Public employees in New York State have the right to be represented by
unions and to bargain collectively with their employers for salary, benefits and
other terms and conditions of employment. This right should not be taken
lightly. It was not recognized in New York until the Legislature enacted the
Taylor Law in 1967. Collective bargaining for school employees is currently
illegal in five states; severely restricted in four states; and in 11 states, public employers are permitted to bargain with their employees — but most often do not. Private-sector members are covered under the National Labor Relations
Act, which likewise establishes the right of private-sector members to organize
and bargain collectively.
The Taylor Law
Before the Taylor Law was enacted, public employees in New York State had
no legally recognized collective bargaining rights. Under the Condon-Wadlin
Act, a 1947 law that the Taylor Law replaced, striking public employees were
penalized by being fired. They could only be reinstated under a three-year pay
freeze and five-year probation. The Public Employees’ Fair Employment Act
(Taylor Law) was enacted in 1967 following a series of public-sector strikes,
including the 12-day New York City transit strike a year earlier.
The state Legislature granted amnesty to the striking
employees, and Gov. Nelson Rockefeller appointed a
committee to recommend legislation regarding public-
sector employee rights. The result was the Taylor
Law. It formally establishes:
- The right of public employees to organize and
bargain collectively with their employers;
- The right to representation by employee
organizations (unions) of their own choosing;
- The requirement that public employers
(including school districts) negotiate with their
employees and enter into written agreements
(contracts) with their employees’ chosen
- Procedures for resolving contract
- Prohibition of improper labor practices by
- Creation of the Public Employment Relations Board to administer the
- The requirement that bargaining unit members who choose not to join a
union pay an agency fee, and that use of the fee for political and ideological
purposes only incidentally related to bargaining and to which the agency fee
payer objects, is subject to a rebate procedure.
The Taylor Law still denies public employees the right to strike. The penalties
for striking are loss of pay for each day the employee is on strike, plus a fine
of an additional day’s pay for every day on strike and potential discipline for
NYSUT is always working to win legislation to improve the provisions of the
Taylor Law. For example, the 1982 “Triborough” amendment mandated that
if a collective bargaining agreement expires, its terms and conditions continue
until a new agreement takes effect. That amendment has helped thousands of
members avoid hardships when negotiations are impeded by harsh economic
conditions, recalcitrant employers or both. An earlier improvement eliminated
the “probation penalty” (probation for one year) against tenured teachers who
went on strike.
Civil Service Law
Most public employees are covered under New York State Civil Service Law.
This law establishes specific “jurisdictional classifications” (job classes) that are
used to define the job qualifications, duties and employment rights associated
with each job title. County and municipal civil service commissions are responsible
for reviewing the duties of specific jobs and determining the appropriate
job title for those duties.
Civil Service Law covers such areas as recruitment, application, examination
and appointment to job titles; probationary periods; promotions; leave(s) of
absence; layoff and recall of competitive class employees; and disciplinary
rights (Section 75 rights).
Motor Vehicle Law
School bus drivers are subject to the provisions of the state’s Motor Vehicle
Law and Education Law, as well as federal regulations. Drivers are responsible
for meeting specific licensing and physical examination requirements.
Federal regulations require that school bus drivers be subject to random drug
and alcohol tests.
Health care services
Nurses, whether practicing in a school, hospital or community, are licensed
under Education Law (Nurse Practice Act Education Law, Article 139). This law
defines their scope of practice.
Employees in an overwhelming majority of school districts in New York State
are represented by local unions affiliated with NYSUT. While the local union
is the bargaining agent for its members, NYSUT provides whatever assistance
the union may require to carry out its duties. In many instances, a NYSUT labor
relations specialist represents the local union at the bargaining table and in the
administration of the collective bargaining agreement. The LRS advocates on
behalf of the members at the local level in front of impartial arbitrators and at
the Public Employment Relations Board and, for private-sector members, the
National Labor Relations Board. He or she works with the
local affiliate in the capacity of consultant, communicator,
trainer and facilitator to resolve local issues.
NYSUT maintains a staff of full-time
attorneys to assist locals and members facing
job-related problems. Members are guaranteed
representation by an attorney in all termination
and most licensing cases. These attorneys have
also represented members before the
commissioner of education, PERB, the NLRB,
other administrative agencies and in state and
What Every NYSUT Member Should Know About...