City Council sets aside $50,000 for Police Accountability Board’s efforts to unionize

UPDATE: Rochester City Council voted to set aside $50,000 for the Police Accountability Board’s effort to unionize. The money will pay for outside counsel to consider the petition to organize.

City Council member Stanley Martin voted against this proposal. She says the mayor can voluntarily recognize a union. Willie Lightfoot also voted ‘no’, saying he won’t spend another cent on the PAB.

ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Some employees of Rochester’s Police Accountability Board are calling on the city and mayor to recognize their effort to form a union.

Thursday night, Rochester City Council had its first meeting of the year designed specifically to hear from you. Council members listened to concerns about everything from crime to animal abuse. But that’s not all.

They also heard from PAB employees who are not happy about a letter they got from City Council which says while they are free to unionize, the City won’t recognize it – at least for now.

News10NBC has a copy of that letter. City Council said that while it supports unions, the PAB is a unique city agency and the city charter does not have a role in the process. The letter goes on to say that the mayor has the power to voluntarily recognize city employee unions.

“In response to the letter I received from President [Miguel] Melendez this morning, I am asking City Council to issue a resolution saying the PAB is an appropriate unit of city employees,” PAB Workers United member Sara Jenks said.

During Thursday’s speak to council session, four PAB staff members expressed concern over the letter.

“We formally call on Mayor [Malik] Evans to recognize our union,” said Mary Elliot, another PAB Workers United member.

Instead, City Council says this is a complicated matter that needs to be decided by an outside attorney. The PAB disagrees.

“Hiring outside counsel to resolve this matter is unnecessary and a waste of taxpayer dollars,” Elliot said.

It’s been three months since PAB employees announced they wanted to unionize.

“The union’s request for recognition was lawfully made to the correct supervisor and the city, including the mayor’s office,” said Tiffany Heard, who is also a part of PAB Workers United.

Staff members said they’re frustrated because the law mandates that the City of Rochester, their employer, is required to recognize their unionizing. PAB Workers United has a hearing scheduled before the state’s Public Employment Relations Board to become an official union.

But, it is calling on City Council to issue a resolution stating Mayor Malik Evans could recognize it voluntarily, foregoing the need for an outside attorney.

“There is no basis in the law that says we are now beyond voluntary recognition,” said Will Cleveland, another member of PAB Workers United. “The entire point of the petition process is to settle any disputes and have the employer voluntarily recognize the union. You guys are pro-labor. Every single one of you on this board. I don’t know how you can tell us you’re pro-labor and ignore this.”

City Council plans to address the issue again at next week’s meeting.