On May 15 and 16, 2008, more than 400 labor negotiators, school district personnel, city, county, town and village officials, legislators, employee representatives, students and members of the general public having an interest in labor relations joined PERB and its co-sponsors in assessing the history and future of the Taylor Law. PERB Chairman Jerome Lefkowitz, who participated in the drafting of the law, opened the conference by offering an historical overview, along with commentary on the future direction of PERB and the Law.
Representatives from the New York City Office of Collective Bargaining, Cornell University’s ILR School/Scheinman Institute of Dispute Resolution, Albany Law School’s Government Law Center, and the New York State Bar Association’s Labor and Employment Law Section, the co-sponsoring organizations, led discussions on the lessons learned over the past 40 years regarding the balancing of public employer and employee rights in order to prepare the public sector labor relations community for the challenges ahead. Topics included: the impact of Court of Appeals decisions; escalating health care and post-employment benefit costs; unconventional structures like financial control boards, joint employers, public authorities, and public benefit corporations; building a successful enterprise through labor-management collaboration; and alternative statutory, adjudicatory, and dispute resolution systems.
Two notable highlights of the event were a dinner panel discussion with statewide employer and employee labor relations leaders, which was moderated by New York Times Labor and Economics Correspondent Steven Greenhouse and the announcement of the Harold R. Newman Memorial and Scholarship program at the Cornell ILR/Scheinman Institute on Conflict Resolution.
Steven Greenhouse was joined by Stephen J. Acquario, Executive Director, NYS Association of Counties; Jeff Frayler, President, Suffolk County Police Benevolent Association; Denis M. Hughes, President, NYS AFL-CIO; Richard C. Iannuzzi, President, NYS United Teachers; Gary Johnson, Esq., Director, Governor’s Office of Employee Relations; and Timothy G. Kremer, Executive Director, NYS School Boards Association, in a lively conversation regarding the challenges of public sector collective bargaining.
Former Cornell ILR School Dean David Lipsky, highly regarded mediator/arbitrator Martin Scheinman and PERB Director of Conciliation Richard Curreri, surprised and thrilled Rita Newman, former PERB Chairman Harold Newman’s widow, when they called her to the dais at lunch. The principals of the Scheinman Institute, long-time friends and protégés of Chairman Newman, presented Rita with a plaque that will identify the Harold R. Newman Conference Room at the ILR School and said that a scholarship/internship in Chairman Newman’s name would soon be available at the Institute.