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Union contract stirs resistance

Members of the Suffolk County Association of Municipal

Members of the Suffolk County Association of Municipal Employees pack a Suffolk Legislature meeting in Hauppauge on Sept. 27, 2017. Credit: Newsday / David M. Schwartz

Daily Point

Meeting resistance

Given a chance to ratify the new union contract that will raise base police pay for officers with at least 12 years of service to $155,000 by 2025 and average total earnings for those officers to more than $200,000, Police Benevolent Association members were glad to fall into line. By the time online voting ended at 5 p.m. Monday, 84 percent of the union’s approximately 1,600 members had voted for ratification.

But the county’s far larger Association of Municipal Employees, with its approximately 6,000 members, appears to have a significant contingent that’s balking. And unfortunately for them, the aspect of the new deals that seems to be causing the anger is not subject to ratification by members.

Several weeks ago, the county and the PBA and AME announced new labor contracts for the two unions and a new health-care agreement for all of the county’s 10 unions. The health-care agreement was the most contentious point, as it forces contributions to premiums for all county employees for the first time (the previous deal charged only those hired after 2013) and, while it is set at 2 percent of salary, also sets a minimum contribution of $1,500 a year and maximum of $3,750. That maximum is a great deal for cops making $200,000 a year but the minimum is a huge percentage of pay for AME employees like crossing guards, who are making $13,000.

But union employees don’t get a vote on the health care deal. Their voice on that issue is the Suffolk County Organization of Public Employees (SCOPE), a board made up of leaders from all the county’s unions, that has already approved the deal.

So the AME membership’s unrest is bubbling up in the only place it can, with opponents of President Dan Levler working to round up “no” votes on the union’s individual labor contract, on which they can vote online until May 31.

Union officials are worried enough that they have worked up a seven-page “FACT VS. FICTION” flyer that can be accessed on the union’s website to explain why the deal on offer is a good one, and why leaders’ opponents are wrong. It explains that members cannot vote against the health care deal, touts seven years of raises totaling 12 percent and points out other advantages like better longevity pay and step increases. It also says individuals are “spreading false and negative information” and takes on the accusation that the AME executive board was “bought off by the county” with $150,000 annual salaries.

It won’t be clear how the AME vote is going to go until next week. What is clear is that the issues making members the angriest are not up for a vote.

- Lane Filler @lanefiller

Reference Point

Long Island déjà vu

With the natural gas industry contending that failure to approve a new pipeline under New York Harbor will constrain development on Long Island, it’s interesting to look back to a time when a shortage of another natural resource threatened to slow construction here.

In 1950, Long Island was expanding rapidly. And the commodity in question was lumber.

“It is hard to shed a tear of sympathy for home builders who sell houses faster than they can put them up and are beginning to worry about the sales resistance of customers when prices go up with the houses,” Newsday’s editorial board wrote on this day, May 23, nearly 70 years ago. “But a very real lumber shortage developing in the current housing boom is something to worry about.”

Douglas fir prices were spiking in the face of a national building boom, orders were outstripping supply and stockpiles were being depleted. The board rejected a builders’ organization argument that the state should stop building public housing to conserve lumber.

Instead, the board wrote, “What the state should be called upon to do is not to stop using lumber, but to put the heat on local building codes that tend to enforce waste of lumber.”

On a more whimsical note, the board also complained that it was “sick” of ranch houses, which were being built everywhere. Ranches made sense for a rapidly expanding suburb; they were more affordable and could be built on smaller plots of land. But the board in 1950 predicted that ranches would go the way of the cupola and the sleeping porch — bye-bye, in other words.

As the board observed, “If the housing boom slows down long enough for the fashion to change again, that much will be to the good.”

Look around. You can see how that worked out. In fact, in the early 2000s, ranches made a comeback for reasons both familiar and new -- they still were more affordable in an era of soaring prices, and more older buyers were downsizing and looking to live on one level.

What’s new is old, and new again.

 - Michael Dobie @mwdobie

Pencil Point

Memorial Day

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Puzzle Point

Scrambling for the top

With Democratic presidential candidates scrambling to get traction in a crowded field, The Point offers this primary-themed scramble to take you into the holiday weekend. Each cryptic scramble is the name of a well-known contender. Can you sort them out? The answers are below.

1. BE JOINED    _ _ _     _ _ _ _ _

2. SEE SINNER BRAD   _ _ _ _ _ _     _ _ _ _ _ _ _

3. SARA HAIL MARK   _ _ _ _ _ _      _ _ _ _ _ _

4. WEALTHIER ZEN BAR   _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _     _ _ _ _ _ _

5. BIG TEPEE GUT IT   _ _ _ _     _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

6. O ROCKER BOY   _ _ _ _     _ _ _ _ _ _

7. YOUR BLACK HAM   _ _ _     _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

8. OUR TOE BROKE   _ _ _ _     _ _ _ _ _ _ _

9. DARREN STILL BIKING   _ _ _ _ _ _ _     _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

10. LIB BOILS LEAD   _ _ _ _     _ _     _ _ _ _ _ _






- Michael Dobie @mwdobie

We hope everyone has a wonderful Memorial Day Weekend. The Point will return on Tuesday.