Arbitration hearings on a contract for the Police Benevolent Association to replace the one that expired Aug. 1, 2017, which were postponed early in the coronavirus pandemic, have yet to be rescheduled six months later, Labor Commissioner Renee Campion told us in an Oct. 6 phone interview.

"I just think neither side is pushing it to move along at this point," she said.

A call to PBA President Pat Lynch was not returned.

If he's not anxious to begin what were expected to be at least eight hearings on the union's bid for raises significantly better than the roughly 2-percent annual value of the contracts of the city's two largest unions of civilian employees and several uniformed unions, including those representing higher ranks in the NYPD, it's understandable given the city's current fiscal situation. It would figure to be difficult to convince the arbitration-panel chairman to join union representative Kenneth Feinberg in granting such an award at a time when the city's $9-billion budget deficit has Mayor de Blasio warning of up to 22,000 layoffs unless it gets help from Albany—which has financial troubles of its ownand/or Washington, D.C.

The considerable number of people from both sides who would typically attend such hearings would make it difficult to do them in-person, even in a large conference room, Ms. Campion said.

"I don't think this is on the top of anyone's [agenda]," she said. "There's so much going on in other areas." 

That includes negotiations on possible labor concessions that would produce $1 billion in savings that the Mayor said could substitute for layoffs.

"I am actively engaging with the unions on a regular basis," Ms. Campion said, although progress has been slowed by their desire to await both the national elections and help from Albany that is unlikely to come until after the voting. The Mayor so far has complied with Municipal Labor Committee Chairman Harry Nespoli's request to put layoffs on hold until after the election, even while warning that the longer the city waits, the more people it might have to cut loose to gain the needed savings in a fiscal year that is now in its fourth month.

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At the time of the 35-day U.S. Government shutdown nearly two years ago, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer complained that reaching a deal with President Trump was like "negotiating with Jell-O."

Democrats got another taste in the wake of Mr. Trump contracting the coronavirus. Word emerged over that weekend while he was at Walter Reed Hospital that he wanted a stimulus bill, but on Oct. 6, his first full day back at the White House, he told congressional Republicans to shelve stimulus discussions until after the election and focus on getting Judge Amy Coney Barrett confirmed to the Supreme Court.

This prompted an angry statement from American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten that began, "Clearly, the American people are not a priority for this President. The consequences of COVID-19 have disproportionately hit poor and middle-class Americans; small-business owners, workers who have been laid off, and families worried about whether they can pay the rent: pay for food, health care, prescription drugs and child care; and send their kids safely to school."

She continued, "Federal Reserve Board Chair Jerome Powell warned today that the country is confronting an economic tragedyand now we've added farce to the script...Without a stimulus, the AFT estimates the loss of 1.4 million jobs in education alone."

By the following morning, Mr. Trump had changed his mind again, but not due to Ms. Weingarten's scolding. The financial markets had dropped sharply with news that a stimulus bill to aid both small businesses and state and local governments was no longer imminent, and he tried to recoup by proposing a stimulus focused solely on sending Americans $1,200 checks again.

That wasn't likely to get a sign-off from congressional Democrats, who had been about $600 billion apart from their GOP counterparts on a fuller stimulus package before the President's first change of mind.    


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