In re Buffalo Professional Firefighters Association, Inc., Local 282, IAFF (Masiello)

50 A.D.3d 106, 850 N.Y.S.2d 744 (2008)

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In re Buffalo Professional Firefighters Association, Inc., Local 282, IAFF (Masiello)

New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division
50 A.D.3d 106, 850 N.Y.S.2d 744 (2008)

Facts

The Buffalo Professional Firefighters Association, Inc. Local 282 (the union) (plaintiff) represented firefighters working for the City of Buffalo under Mayor Anthony Masiello (defendants). Negotiations over a new collective-bargaining agreement reached an impasse over wage and salary increases, and mediation failed to resolve the dispute. The union sought compulsory public-interest arbitration under New York Civil Service Law § 209(4). During the panel’s hearings, the union, the city, and the Buffalo Fiscal Stability Authority (BFSA) presented their positions. The union wanted wage increases of 3.4 percent for each of the two years in question with a retroactive increase of $5,000 in base wages or salaries. The city and BFSA proposed no wage or salary increases. The panel majority awarded union members a wage increase of 2.1 percent in the first year and 3.4 percent in the second year but no retroactive wage or salary increase. The majority noted that the panel had considered the evidence against the four factors listed in Civil Service Law § 209(4) and recited all four. The majority specifically found three factors “key” components of its analysis: (1) parity with the police, (2) the city’s ability to pay, and (3) the nature of firefighters’ duties. The majority determined that the city’s fiscal condition made an essential question whether the city should deviate from its longstanding practice of parity. The majority’s decision detailed evidence that city expenditures outpaced revenues, creating an unprecedented fiscal crisis and necessitating the BFSA. The majority also noted the professionalism required of union members, the dangerous work they faced, and the public’s depending on union members as much as it did on police officers. The majority concluded that strict parity could not be followed because the police union obtained wage increases by making substantial concessions the firefighters’ union had not offered. The union petitioned the court to vacate the award, claiming the panel majority had failed to provide a specific basis for its award and thus exceeded its authority. The court granted the petition and vacated the award. The city and Masiello appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Lunn, J.)

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