Learning About the Triborough Amendment and the Taylor Law
New York State's 1967 Taylor law was enacted to create a fair process for negotiating contracts in the public sector. The law established basic labor rights for public employees: the right to organize, and the right to collectively bargain wages, benefits and working conditions. However, in a balancing act intended to level the playing field, the law also took away one labor right that empowers private sector employees: the right to strike. Under the 1967 Taylor Law, strikes by public service workers were deemed illegal, and severe consequences were put in place for any such illegal strikes. This provision, agreed to by workers in recognition of the benefit to the public good, gave New York state unprecedented labor peace and stability in the provision of public services.
The Taylor law contained various loopholes, the worst of which permitted management to stall negotiations until a contract had expired, and then swoop in to unilaterally impose changes in pay or working conditions with no regard for the collective bargaining process or the contract that had been in place.
This tactic burdened public workers with having to renegotiate everything they had earned in an expired contract without the "last resort" action of a strike. Since public employees were not allowed to strike, and were subject to severe fines and penalties if they did so, they were left powerless. Management had all the cards and could, and would, negotiate in bad faith without any consequences.
The 1982 Triborough Amendment is what finally leveled the playing field between management and public employees, requiring public employers to maintain the terms and conditions of an expired contract until a new one could be negotiated.
Where We Stand
- Triborough has made New York an exemplar in ensuring stability and continuity in providing public services by virtually eliminated the strikes that were so painful both to workers and communities.
- Statistics provided by PERB show that there were dozens of strikes disrupting public services annually in the years preceding enactment of the Triborough Law. Public sector strikes, which hit an all-time high of 28 in 1975, plunged after enactment of the Taylor Law. Over the last two calendar years, there were zero.
- It's not true that keeping a contract in place locks in escalating costs. In the average school district budget, for example, the impact of continuing an expired contract is typically around 1 percent and the provision makes budgeting stable, transparent and predictable. Most importantly, it ensures that public services will always be there.
- Triborough creates a stable environment that allows for both sides to negotiate in good faith and expedite successor agreements. The facts contradict critics' claims that Triborough is a disincentive to negotiate: at the start of the 2009-2010 school year, the latest year for which full statistics are available, just 53 districts out of more than 700 were at contract impasse. And because of Triborough, even in those districts at impasse, there was no disruption in provision of services. School remained in session.
- Triborough is a major factor in ensuring that constancy. Public workers want stability, not crisis. Triborough has been critical in ensuring that the delivery of vital public services - most especially the education of our children - are not disrupted by protracted labor disputes.
- Public workers gave up the right to strike in recognition that labor peace serves the public good... and in expectation that they could bargain on a level playing field with management. Keeping a contract in place until a new one is negotiated honors that promise to public servants.