Scheinman Institute Expertise Shared

Critical issues in collective bargaining explored at Taylor Law conference
Harry Katz, Jack Sheinkman Professor of Collective Bargaining and director of the Scheinman Institute
Thursday, May 31, 2018

Over 400 people gathered in Albany, N.Y., to attend the Taylor Law 50th anniversary conference May 10-11.

The event was co-sponsored by the ILR School’s Scheinman Institute on Conflict Resolution, the New York State Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) and the New York State Bar Association.

The Taylor Law is a landmark statute that defines the rights and limitations for union employees in New York state, and is administered by PERB.

“The conference exceeded our expectations in serving as a forum through which to showcase not only the Taylor Law and its continued importance, but the relevance and vibrancy of the employment relations community that it has created in New York,” said Ariel Avgar, associate professor at the ILR School and associate director for Research and Student Engagement at the Scheinman Institute.

“One of the hallmarks of the event was the wide array of different stakeholders engaged in meaningful discussions about public sector employment relations. Participants included labor and management practitioners, attorneys, neutrals and academics,” Avgar said.

The conference covered a range of issues in labor relations from unionization efforts in higher education to the complexities involved for those participating in the collective bargaining process.

Harry Katz, ILR’s Jack Sheinkman Professor of Collective Bargaining and director of the Scheinman Institute, was a keynote speaker at the conference. He said, “The terrific attendance reflects the fact that from the wildcat teacher strikes that are sweeping the South to the Supreme Court Janus decision, public sector labor issues have shot to the top of the nation's public policy agenda. “

Highlights from the two-day event included:

  • An exploration into two of the lengthiest negotiations in the history of the Taylor Law. In both New York City and Buffalo, teacher negotiations and subsequent impasses culminated in historic voluntary agreements. Featured in this discussion was Martin F. Scheinman, founder of the Institute that bears his name and one of country’s foremost arbitrators and mediators.
  • David B. Lipsky, the Anne Evans Estabrook Professor of Dispute Resolution, presented research examining the effects of mandatory interest arbitration on police and firefighters in New York State between 1974 and 2007 in a session focused on interest arbitration.
  • Alex Colvin, ILR’s Martin F. Scheinman Professor of Conflict Resolution, and Sally Klingel, director of Labor Management Relations, Scheinman Institute, provided the results from a multi-year study of New York state contracts between school districts and teacher unions that tracked key teacher contract features such as salary provisions, health care clauses, tenure rules, grievance procedures and procedures for appealing performance evaluations.
  • Introducing a simpler, more flexible, and user-friendly style of arbitration was the basis of a panel discussion that featured Dan McCray, director, Labor Relations, Scheinman Institute.
  • ILR faculty members Risa Lieberwitz and Lee Adler played key roles at the conference. Lieberwitz moderated a session examining public sector labor relations in higher education. Adler participated on panels related to police officer collective bargaining around discipline and arbitration of teacher tenure cases.
  • Recent ILR Ph.D. graduate Todd Dickey participated on the opening plenary session and provided a comparative perspective from the federal sector based on his extensive research and work experience in this domain.

Avgar said, “Together with our colleagues at PERB, we were able to bring together a vibrant and thriving public sector labor-management community to celebrate the Taylor Law and to analyze and assess its current bright spots and pressure points.”

John F. Wirenius, chair, New York State Public Employment Relations Board, said, “It was a great pleasure for us to partner with the Scheinman Institute on Conflict Resolution in such an ambitious venture, and I am delighted that the conference marks a beginning, not an end, of that partnership.”

“We look forward to further joint initiatives and collaborative efforts to inform and educate parties, practitioners, and the public about the often overlooked but critical role collective negotiations play in the delivery of government services to the people of New York state.”

Martin F. Scheinman noted, “As a neutral working in this area for many years, the conference offered a unique opportunity to share and exchange ideas with other leading neutrals, practitioners and academics about the Taylor Law and its effects on the manner in which labor and management engage with and resolve conflicts and dispute. What I took away was, the Scheinman Institute’s research, teaching and extension work regarding public sector issues are more important than ever.”