Brian Sullivan, president of Nassau County Sheriff’s Correction Officers Benevolent...

Brian Sullivan, president of Nassau County Sheriff’s Correction Officers Benevolent Association. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Daily Point

Nassau union workers think contract needs 'corrections'

When the membership of the Nassau County Sheriff’s Correction Officers Benevolent Association voted down a contract last Wednesday, they were rejecting the “pattern” to which NIFA says all five county unions must conform.

The vote was 358-250 to reject the deal that negotiators for the union, the county and the Nassau Interim Finance Authority had given a thumbs-up.

COBA President Brian Sullivan says he’s disappointed but ready to get back to the drawing board. One tactic he tried in order to get the deal passed is hugely useful viewing for anyone who wants to understand how these deals are negotiated.

In his regular COBA podcast, viewable on YouTube, Sullivan explained the pattern, or what he called “the one four seven six.”

That translates to 14.76%, the increase in costs NIFA has said it is willing to accept over the life of the contract. Sullivan said that while the county would have strong preferences for how spending is allocated because it has to run the jail safely, for the most part NIFA doesn’t care as long as the cost increases are kept at that level.

In the COBA contract, for instance, Sullivan said union “asks” would bump the costs to 18.36%, so COBA had to come up with 3.6% in concessions, which it did primarily via a change in the length of shifts.

Base pay was not a huge sticking point in the vote. Right now, members start at $37,000 annually and hit the top step of $98,000 after 10 years. The rejected contract would have made the top step $114,000.

All five county union contracts ran out on the final day of 2017. So far, the Superior Officers Association and the Detectives Association have inked new deals that follow the 1-4-7-6 pattern.

The CSEA has not brought a contract to a vote.

And the PBA brought a deal to a ratification vote, only to see members reject it.

One sticking point in the COBA deal was a trade-off that had some older members squaring off against younger ones. The contract called for going from an eight-hour shift to 12 hours, which would reduce costly shift turnovers and cut the number of days correction officers must work.

The savings were to be used for a seniority stipend for senior members, and originally would have been $6,000 annually, juicing the pensions of members nearing retirement. But some members feared the move would cut available overtime. The compromise was sticking with eight-hour shifts, and cutting the additional stipend to $3,500.

But in the end it didn’t fly, with too many “no” votes and 120 members not voting at all, which Sullivan said was puzzling.

So what’s next?

In a text, county spokesman Chris Boyle wrote, “The administration made what they feel is a very fair and generous offer to the corrections officers. We will now concentrate on reaching an agreement with the PBA and the CSEA.”

Speaking for NIFA, Chairman Adam Barsky said, “No matter what happens, NIFA will only approve a deal that conforms to the pattern.”

— Lane Filler @lanefiller

Talking Point

Sullivan’s COBA hot seat isn’t scalding

The Nassau County Sheriff's Correction Officers Benevolent Association is the second Nassau union to reject a deal since the county’s contracts expired at the end of 2017. The PBA was the first, in December 2020.

When the PBA brought that deal to a ratification vote, only to see members reject it, the split was highly political, with insurgents looking to take over the union’s leadership pushing hard to make the deal fail.

Their success was quickly followed by the retirement of former PBA president James McDermott, which is often how these things go: A rejected contract can be seen as a rejection of leadership. Their success was also momentary: The insurgents who put the contract down were themselves supplanted by a new cadre of younger leaders led by now-president Thomas Shevlin.

But sources on every side of this negotiation, and Sullivan himself, say he’s not in trouble with most members.

So why isn’t Sullivan on a hot seat? He says it’s because the vote largely reflects anger at the way the county treats COBA as the “ugly stepchild” of law enforcement unions, not the contract terms themselves, and frustration with criminal justice reform inside the jail. That stems from state legislation in 2021 which limits solitary and restrictive confinements to 15 days and demands due process before prisoners are isolated; Sullivan says that has caused incidents of jail violence against guards and prisoners to skyrocket, doubling in every month since April. And, Sullivan said, his members are angry because the jail is in such bad repair, with leaking roofs and overall aging.

— Lane Filler @lanefiller

Pencil Point

Quiet reminder

Credit: Byrnes

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Final Point

Bivalve politics

Christopher J. Gobler’s work seeding clams in Shinnecock Bay has gotten him and his team plenty of kudos lately from the scientific, environmental, and local fish industry communities. A recent paper in Frontiers in Marine Science laid out just how much the bivalves have helped improve water quality. 

But the Stony Brook University marine scientist’s labor has also attracted political attention. In 2017, in the middle of the decadelong Shinnecock project, Gobler was driving in his car and got a phone call from then-Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

“I almost drove off the road when I figured out who it was,” Gobler said in an interview with The Point. He fumbled with his phone in the vehicle, which did not yet have a smartphone interface setup.

Cuomo explained that he was interested in water quality and finding ways to prevent brown tides, and making improvements relatively quickly.

Cue the work that started that summer along with the governor’s staff and the state Department of Environmental Conservation, and which ultimately replicated the Shinnecock restoration project in four other bays across Long Island.

Gobler says the goals and approaches are similar, including the careful choosing of areas where adult clams would survive and reproduce. And the work is ongoing, even into a new gubernatorial administration.

— Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

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