New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) wins one for ALL employees of NYC
Office of Collective Bargaining Rules on Arbitraton Eligibility
by Mark Genovese
A win by NYSNA this summer in an arbitration case involving one individual nurse
is going to reopen the grievance process for more than 200,000 New York City employees.
At issue was the city government's recent practice of challenging nearly every arbitration case brought before it. "Under New York City collective bargaining law, the city has a legal right to question whether a case is eligible for arbitration," explained Harriet Cooper, assistant director of NYSNA's Economic & General Welfare program for HHC facilities and mayoral agencies. "But this right was being abused in an effort to smother the grievance and arbitration process and stifle city employees."
The breakthrough came in the case of one nurse
who had requested time off, but was denied. The nurse then became ill and it became necessary for her to call in sick. Hospital administration thought she was bluffing, and penalized her. NYSNA's grievance went through the usual three-step process without resolution, so the association filed for arbitration. As expected, the city contended this matter was not eligible for arbitration because it could have been resolved at an earlier stage of the process.
After months of watching city officials play the same old game, NYSNA was not about to let this case be shelved. It pursued the matter with the city's Office of Collective Bargaining (OCB). In the process, NYSNA found out from other unions that arbitrations for their members, too, were being categorically blocked. NYSNA made its case that the city was handling arbitrations in a systematic pattern, and the OCB agreed. It ruled that only a third-party arbitrator-not the city (employer)-can determine whether a case is eligible for arbitration.
"Not only does this ruling make it possible for nurses to finally take their grievances to third-party arbitration free of roadblocks," said Lorraine Seidel, director of NYSNA's Economic & General Welfare program, "it sets a precedent for All city employee unions.
And NYSNA can be credited for being a key player in bringing about this change. Both thanks and congratulations are in order for all who contributed to making this happen."