions with respect, opening the door, having a constant dialogue – something that had been missing. We believed it would be transcendent to just have respectful dialogue, to have management respect labor, labor respect management – not the heated rhetoric that we saw for years, and not the overt disrespect for the work that we often saw, but actual respect for the workers, for the people who do the work, for the leaders of these agencies. And we thought it could be transcendent. So I said to Bob, use that approach. Use that approach and see if you can get us to 50 percent.

With tonight’s agreement, we – upon ratification – will have 71 percent of the city workforce under contract. That is an extraordinary achievement. I want to give great credit to Bob Linn for his extraordinary work over this year. Now, Bob had a really – an angel in this process. This was a complicated negotiation, and everyone involved thought it needed a very special presence and so they turned to John Feerick, who played a key role in mediating this deal. And John, you know, you have a pretty amazing history serving the people of this city, and your magic touch is still working – I want to let you know that. So, thank you for your great role in helping us get to this moment.

This of course is our first contract with our uniformed forces. I want to thank everyone who was a part of the process. In addition to Bob, of course First Deputy Mayor Tony Shorris and our OMB Director Dean Fuleihan worked intensely on this effort and helped us get to this day. Now, to the men standing beside me who have really – I want to just commend them – besides the work they do, the profession they chose – which does, in each case, so much for our city – the leadership they provide to the men and women who work in each of their agencies – I want to thank them all and really express my respect for the way they handled this negotiation. It was thoughtful. It was respectful. Always tough – both city and labor stood up for their positions – but extremely productive, mature, reasonable negotiations and that’s what brought us to this day.

So I’d like to thank the leaders of each of the unions who are part of this coalition. I’d like to thank Roy Richter, the president of the Captains Endowment Association – you’ll hear from Roy in a moment, on behalf of the coalition; James Lemonda, the president of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association; Michael Palladino, the president of the Detectives Endowment Association; Joseph Mannion, the president of the Sanitation Officers Association; Louis Turcom, the president of the Lieutenants Benevolent Association; Patrick Ferraiulo, the president of the Correction Captains Association; Sidney Schwartzbaum, the president of the Assistant Deputy Wardens and the Deputy Wardens Association; and Russ Taormina, the president of the Uniformed Sanitation Chiefs Association. Again, this group worked as a unit – and very very productively – to get us to this day.

The members of the Uniformed Superior Officers Coalition, again, represent four agencies who literally make life in this city possible. Police, fire, sanitation, corrections – we could not have the quality of life, we could not have the safety, we could not have the cleanliness, we couldn’t have life as we know it in this city without them. And the work they do, by definition, it is difficult, it is complex, it is dangerous, it is sensitive. Everyone knows the work we’ve been trying to do over these months to strengthen each and every one of these agencies – and that is an acknowledgement of how committed we are to their success. But we also, in the process, have talked very openly about how tough the work is. We recognize that. And we wanted to acknowledge that in this agreement. So, our goal was to come to a fair agreement – fair for the people who do the work, fair for the taxpayers, smart in terms of the long-term fiscal health of this city, fair in terms of acknowledging the difficulty of the work.

What we’ve done is taken the pattern that we had used throughout the previous process, and now that we are working with uniformed unions, we are adding an additional 1 percent raise in the first year of the contract. The contract also involves the health care savings – that was true of all the previous contracts. And we think this is going to be a profound step for all of us – yes, for the fiscal health of the city of New York, but also for the ability of the city of New York to keep providing top-flight services to its people and to keep employing the kinds of numbers of employees we need to do the job well. We think these health care savings are going to be something that helps in so many ways going forward and something that really guarantees our fiscal health, regardless of what the economy brings us up ahead.

We’ve always wanted to acknowledge and reward hard work – no one works harder than the members of these eight unions – and we wanted to do it in a fair and smart way. We’ve struck that balance here.

As we move forward, there will be a lot of work to do to continue making sure this is a safe city and a fair city for everyone. This partnership is an example of what works. It’s an example of the kinds of things we can do together to make the city better for everyone – and we’re very proud of that fact. Just a few words in Spanish before I bring up Roy Richter –

[Mayor de Blasio speaks in Spanish]

With that, I want to welcome Roy and just say I have great respect for Roy. I’ve worked with him for many years. I’ve worked with his members for many years in precincts all over this city. Also, I personally got to see the way Roy and his family dealt with the tremendous challenges after Hurricane Sandy upended their lives. And I got to spend some time in Rockaway, seeing his strength and fortitude and the closeness of his family, and I really respect that humanly as well. So it’s my honor to bring forward Roy Richter.  

