Dear Keith, After posting this Hezitorial – Blue Truth, I received a call from a resident who suggested that in order for the PBA membership to vote for a contract that is appropriate for them as employees, their family, with respect of the City of Yonkers, a labor lawyer should be hired that has no skin in this game who can read the contract and interpret every aspect within that contract and the ramifications of the written words within that contract and how that impacts the PBA membership and CoY. If you need labor lawyers, I can supply you with three. Their cost may be between $2,000 to $3,000 for their expertise. It is most important that the PBA membership fully understand to what they are signing their name. This is a brilliant idea that did not come from me, but a resident, and I thank them sincerely. The Yonkers PBA can pay for this expertise or the costs can be divided among the membership out of pocket. Out of pockect you are looking at under $5.00 per member. This is leadership at its best. Kindly, Hezi
The Yonkers Police Department (YPD) have for almost 5 years been working without a contract under the leadership of Yonkers Police Benevolent Association (PBA) President Keith Olson, lately spotted with his lone legal counsel entering the hallways of the City of Hills devoid of his negotiating team. Olson, accused of allegedly serious internal allegations is known to have literally begged Mayor Mike Spano for a contract to gain leverage for maintaining his position as president of the PBA membership as its president. Without a contract to sell to the membership, geared to the new hires who aren’t familiar with the games often played by Yonkers City Hall to deny their rights written into such contracts, Keith Olson has been told he will not be allowed to win re-election.
As recently two to three weeks ago, Olson, at the monthly union meeting, informed his membership that City Hall and the PBA were not even close to an agreement, and that the PBA was headed toward arbitration some time in 2015. The future looked bleak with no contract in sight. Then as the November meeting rolled around Keith Olson told members of his coming to terms with Mayor Mike Spano who was now directly involved in negotiating a contract that would benefit the membership. It sounded good; the membership had been patiently salivating for a contract, suffering work without a contract for almost five years because Olson could not deliver a contract to benefit the rank and file all that time. During those same years, the cost of living had gone up at alarming rates, even so, City Hall took a blind eye to the needs of the PBA membership, preferring to assuage any animosity Olson could harbor at bay.
The doom and gloom scenario maintained its grip on the PBA membership and then, a miracle. A Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) was forged in less than a few days time, concluding at the wee hours of the morning this past weekend. Why now? Politics had indeed won the day. It was a Pyrrhic victory for the mayor. Mayor Mike Spano was weary losing every legal challenge hurled at the Yonkers Fire Department (YFD). The YFD maintained its resolve and focus. Mayor Mike Spano lost his fight with the YFD. At issue now is will Mayor Mike Spano’s “divide and conquer” contract, pitting the newly hired PBA membership versus the veterans of the YPD membership to win the day by their ratifying the yet to be revealed “contract”. The “agreement” was divulged to some, but not all members, by email sent out on November 17, 2013, advising the PBA membership that they would be asked to ratify this yet to be seen “contact” on November 22, 2013, at a venue yet to be determined. The contract was described as a “fair” ten-year contract.[Editor’s Note: Mayor Mike Spano, realizing he needed support for his re-election effort, noting he stands on thin political ice at present needed to find remedy quickly.]
The Yonkers Tribune gained access to the email sent by PBA President Olson. The PBA took great offense to having the email being made public. Despite Olson’s proclaiming the PBA is the most transparent of any union, the standard by which a member may vote is anathema to any known democratic process of this day. One can say it is conducted 30 to 40 years behind the times, making it prone to issues that will not stand up to process acceptable today.
A PBA member must be present at the Friday, November 22, 2013, presentation describing the “contract” in order to be eligible to vote. A democratic process would require at minimum 5 to 7 days for the membership to examine the contract, including the fine print. Instead, the PBA membership will be required to attend and thereafter may vote on the contract. This protocol, is outdated and fraught with issues of great concern. The “contract”, likely to be complicated by “legalese”, will be explained to the PBA membership by Trustees who can, with “knowledge or ignorance” explain contractual language correctly or incorrectly. The problem; once signed, the explanations will mean nothing as they will not be part of an agreed document. The explanation will be delivered by lawyers best referred to as snake oil salesmen rather than the legal eagles demanded to serve the relatively young PBA membership and the City of Yonkers fairly. Where is the credibility? No advance contractual agreement posted and no opportunity to discuss the merits or demerits of the stipulations that would be listed has been made available for scrutiny by the membership.[Editor’s Note: The rationale for presenting the email, as much as we could read from the documents we received, is to allow a moment for the PBA membership to scrutinize and review the 10-year contract and study its validity.]
