New York State Labor Law Article 8, Section 220 requires public employers to pay their skilled trades workers wages equal to those received by comparable private sector workers in their area. They also must provide the dollar equivalent of the private sector fringe benefits such as health insurance, welfare, annuity, and pension.
The New York City Comptroller in a two-step process determines the comparable private sector wage and benefit package. First, a survey is done of the skills and tasks performed by the Local 237 title. A study is then undertaken of the private sector to find workers with similar duties and responsibilities and identify a labor union that represents at least 30% of these workers. After analyzing the contract covering these workers, the Comptroller sends a letter to Local 237 and the New York City Office of Labor Relations (OLR) setting down the wages and the dollar amount of the entire benefit package.
Local 237 and OLR each apply this outside wage to the 220 title and then calculate and compare the hourly value of the city’s benefits with the private sector total compensation. The total value of the local 237 220-title contract cannot be above that of the outside wage and benefit package. Since health and welfare and pensions are negotiated on a citywide basis – and not for individual titles - the areas of contention in these negotiations often are how to modify other fringe benefits in the package to conform to the private sector’s total dollar value.
Sometimes there have been additional monies remaining that have gone towards improving existing benefits or increasing annual leave days. But until recently the total compensation received by Local 237 220 workers has been greater than in the private sector even though the private sector hourly wage has been higher than the one generated by the citywide pattern. Public sector benefits are usually better and more costly than in the private sector. At these times, to receive the outside wage, Local 237 220 titles have decided to reduce their annual leave or perhaps lower their sick days to make sure they received the higher wage.
When the City and Local 237 finally reach an agreement on wages and benefits the Comptroller then is required to issue a Consent Determination. This becomes the basis for the new collective bargaining agreement.
Hercules Cornish went to work for the Housing Authority as a caretaker J in 1952 and retired 24 years later as a stores worker. He died the year following this interview, which was conducted in June 1999.
Originally I was from Harlem, but when I came out of the service in 1945 my wife had moved to the Bronx, so I moved there, too. I went to work for the New York City Housing Authority in 1952.