Roy Richter: Thank you.

Mayor: You’re welcome.

Roy Richter: So, I don’t have any notes, but I’d just like to say a couple things. Number one– this agreement is marked by a sense of fairness and also by an ability to communicate. Sometimes in the past we’ve had problems communicating adequately and sometimes we haven’t. In the beginning of this process, we started out with the – all the union presidents of our coalition we formed together, but Al Hagan, who was the president – 

Unknown: [Sneezes]

Roy Richter: God bless you – Al Hagan, who was the president of the Fire Officers Association – he and the other leaders, we formed this coalition. Jake Lemonda is now the president of the fire officers, and he – he – he stepped right into his shoes. During this process, we came to a point where we needed some assistance, and I have to acknowledge John Feerick. John is a common denominator amongst members of the coalition, Mike Palladino being a Fordham Law alumnus, myself being – well, actually a Fordham graduate, I should say – I’m a  –

Unknown: Accounting.

[Laughter]

Roy Richter: Accounting. He’s the accountant, I’m the lawyer, so – so it worked out. And John also worked with – with Bob Linn many years ago. So, it was somebody that, when we looked for a name of somebody that everybody respected, everybody acknowledged their opinion, we turned to John and he opened the door to his school and his facility – and we spent many long days in that facility – and I have to thank you very much.

So, when I talked about fairness – the one thing that this agreement acknowledges is the service and the sacrifice that the members of this coalition give to the city of New York everyday. We’re no better than any other city worker – we’re just a little bit different. And that difference is that when you go to work, you place your body on the line, you place your life on the line, you place your family in jeopardy, and you want to go home at the end of the day. So this agreement acknowledges that difference, and I’m very happy that the mayor was open to it, and Bob Linn was willing and was receptive to it.

And I’m very happy that this agreement is one that we’ll be able to send out to our membership and seek ratification of it. And I’m confident that our members will ratify this agreement because it’s an agreement that’s – that – that they themselves are able to manage their own destiny – and it’s not a destiny that’s created by somebody else, that does not have our members’ best interests at heart – and it’s a destiny that they’ve created and one that they’ll – they’ll – they’ll live, and one that they will have for the next seven years. Thank you.

Mayor: Thank you very much. Thank you very much. Well done. I want to call up Dean Fuleihan and Bob Linn and Tony Shorris to stand here, because questions will come that no doubt you will be quite expert in answering, so you might as well come over here right now. All right. With that – we’re doing on-topic only, obviously – we welcome your questions. Yes–

Question: Mr. Mayor, what is the total cost of the entire lot here?

Mayor: Dean Fuleihan.

Dean Fuleihan: So, for – over the financial plan, the incremental difference of this is $145 million dollars.

Question: So that [inaudible]?

Mayor: Explain the [inaudible].

Dean Fuleihan: The time period we’re talking – from Fiscal Year ’15 through Fiscal Year ’18. The total – and we can give you an annual breakdown – but the total is $145 million over the amounts that were included in the labor reserve. Right? So this builds on what was in the labor reserve, with the additional 1 percent. I’m sorry. [Laughs]

Question: [inaudible]?

Dean Fuleihan: Right, and I’m happy to sit down afterwards and –

Unknown: [inaudible]

Mayor: Okay. Sally?

Question: Can you talk about the uniformed unions who aren’t here – the CBA, Sergeants, I guess the rank-and-file sanitation aren’t here – sorry, and maybe some others – do you think this makes it harder for them to make the argument that they want to wait for the PBA to see what they get in binding arbitration now that you’ve increased the salary from what you –

Mayor: Well, first of all, again, these are the superior officers for each of the four departments I named. And obviously, as you say, there are other folks who represent the rank-and-file of those departments. Look, I think this is – this administration making clear that we think we have a fair way to support our uniformed workers. And we obviously welcome conversations with all unions that are still not under contract – and there have been extensive conversations now, for months, with I think almost all of them. So, I think it’s a clear statement that we want to come to an understanding that’s – you know, this is great progress. We had additionally wonderful progress, literally as recently as Saturday, with the Council of Supervisors and Administrators. We are continuing to get our employees under contract – that’s abundantly clear. And anyone who wants to talk to us about how to get there, Bob Linn, he never sleeps, he’s available 24 hours. But we are making clear that we believe that our uniformed workers deserve recognition in an agreement for the difficulty and danger of the work they do. Anything – if anyone wants to add, just jump in. Yes –

Question: Two questions. I’m wondering – one – if you can highlight what differences there are from this contract with the prior ones. Is it just the 1 percent or are there other differences?

