Nassau Wage Freeze Shot Down by Federal Judge

James Carver
Nassau PBA President James Carver.
James Carver
Nassau County PBA President James Carver discusses Nassau wage freeze during press conference Friday, Feb. 15.

Fresh off a victory in federal court Thursday, Nassau County police officer’s top union official called on the county to move forward for the sake of taxpayers after a federal judge reversed a wage freeze established by a state watchdog two years ago.

But the fight for union workers’ wages is far from over, with the Nassau Interim Finance Authority (NIFA) expected to appeal the decision by U.S. District Court Judge Leonard Wexler, who stayed his ruling pending an appeal. The wage freeze will continue until the case is resolved.

“Let’s move forward, no appeal, no wasting of anymore taxpayer money on the legal process here, the language is plain and simple—they lost,” Nassau County PBA President James Carver said at the union’s Mineola headquarters Friday, flanked by other union heads.

The ruling could cost the county millions of dollars if it has to increase wages.

“NIFA’s Directors respectfully disagree with Judge Wexler’s decision and will appeal the ruling to the United States Court of Appeals, where they are confident that the continuing validity of its wage freeze power will be upheld,” NIFA Chairman Ronald Stack said in a statement.

Union leaders filed a lawsuit soon after Nassau County asked the finance authority in March 2011 to implement the pay freeze for all county workers.

Through the end of 2012, the wage freeze has saved the county $80 million, according to Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos’ office.

Nassau County Attorney John Ciampoli said in brief a statement, “The County is reviewing the decision.”

Carver said he received a phone call from Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano following the judge’s decision but has yet to hear from NIFA. He declined to disclose the specifics about his conversation with the county executive.

The judge ruled that NIFA’s wage freeze authority had already expired before it was implemented.

Carver criticized NIFA for declining to discuss a settlement throughout the court process, but didn’t rule out sitting down with the agency if they decide they’re open to a settlement during the appeal process.

“Now that they know the score they can’t turn around and say let’s play this all over again,” Carver said. “We’re always open to discussions and we’ll never close our doors like NIFA did with us.”

The PBA president noted that Wexler’s decision could have far greater implications across the country as cash-strapped municipalities continue to seek concessions from unions.

“If we would’ve lost this case,” he said, “every municipality would’ve turned around and tried to freeze everybody’s wages.”

Jerry Laricchitua, president of CSEA Local 830, said the union filed the same motion as the PBA and they “fully expect the same decision to come for the 6,000 Nassau County employees that we represent.”