Police Union Loses Battle To Overturn Civilian Union’s Arbitration Decision

District Council 37 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees represents civilian employees in the New York City Police Department. District Council 37 filed a grievance alleging that the City had violated its collective bargaining agreement by assigning clerical and administrative work to police officers. An arbitrator upheld the grievance, and ordered the Police Commissioner to reassign the work to administrative aides.

The Patrolman’s Benevolent Association (PBA) and the Sergeants’ Benevolent Association (SBA) then filed a court challenge to the arbitration proceedings. The lawsuit alleged that District Council 37 and the City had coinciding interests, and engaged in an arbitration proceeding that deprived the two labor organizations of substantial rights without notice or the opportunity to participate. The two Associations argued that thousands of police officers would likely be displaced after years of service in their positions, and that each of the Associatons would lose benefits.

The trial court dismissed the lawsuit. The Court found that “the law in New York is clear that, where union and employer have an arbitrable controversy under a collective bargaining agreement, an arbitration award may be vacated only at the insistence of one of those two parties. The Arbitrator did not have the statutory authority to permit a non-party to the collective bargaining agreement to intervene; neither does this Court. Therefore, the PBA and the SBA do not have the statutory authority to challenge the arbitration award.”

The Court also rejected the two Associations’ arguments that their members would suffer harm from the Arbitrator’s decision. The Court found that “there has been no demonstration of individualized harm befalling any union member, a required showing to establish standing on behalf of a union member, and unless its members had standing, petitioners may not claim standing as the members’ organizational representatives. The petitioners’ bald, unsupported allegations that thousands of police officers were likely to be displaced, that the police unions will lose membership and that the City stands to save $100 million, fail to satisfy the threshold requirement of standing to maintain this proceeding. The injury is too speculative to give rise to a cognizable interest.”

Patrolman’s Benevolent Association of the City of New York v. District Council 37, AFSCME, 2005 WL 3470347 (N.Y.Sup. 2005).

This article appears in the March 2006 issue