Olson has numerous issues that have been exposed. Among those revealed allege his inability and dislike working with Yonkers Police Commissioner Charles Gardener, his not being allegedly trusted among CLSA supervisors, Olson’s alleged ploy and plot to make Captain John Mueller the next Yonkers Police Commissioner, the pending Federal lawsuits involving former Mayor Phil Amicone’s administration, as well as the current PBA leader himself. All of these issues are certain to be revealed at a forthcoming press conference. The allegations in the suit are said to be very damaging to many in Yonkers City Hall and those YPD personnel who assisted them. Yonkers Tribune has learned that Yonkers Corporation Counsel canceled a November 14, 2013, deposition so Olson could slap this deal with City Hall before some damaging information against him and others became public knowledge.
A whisper circulating within the building that sits on the hill is that Keith Olson shares with all who listen his disgust with Hezi Aris, editor of the Yonkers Tribune, maligning Aris’ words and telling that Aris threw a PBA member under the bus by asserting he is the leak who is behind the Blue Truth series of articles. Olson asked if there was one specific person involved in sharing some information in the past regarding the PBA? Aris mentioned that there were indeed many sources. The burden of the information shared was simply corroborative of the connecting events that Aris was always aware, but could not gain corroborative information to bring concerns beyond conjecture into the world of “yes, this is what transpired”. Checking the facts is the job of any reporter and I take that seriously.
The politics are not as relevant as impact of approval of this contract should it gain ratification of the membership. The burden to judge whether this “contract: is beneficial to the members vis-à-vis the needs and fiscal burden of the city is real. It is the membership who will have to adhere to the new standards that presume them to be malingerers, and abusers of a contract which City Hall defines them to be, and designates the membership detrimental to the City of Yonkers. Far from it, Yonkers Police strive to be their very best; they succeed at just that, despite the demeanor of Yonkers City Hall who have disrespected them and the citizenry by not working out an amenable agreement with the PBA.
In the meanwhile, Olson, uncertain his viability as president of the Yonkers PBA can survive the present stalemate, has agreed to sell out the younger membership , who do not fully appreciate the tactics that will be used to remove them from their job, specifically if they are injured. It may takes months or even years of recovery for an injured officer to return to duty. Coverage was afforded those injured on the job. Opening up the 207c covenant will reveal that into the future, should the contract be ratified, the Police Officers will then be forced into the Workers Compensation process that will avail the P.O.s only 66 percent of what they receive presently. Worse, should the injury not heal quickly enough, the political process of retribution will impose itself to expunge people from the membership. That is not part of the job description; however it is the reality. While the young pups sign a contract they may not fully have knowledge to decipher, and further not recognize the impact upon themselves and their colleagues, their naiveté precludes them from being treated with respect. Let’s face it, Keith Olson, and a handful of his dinosaur associates will not be affected by these numbers, much less feel the effects of how this less than fair contract will affect the newbies’ family. Olson is anticipating a win this Friday with as much anticipation as if he were holding a Royal Flush in a poker game. He is counting on the ka-ching, ka-ching imagined sound of the numbers to get it ratified. As for the moderate change to General Municipal Law 207c; the receiving of any retroactive pay over the course of five years, the pay changes for all new hires, along with vacation changes, and what he calls a minor change to sick incentives with the lure of an extra four hours will be explained in three meetings, each respectively serving a specific time shift by the PBA lawyers hoping to keep their $120,000 plus retainer in annual fees, plus Olson’s private referrals.
The numbers will be a big factor for this ten year contract that at its ten-year end spits out four and five percent pay raises yearly. Personnel will never feel some of these incentives, especially those with any real seniority, nor will they ever see the higher percentages. As for new hires, and newer personnel, they are being lured with this small up front one percent for the first couple of years which does not attract any attention until almost ten years later. Although the numbers for the past four years are not in step with the cost of living, the members’ backs are against the wall financially because of Olson’s failure to bring forward a contract during the time he has been in office; the longer an association goes without a contract the worse the final and subsequent offer. The givebacks are not clear, nor will the effects be realized until several months down the road.
