ALBANY, NY (WKBW/RELEASE) -- A judge granted the NYS Public Employees Federation a preliminary injunction Friday, preventing Governor Paterson from implementing his plan to furlough state employees.
In issuing his decision in U.S. District Court, Northern District, Judge Lawrence Kahn recognized the furlough legislation substantially impaired PEF's collective-bargaining agreement with the state. The ruling found payless furloughs would have caused irreparable harm, as employees would suffer a permanent 20 percent reduction in salary, and the employees reasonably relied upon the salaries negotiated years earlier by PEF.
Judge Kahn agreed with PEF that the state failed to demonstrate it was reasonable and necessary to impair its obligation of contract; thus, violating the Contracts Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
"This is a victory for state employees and for state taxpayers," said PEF President Kenneth Brynien. "This decision will allow state services to continue uninterrupted and prevent hardships to the taxpayers who depend on them.
"We are equally pleased the court found the state has other means to address its budget deficit, as PEF has maintained all along.
"We remain ready and willing to work with the governor and legislative leaders to achieve the savings the governor seeks, by implementing PEF's budget solutions," Brynien said.
Judge Kahn also directed the state not to submit any further extender appropriations bills which include the furloughs or exclude the payment of contractually obligated salary increases. Those salary increases were part of the two most recent extender bills passed into law, as required by the temporary restraining order Judge Kahn granted May 12.
"It is in the best interest of state taxpayers the governor accepts the court's ruling and avoids wasting more time and money needlessly appealing this decision," Brynien said.
PEF is the state's second-largest state-employee union, representing 58,000 professional, scientific and technical employees.
Governor Paterson released the following statement in response to the judge's decision:
I am disappointed by the Court's ruling, as it prevents the implementation of State employee furloughs and requires the immediate payment of public employee pay raises. In his ruling, however, the judge did not agree with the unions' position that the State is not experiencing a fiscal crisis. The State is facing severe cash flow difficulties, and I have withheld or delayed payments to schools, non-profits, contractors and others in order to prevent the State from running out of cash.
"Today's ruling was determined in part by evidence submitted by the Legislature in opposition to the extraordinary action I took in proposing furloughs and withholding pay increases. However, both houses of the Legislature agree with my assertion that New York's public employee unions must contribute, along with all other New Yorkers, to solving this extraordinary fiscal crisis. This agreement is reflected in each of its individual budget resolutions, which count $250 million or more in workforce savings in the 2010-11 fiscal year. In light of today's ruling, I call upon Legislative leaders to meet with the public employee union leadership to achieve the workforce savings that we agree must be part of an enacted State budget."