NYSPEC’s Opposition to Repeal of Civil Rights Law Section 50-a

June 11, 2020

All Members:

NYSPEC has issued an opposition memo to S8496 (Senator Bailey) / A10511(Assemblyman O’Donnell).  That memo is attached hereto.

Those in attendance at our annual meeting in Puerto Rico in December will recall that Civil Rights Law §50-a was a topic of discussion.  It was stated that the issue was one we were going to have to pay close attention to in the upcoming legislative session, and in fact we felt so strongly about it that it was included in the WE OPPOSE section of our formal, published legislative agenda for 2020.

Those in attendance at our annual Legislative Breakfast in February will recall that, as at every annual breakfast, many, many luminaries address our gathering.  However, when our formal program concluded this year, and ourLegislative Committee meeting convened, we heard from a speaker we do not normally hear from – the venerable Floyd Holloway, our former LegislativeCommittee Chair.  Floyd spoke about 50-a, but not only about the recent efforts in the legislature to repeal it, but also about its history, its genesis, and its original enactment.  And, who better to address that than the individual who, more than 40 years ago, as the then-vice president of the(now defunct) NYC Transit PBA, negotiated the original 50-a law?  His remarks concluded with a cautionary admonition and warning to all those who thought they would not be affected by a repeal of 50-a:  today police officers, correction officers, firefighters, firefighter/paramedics, and other law enforcement personnel, but tomorrow more and more classes, and ultimately all public employees.  Why?  Because 50-a is about CIVIL RIGHTS, and nothing more.   His message was, and is, clear and unequivocal: takeaway the civil rights of one group, and those of others will follow!

Of course I, along with so many others, denounce what happened in Minneapolis. That tragedy was horrific, and an inexplicable act that should never have happened.  Had that not occurred, though, the 50-a issue would not have been a topic of discussion in the closing days of this legislative session.  However, because of the events occurring as a result, the legislature convened to take a political opportunity which clearly culminated in the unilateral abrogation of the civil rights of certain classes of public employees.  The members of those unions in our organization that represent corrections, fire, police, and others clearly do not deserve to be treated like this.  One has to wonder how they can go from being called heroes, like many other public employees, to their response to the COVID-19 pandemic, to having certain civil rights stripped away a few short weeks later as a knee-jerk reaction to an unrelated incident that occurred more than 1,000 miles away.  At the very least the legislators should have given the affect ed unions a seat at the table and an opportunity to discuss compromises, which they were willing to do, that could have been reached.

Remember, what happens to one of us can soon happen to others.

As a former NYC Correction Officer, Correction Captain, and president of theNYC Correction Captains Association for 18 years, I too share the frustration and disappointment of all law enforcement personnel because they were not afforded the opportunity to be at the table, as stakeholders, to offer their expertise and opinions on meaningful change.

To the legislature and the governor, my sentiment is very clear:  to fully understand the job our first responders do, walk a mile in their shoes before you judge them.

Stay safe!

In Unity,

Peter D. Meringolo


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