Given the scenario of no pay raises, any number(s) of offers sound appealing. The Yonkers Police Department members will have to decide what’s right for them. The Yonkers Tribune recently posted other settled Police contracts that included The Westchester County Police Department, The Westchester County Department of Corrections, and the City of New Rochelle for the public to compare. Refer to "The State of Labor in Yonkers". All three were higher in percentage, and the retroactive pay was paid rapidly after ratification. The Yonkers Police Department membership deserve decent pay and benefits for the dangerous job they do each and every day, rain or shine, morning or night. So to detract or alter well-deserved benefits would be a travesty to the members of the YPD.
The members of the Yonkers Police Department are better off taking a short breath and moving forward after the New Year. The Yonkers Firefighters are scheduled for arbitration and will no doubt come away with a higher percentage rate than a measly up front rate of one percent, and their retro paid up front. One has to wonder why the Yonkers Police Department members would let the city tamper with 207c which has protected the legal rights of the civil service worker for years. Why did the PBA not reintroduce the Heart Bill for its members, like the Firefighters currently have, that was a one-time integral aspect of past contracts? The PBA lawyers are going to push this contract right down the throats of a relatively new department with untrue statements to keep their jobs. This contract reeks of dirty politics emanating right out of the mouth of Olson and his overpaid lawyers. This proposed contract is anything but fair to its members. One also wonders if Olson’s eleventh hour dirty political stunt dampens the ongoing negotiations that other city unions’ leaders face.
The ratification to come on November 22, 2013, does not give Olson a free pass on what he has done to the association, and its members. It does not change his character or his credibility with the city leaders, and politicians. It does not change what he and his friends are accused. The fact that he is ramrodding this "overnight express" contract clearly demonstrates how frustrated he is, and how he will sell out most of his own members just to attempt to hold his seat no matter what the cost. So it is very apparent that this is about Olson and not the PBA membership as he would want you to believe.
On Friday, November 22, 2013, members of the PBA will be gathering to see a despicable show during which Olson will take center stage with some other actors that will put out an appetizing aroma as to why the members of the Yonkers Police Department need to swallow their medicine. One should also pay close attention to how PBA legal counsel will advise members to accept the medicine they have prepared for them because most of them will not be affected by the alarming changes imposed in this contract, should it be ratified.
The other contracts about the county have all received more than 2 percent from the onset with retro being paid following ratification. This contract seems to be a last minute “deal” that serves one person, and that is why a rancid stench in Olson’s office remains evident. As for the CLSA membership, they will be watching events as they unfurl very closely, and if the contract is voted down they stand to get more from Yonkers City Hall; the caveat, without embarrassment to its membership. Obviously, the leadership exhibited by Captains, Lieutenants, and Sergeants Association President Lt. Thomas Phelan’s leadership and command is inescapable. The Yonkers Firefighters have led a courageous fight for maximizing benefits for its members, as well as vigorously defending their benefits fought for over the years. It appears they will fare better before an arbitrator of their choice, who most definitely will not give them a one percent raise for the first couple of years given the recent contracts awarded throughout Westhester County; each have settled for more than “one”. The members of the Yonkers PBA deserve more; the PBA also deserve a new leader who will be “correct” in serving the needs of the PBA membership above all else.
The ballot to move ahead with this “contract” will be the first step taken. Should the “contract” be approved by the membership, the contract will next come before the Yonkers City Council. It could conceivably come before them in the year 2013 or it may come before the Yonkers City Council in 2014. Should it gain passage from the Yonkers City Council in the year 2013 or 2104, it will then be presented to Mayor Mike Spano, said to have been part of the negotiation process, may thereby likely sign the ratified contract. The final arbiter will be New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli who must judge the fiscal impact of the contract. Specifically, the stipulation concerning the retro giveback being kicked down the road of time years into the future among other concerns.
Desperate political times trump Yonkers Police with the allure of deficient contract not validated by scrutiny. The kangaroos will be hopping in delight their good fortune should the contract win support of a majority of those voting.