Now that it has reached a deal with the police, one area city has contracts in place with all municipal employee unions, eliminating what for many other cities often becomes a major hurdle impeding governance.
This week the Cohoes Common Council unanimously accepted a new pact between the city and its police union, a three-year deal with modest wage increases and a clause that will continue health coverage for officers killed in the line of duty. Mayor Shawn Morse: "One of the first goals that I wanted to do is to make sure that we have some kind of stability as we do our budget year after year, and one of the major hurdles to many municipalities is that they don't have the ability or that they haven't settled all of their contracts so you really don't know what you're going to end up paying, and it's always an estimate. We wanted to have that solidified so that we could know the numbers and compare those numbers in the budget process, so, I was really fortunate to work with some good unions, the fire department, DPW, clerical and the police, and we got all of those contracts done within the first year, and the police a couple of months into the year, so I'm very happy."
The contracts will outlast Morse’s four-year term, meaning smooth sailing for the first-term Democrat. That’s in contrast to the situation faced by Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan, who struggled to deliver her annual State of the City address over the din of union protestors advocating for fair wages and a contract — who joined other activists chanting, clapping and commenting during Sheehan's entire presentation.
Morse says that the status of the Cohoes union agreements allows city officials to get a better approximation of costs that must be included in future city budgets. "I have a lot of experience obviously in union labor management, negotiations, and you know you always just have to realize that everybody who sits at the table is always lookin' out for what's best for themselves and the community. It's really important that everyone understands that we work for a municipality, the taxpayers pay the bill, and what's your toll worth at the end of the day. If you look at it from that perspective, you know you can usually come out with a very satisfying deal that the taxpayers can afford and that you can accept for the hard work that you do. I'm excited to have been able to have done that all, and again it's less than a year 'cause we didn't start the process until three or four months into my term. In less than year we settled every contract in the city. I think that says a lot about the union workers, and it's gonna allow us to live within our budget."
Now that he doesn't have to worry about labor disputes or negotiations, Morse says he is focusing on improving Cohoes. "You can't have an exciting future if you have disgruntled employees."
Morse adds the city is working on economic development, quality of life issues and putting together a five-year plan for infrastructure.
A police union spokesman did not return calls for comment.