Mayor: Let’s do that first. Just hold that and let’s do the first one first.

Bob Linn: There are really two elements that are different. One is an extra 1 percent in the wage increases that occurs on the first day of the 12th month of the first year. So at the end of the first year is the extra 1 percent.

Mayor: Did you follow that? [Laughs] First – do that again –

Bob Linn: The first day of the 12th month of the first year –

Mayor: It sounds biblical.

[Laughter]

Bob Linn: Let there be a 1 percent increase.

[Laughter]

Mayor: The shape of the table was also [inaudible]. [Laughs]

Bob Linn: Beyond that 1 percent, there is also an agreement to a benefit that costs about six-tenths of a point, of which the unions are paying five-tenths of that, and we’re paying about a tenth of a point. And that can be described later on in terms of further up questions, but those are the two elements. Other than that, it follows the pattern exactly.

Dean Fuleihan: [inaudible] health savings [inaudible].

Bob Linn: We also agreed – obviously, the health savings of the prior agreement were continued, and that understanding is part of this agreement. And there is a committee that will work, looking at possibilities of finding savings in early retirement healthcare costs.

Question: Okay, I’m sorry – I just didn’t understand – the benefit – what type of benefit does six-tenth –

Bob Linn: There is a lump sum payment that is made when people retire. We have agreed that people will now have the option to exercise a lump sum payment when they retire. We’ve costed that out as being worth six-tenths of a percent. And under the agreement five-tenths are paid for by the unions and one-tenth will be paid for by the city.

Mayor: Okay – your second question?

Question: Just – I was curious – I heard in the past, there might’ve been a reopener [inaudible], based on [inaudible] PBA [inaudible]?

Bob Linn: There is no reopener clause.

Mayor: Other questions. Yes–

Question: What’s the specific reason for the extra benefits in this contract that were not in contracts with other city workers?

Mayor: It’s an acknowledgment of the work and the dangers and difficulty of the work. You know, this – and this was a conversation, and I think it’s really important to understand. When there’s a respectful dialogue – and there has been with all eight of these unions – people literally talk about each other’s needs. Our central concern, of course, is the fiscal health of this city, but these leaders articulated very fairly that it was right to acknowledge the difficulty of this work and the dangers of this work, and that there should be some additional compensation because of that. And that was a healthy back-and-forth, and we came to the conclusion that we thought that was fair. Yes–

Question: [inaudible] Roy or Mike about salaries. You know, some of the other police union leaders feel that their members are not getting paid comparable to suburban wages in New York. Could you talk about this contract and how it treats your workers in terms of salaries?

Roy Richter: So, I think this contract and its application to salaries is a fair contract – and it’s one that’s in the best interest of my members – and I’m going to be happy to present it to them. And I feel that it acknowledges the contribution that they make to New York City as well.

Mayor: Yes–

Question: If you could just speak a little bit to how this coalition worked – I mean, did you all negotiate together? And then also – the sergeants union – is there a reason why they’re not in this coalition? I mean, they wouldn’t – I’m not sure if they’d be considered rank-and-file – [inaudible]?

Roy Richter: So, the members here and represented by this coalition – you can imagine that we all speak, all the union presidents speak – and I think you would hope that that happens. So there’s a – we first have to come together with an agreement of interests. And the eight unions represented here, with this agreement, came together with an agreement initially – before we contacted the city – about an agreement of interests. And we agreed to operate collectively because we felt that together we were able to negotiate and bring our point of view across a lot better than we could separately. So, these members all affirmatively elected to join the coalition. I can’t really talk about the other ones that didn’t – everybody makes a decision.

Mayor: As I’ve said in other situations, this was a coalition of the willing. This is a group of unions that banded together and, as Roy said, came to us with a vision of what we could do together. Yes, Emily?

Question: Could you describe [inaudible] what comes next in the process? I understand —

Mayor: Now, this contract? Please —

Bob Linn: Well, the work ahead is about another 100,000 workers that still —

Mayor: You mean on this contract, or —

Bob Linn: You want this contract?

Question: [inaudible]

Bob Linn: This contract — on this there will be ratification. So, I won’t speak for the unions in terms of how it will be ratified. You want to talk about that — the timeline for ratification? Do you know?

