Judges orders preliminary injunction against state worker furloughs

Updated Friday at 3:09

Federal judge Lawrence Kahn today granted a preliminary injunction against the state worker furloughs and the withholding of the four percent pay raises. The Paterson administration was also blocked from including the furloughs and pay freeze in a future emergency budget extenders.

From the decision (the plaintiffs are the state worker unions and the defendants are the Paterson administration):

Plaintiffs have met their burden of showing that the permanent 20% loss in salary and wages that the furlough plan effects constitutes irreparable harm and that irreparable harm flows from Defendants' failure to pay the contracted-for increases in salaries and wages, which were negotiated years prior to the challenged extender bill, and upon wihch the affected employees have surely relied.

The unions had argued the furloughs and withheld raises violated the Contract Clause of the US Constitution. Among the evidence cited by the judge that the unions have a good case on that account is the state Senate's resolution criticizing the furloughs. From the decision:

To uphold self-interested impairments of contractual rights from suit under the Contract Clause, the Court must see that the impairments are reasonable and necessary, as established by real and demonstrable consideration of needs and alternatives. Instead, the Court observes both a complete repudiation by the Senate of such a judgment and an argument by Defendants that fails to show sufficient consideration and analysis of the kind required by the Contract Clause.

(The Senate grudgingly passed the budget extender that included the furloughs because not doing so would have shut down the government. Neil Breslin was one of the senators who proposed the resolution.)

In a statement, David Paterson says he's "disappointed" by the decision:

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.

Said CSEA's president in a statement: "Today's decision is a victory for the rule of law in New York and should make it clear that no governor can run roughshod over people's rights." Said the president of PEF in a statement: "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."

The judge's decision is embedded after the jump.

State Worker Furlough Injunction

[decision pdf via CSEA]


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