Post 13 Trivia Remembering the Taylor Law — Cont’d. John Young, Patrolman
Monday, January 18, 1971: Almost forgotten was the fact that the PBA did not sanction the walk-out. Both Mal Higgins (Bronx Financial Secretary) and Tom Velotti (Trustee) took up residence in a motel in Yonkers. The courts had issued subpoenas to board officers and 50 individual cops to show up in Supreme Court on Monday. John Alessio (48th Pct) was on of them and he was somewhat concerned as to whether he needed a lawyer.
Officially, the union told the cops to go back to work because it was protecting the dues check-off and the possibility of heavy fines if they sanctioned the strike. It should be noted that the U.S. Supreme Court (2018) recently ruled that agency shops were illegal, but individuals didn’t have to join unions. Governor Cuomo finally got the Teacher’s Union endorsement for the first time because he signed legislation to protect all public employee unions.
John Dillon recalls Monday morning at the Bathgate Avenue Station House. In an email, he mentioned that detectives were changing tires on one of their unmarked vehicles, and remembered Donald Drum putting his shield on the desk. Drum’s action caused others to take part in the job action, including those patrolmen assigned to the 7th Division.
Most patrolmen assigned to plainclothes duty worked day tours (Monday to Friday). In 1971, the department had about 450 plainclothesmen (all ranks) who enforced vice laws, i.e. gambling, narcotics and prostitution. They were assigned to precincts, divisions or borough commands. Prior to the Knapp Report in August 1972, all plainclothesmen were placed under the control of the Organized Crime Control Bureau.
While I was present at several roll calls during the weekend, the department followed the same procedure with the reading of the Taylor Law. Section 210, Civil Service Law reads: “No public employee shall engage in a strike, and no employee or employee organization shall cause, instigate, encourage or condone a strike.” Penalties were simple: 2 days pay for each day in violation.
After reading of the law, each cop was asked by the patrol sergeant whether they would take their assignment or post. The sergeant would make a notation on the roll call. It then would be recorded in the precinct blotter by the desk officer. In those days, a lieutenant or sergeant would man the desk and there was always a sergeant on the switchboard.
Alessio went to Manhattan Supreme Court with the other 49 cops subpoenaed by the court. Justice Irving Saypol agreed to hear the case, rather than the feared jury trial that had been suggested on the previous Thursday. Judge Saypol, former U.S. Attorney, had prosecuted Ethel and Julius Rosenberg in 1951, and was well liked by the cops. A meeting of delegates was scheduled for Tuesday morning, @ 11:00 AM.
Tuesday, January 19, 1971: Under Mayor’s Executive Order #75, a teletype message was sent out that excused delegates from working in order to attend the PBA meeting. Amnesty was the main issue, as cops discussed whether to return to work or remain on strike. Those present in the muster room at the Bathgate Avenue station voted not to go back to work until the question of amnesty was resolved. I drove to Manhattan with my co-delegate Bill Addie, plus 2 alternates, as our senior delegates had resigned. We all listened to 1010 radio (WINS) as it was reporting how individual precincts had voted. They reported that the 48th Pct. had voted to return to work. Talk about fake news!
In the end, Ed Kiernan ran a pretty good meeting. Amnesty was the central issue and as always politics played an important part. Cops had started the strike and they were looking to the union to lead them. After a voice vote and division in the house proved useless, a roll call vote was held. 229 delegates voted to return to work, while 113 delegates voted to continue the strike.
It was a cold and bitter six days. After a stormy meeting, the cops went back to work on the third platoon as the city agreed to a non-jury trial before Judge Saypol. The judge ruled that the original contract between the PBA and the city was valid and the cops were entitled to the 3.0 to 3.5 parity ratio, and they were owed $3,300 in back pay. The sum was paid in two installments – the first pay period in July 1971, and July 1972.
While Mayor Lindsay invoked Taylor Law fines, I remember going to a store front on Kingsbridge Road, and filling out papers requesting a hearing on my 12-day fine. I admit not performing patrol duties on certain dates (Friday & Monday), but I was available to respond to certain emergencies. I did a day tour in court on Thursday, had a 2-day excusal for military leave on Saturday & Sunday, and an excusal for Tuesday’s meeting.
Under the Taylor Law, 21,000 cops were fined. I don’t know of any cop who had a hearing.
Salary for a patrolman 1st grade was $10,950 per year, with a gross take-home pay of $420.00 every two weeks. Remember our checks were bi-weekly. The annual salary was divided by 365 days (or 366 in a leap year), and multiplied by 14 days. I’m sorry that I never saved my pay stubs, but cops probably paid $600.00 in fines. That’s about 12.6 million dollars in fines. I didn’t count any longevity increments nor the 5% night differential that became effective in October 1970.
My notes from the August meeting (8/5/71) indicate the PBA was in Federal Court challenging the constitutionality of the Taylor Law. Despite the fines, Ed Kiernan and his board won re-election over Frank Hughes (19 Pct) and Jim Kerrigan (41 Pct).
Some say we lost, but I for one believe we won because of not having to go through a forced non jury trial. Think about what would have happened if a Manhattan or Bronx jury heard the case. I might have been fined $600, but since the decision I earned $33,600 more in salary (1972-1999) and another $600 per year in retirement. In my opinion, the strike was worth it and I wish to thank all the “Silver Shields” who stood tall during the 1971 Super Bowl weekend.