Mayor: Broadly — [laughter]

Roy Richter: So, broadly, I anticipate the target days for ratification of this contract — I believe it is February 1, 2015. Right? Agreed to that — pretty much? So, I hope to do it a lot sooner — tomorrow maybe — tomorrow. But just to follow up on the prior question that you had — I just wanted to mention that, insofar as joining the coalition, all the different uniformed unions were presented with the concept of joining the coalition, and the ones that are here together in that group of eight are the ones that decided to join together with that coalition. 

Question: Did the others give you any feedback of why they weren’t joining?

Roy Richter: So, the others are not members of the coalition and I can’t quite — I don’t remember any specific comment but, basically, they all made a decision to join or not to join. And the ones here are the ones that joined.

Question: How long ago did this all come together?

Roy Richter: I guess it happened in June — June — July. 

Bob Linn: What? The coalition or the settlement?

Question: The coalition.

Roy Ricker: The coalition — we were having discussions in spring of last year, culminating in an agreement in July of this past year, and then immediately going into discussions with the city of New York —

Mayor: July of ’14 or ’13 years?

Unknown: ’14 —

Mayor: ’14 —

Roy Richter: ’14 — right, July.

Mayor: The year’s not over yet, Roy. 

[Laughter]

Question: When exactly was the deal struck? Today? Tonight?

Roy Richter: I think it was about four hours ago.

Mayor: [Laughter]

Bob Linn: An hour and a half ago —

Roy Richter: An hour and a half ago. 

Mayor: And just picking up from what — Bob has filled in the blank. In terms of the ratification votes, again, it’s eight separate unions that all have their own process. But the point is, the goal right now — the working goal is by February 1 — the unions may move earlier than that. We have the holidays to contend with, but the goal is, as quickly as possible, to move through the ratification process for each union. Yes?

Question: And why did you want to announce it tonight?

Mayor: Because sometimes when you have news it’s good to get it out right away. 

[Laughter]

You know, we came to this agreement — it’s obviously a very important agreement for this city and we wanted everyone to understand exactly what it was because it was based on months and months of hard work. And we wanted you to hear from the horse’s mouth what’s been achieved here. Yes?

Question: Could you go back to what Bob Linn just began to speak about — the process looking at other unions and what lies ahead of the city?

Mayor: Sure.

Bob Linn: So we have the rest of the workforce — it is my hope that we reach another several agreements, quickly. We have both civilians and uniformed force workers who we expect will come to bargain, and we continue — we will continue to bargain. We have reached a settlement almost every month since we’ve been here and I hope that we can, at least, keep up that pace, if not move faster. 

Question: Are there any that are in an impasse or that you’ve broken off negations with?

Bob Linn: The police have filed for impasse and are starting impasse proceedings. Other than that, nobody has — we’re negotiating with all the others. 

Question: Those same terms tonight — were those offered to the PBA as well?

Bob Linn: We just reached this settlement, so we haven’t had any further conversations with the PBA.

Question: Even before, you haven’t offered —

Bob Linn: We have not had any conversations about the settlement with them.

Question: Could you just clarify the status with the PBA? I thought they were entering binding arbitration?

Bob Linn: That is right. That is correct. 

Mayor: So when reaching impasse, that’s the next step. Am I saying that right?

Bob Linn: Yes, you are.

Mayor: Learning by doing.

[Laughter]

Mayor: Yes?

Question: In terms of uniformed officers of this coalition before us, have you ever negotiated a deal like this before? Is this the first time that —

Mayor: You mean as a unit? As a group?

Roy Richter: So, there were coalitions formed in the past. The 2000 — 2002 round —

Unknown: 2003 —

Roy Richter: 2003 round of bargaining — and the round of bargaining after that was done one by one. So, insofar as the last decade, this is the first uniformed coalition that has settled a contract. 

Bob Linn: Let me just add — in my first tenure with the city, between ’78 and ’89, there were several uniformed coalitions during that period. 

[Laughter]

Mayor: None of us were alive then, Bob.

[Laughter]

Question: So the PBA is at an impasse — what is the status of the sergeants? Does that mean you’re negotiating with them?

Bob Linn: Yes, we’re continuing to negotiate with sergeants. We have negotiating sessions scheduled in the future. 

Phil Walzak: Let’s do one or two more for the larger group and then we can break off into [inaudible]

Mayor: If there are one or two more — last call, anything else on this agreement? Going once — going twice. Congratulations, everyone. 

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