Feruary 17, 2012
By Marc Bussanich, LaborPress City Reporter
It’s hard enough for a union to sit across from a recalcitrant employer trying to hold onto previous gains, or win new ones. But at least the union knows whom it’s up against. Unfortunately for the NYC Detective Investigators Association it is in the unenviable situation of working without a contract, and worse still, does not even have an opposing entity to bargain with.
John Fleming, President of NYCDIA, told LaborPress that his approximately 300 members have been without a contract since the last one expired on January 15, 2010. His members, who work for the City’s and the five borough’s District Attorney offices, have an average of 25 years of investigative experience. It seems the absence of a bargaining entity has to do with, part unwillingness, part political payback.
Fleming explained that since 1971, the City has been the bargaining agent sitting across the table from the union as a result of an executive agreement signed between the City and the five District Attorney offices and the special narcotics prosecutor’s office.
But then in 2005, as the union was negotiating a new contract with the City, the City claimed that the detectives’ duties were comparable to the duties of the civilians who work as investigators for the New York City Police Department. The NYCDIA disagreed, and decided to go to Albany in 2007 where Fleming and his colleagues met with then-Governor Elliot Spitzer’s staff.
According to Fleming, Governor Spitzer’s team agreed with the union that its detectives’ duties were more comparable to the detectives working in DA offices throughout the state, and not civilian detectives. And the governor’s own staff told Fleming that state DA investigators fall under the State’s Public Employment Relations Board, and they saw no reason why the NYCDIA shouldn’t also be covered by PERB.
As a result of the legislation Spitzer signed, the NYCDIA could seek mediation with PERB, rather than with the City’s Office of Labor Relations, as the union had done for 40 years.
This action by the union, going to Albany five years ago, resulted in political payback and is the reason the City refuses to sit and bargain with the NYCDIA, suspects Fleming.
While the City claims that the borough’s DA offices should bargain with the union, because they fall under PERB as a result of the legislation signed by Spitzer, the borough’s DAs, in turn, don’t want to bargain with the union either.
They claim that the City was the bargaining agent for years, and also claim it doesn’t have the necessary funds to pay the detectives raises for a new contract, although the DAs have been able to give raises to other union, and non-union, employees.
Fleming met with borough DAs and City officials on Friday, February 3 where he hoped to learn who he would finally bargain with. But that decision will be put off for another two months when the City’s lawyers, the five borough DAs attorneys, NYCDIA’s attorneys and counsel for the City’s Office of Collective Bargaining meet to work out who will bargain with NYCDIA.
Although the union has fallen under PERB since 2007, PERB officials have said that they will not provide a mediator over the current contract impasse until a decision about whom the union will bargain with is made in April.
Fleming doesn’t care whom he bargains with, he just wants to bargain, because his members are becoming increasingly frustrated with the entire political process as DA staff are getting raises, but not the detectives.
“I’ve lost about 10 percent of my membership, which is not insignificant for a small-sized union,” said Fleming.
Replacing those members will not be easy, Fleming noted, as it takes a special kind of skill and disposition for an undercover detective to buy kilos of heroin from a drug dealer without being exposed.
In fact, as this story goes to Web, Fleming said he just lost another detective with 20-years experience of combating organized crime. The old-time Italian-American mob took a battering from overwhelming federal government firepower in the 80’s and 90’s, but other ethnic groups have since stepped in to fill the vacuum.
The new mafia elements engage in activities such as mortgage fraud, taking advantage of the housing crisis that began in 2006. In one borough, about $1 million worth of fraud was uncovered thanks to the skillful work of DIA members.
“These guys know how to talk the talk,” said Fleming. email@example.com