coba

GET IT RIGHT THE SECOND TIME?: Correction Officers may soon be asked to vote a second time on a three-year wage contract after just 2,600 of the 9,000 members of the Correction Officers' Benecvolent Association cast ballots on the pact and it was defeated by about 400 votes. COBA President Elias Husamudeen surmised shortly after the pact was defeated that 'a lot of people didn't vote assuming others would ratify it.'

The Correction Officers' Benevolent Association is reportedly considering resubmitting a three-year wage contract to its rank-and-file for a second vote after the terms were rejected by a mail ballot in which less than 30 percent of its members participated.

Its alternatives would be to return to bargaining with the de Blasio administration in the unlikely hope of negotiating improved terms, or going to arbitration, where the chances of doing better could prove equally slim. 

Reluctant to Impose

Once the parties involved have reached terms on a contract, only to have it rejected by union members, arbitrators have in the past been reluctant to make significant adjustments to the original deal. The most vivid example may be the Transport Workers Union Local 100 contract reached in late December 2005 to end a three-day transit strike, which was voted down early the following year by a margin of seven votes out of more than 22,000 cast. The pact was then submitted to arbitration, and the award later that year was virtually identical to the terms that had been rejected.

The COBA deal was rejected by nearly 400 votes, with 1,493 against while 1,099 were in favor. Shortly after the result was disclosed March 27, union President Elias Husamudeen said in an interview that based on initial reactions from some members, he believed much of his 9,000-person rank and file had not returned mail ballots because they assumed the terms would be easily ratified without their votes in favor.

Some members in online postings argued that the deal was not generous enough, objecting to the fact that the raises averaged less than 3 percent annually: a 2.25-percent hike retroactive to March 1, 2019, a 2.5-percent increase payable this June 1, and a 3-percent increase to take effect June 1, 2021.

Part of 'Uniformed' Pattern

But those raises were consistent with those gained by seven other unions representing every city uniformed agency as part of a coalition with COBA. Mr. Husamudeen had also negotiated an additional 2.25-percent compensation boost—equal to a raise negotiated in a 2017 contract by the Police Benevolent Association—in the form of two longevity differentials effective June 1, 2021: one of $365 for five-year veterans, and an additional one of $1,277 for all COs with at least 20 years on the job.

And unlike the leaders of some superior-officer unions who had been required to extend their contracts by three months to offset the cost of similar improvements for their members, the COBA deal remained at the three-year duration that was set in the original coalition deal last December.

In a letter to his members posted on the union's website, Mr. Husamudeen wrote, "It was my hope, had the contract passed, to begin getting your retro checks in your May paycheck. That will no longer be possible. In addition to not receiving the wage increases, the $5 million contribution to the Active Welfare Fund and the $5 million contribution to the Retiree Welfare Fund will not happen. These contributions were going to be used to improve the optical, dental and prescription drugs for you and your families."

He added, "Contracts are voted upon on the totality of the deal as a whole, not individual benefits."

 

Depending on their length of service, the back pay from the first-year raise due more than 13 months ago would have been between $1,000 and $2,000 per employee if implemented in May.

The welfare-fund increases would have been made in two phases: the first $3 million retroactive to this Feb. 1 and the final $2 million on Feb. 28, 2022. Both active and retired members would have gotten an additional $100-per-member welfare-fund boost retroactive to Feb. 1. On that date, members would have also received a $104-per-person boost in their annuity fund, and the city was to place $3 million in an education fund for Correction Officers retroactive to March 1.   

Go Back to Delegates?

A source outside the union indicated officials were examining the process they would have to use if they chose to resubmit the pact to members for what apparently would be an unprecedented second rank-and-file COBA vote. (The deal previously got a second, successful vote from delegates in February, who initially rejected its terms the previous month because, several said, they weren't given sufficient information about the pact and time to consider it.)

It seems likely that if Mr. Husamudeen and his board opted for a re-submission of the terms to the rank and file, that would first have to be approved by COBA delegates.


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