MOUNT VERNON — Members of our union’s City of Mount Vernon Unit recently overwhelmingly approved a new contract deal following a years-long fight for fairness and equity that was mired along the way by political hurdles.

According to Unit President Taryn Vanderberg, it was the unit’s efforts to strengthen their labor-management relationship with the current city administration that helped them finally reach an agreement. The unit’s previous contract expired at the end of 2017.

“Our current mayor and comptroller see how hard we work,” said Vanderberg. “Everybody was just working together to get this contract done.”

The city’s current mayor, Shawyn Patterson-Howard, has been working to stabilize the city’s finances and labor relations since taking office in 2020. Complicating matters was the tenure of former elected city comptroller Deborah Reynolds, who refused to provide necessary financial details that would allow city leaders to negotiate with CSEA with a clear picture of city finances. Reynolds’s actions as comptroller came under criticism from state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli following an audit by DiNapoli’s office.

It was under Patterson-Howard and current comptroller Darren Morton’s watch that a tentative agreement was finally reached after roughly six years without a contract.

“Quite a few members have come and said thank you to our negotiating committee because they know what we were going through,” said Vanderberg.

The new agreement runs from the beginning of 2018 through the end of 2023 and includes the payment of the wage increases that the previous comptroller had withheld during the previous contract term. In the new contract, members are receiving wage increases for each year, increases in longevity, and provisions for clothing and equipment allowances.

To Vanderberg, one of the most meaningful parts of the contract stems from before the previous contract’s expiration. Some city bargaining units, but not all, received additional wage increases under a previous mayor that ran from 2014 to 2017, raises that were not allocated for CSEA members. Appealing to the current administration, Vanderberg and the union negotiating team got the city to agree to include retroactive pay covering the costs of those increases had they been paid out to CSEA members at that time, a move to improve equity amongst bargaining units.

“This administration honors our city’s history of pattern bargaining,” said Vanderberg.

In addition to securing a solid contract, Vanderberg, who has served on and off in her role for years, used negotiations to help newer CSEA activists sharpen their skills and keep the unit strong into the future.

“Our negotiating committee included newer members and we did our best to get feedback from everyone,” said Vanderberg.

— Jessica Ladlee


About Author

Jessica Ladlee is the communications specialist for CSEA's Southern Region. A graduate of Boston University, Ladlee is an award-winning journalist who worked as a newspaper editor before joining the CSEA communications team in 2004. She is passionate about the opportunities unions provide for people to join the middle class, something her grandmother did as a Rockland County CSEA member over 50 years ago.

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