Public Sector Employee Relations Structure in New York State
The State of New York authorized public sector collective bargaining in 1967, when it enacted the Taylor Law (Public Employees Fair Employment Act). That Act created a structure for collective bargaining and a means of regulating the relationship between labor and management. The Taylor Law established the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) to monitor and enforce the rights and obligations of the parties. PERB is one of the two primary agencies with which the University deals in the employee relations area. The other is the Governor’s Office of Employee Relations (GOER).
PERB is responsible for a whole range of labor and management issues. These include the designation of bargaining units, determination of whether the parties have bargained in good faith, the resolution of negotiations disputes and policing of improper labor practices. PERB began establishing the first collective bargaining units about 25 years ago, including the State University Professional Services Unit. As recently as 1993, the Graduate Student Employees Unit was created. While the uniting decisions are highly visible, they occur infrequently.
The University’s primary contact with PERB now occurs when PERB holds hearings on alleged improper practices. Improper practice charges can be filed either by a union or an employee alleging that the University has violated some aspect of the Taylor Law. The most frequent complaints are that a campus has changed a term or condition of employment without negotiations, or that they have discriminated against someone for engaging in protected union activity. The SUNY Office of Employee Relations coordinates the University’s response to these charges and campuses are represented before PERB by the Governor’s Office of Employee Relations legal staff.
The Governor’s Office of Employee Relations was established by Article 24 of the Executive Law a few years after the advent of bargaining. GOER was created to assist the Governor in bargaining and is empowered to direct agencies to take administrative action as necessary to implement collective bargaining agreements, including modifying or adopting rules and regulations. An administrator within GOER is assigned to take the lead on each of the collective agreements that must be negotiated. Over the years, the negotiators have varied in approach and strength, but by and large they have been responsive to the University’s concerns.