Union ref has de Blasio ties

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Bill de Blasio, as public advocate, at a nurses' rally. (Public Advocate Bill de Blasio.)
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An arbitrator who could set a precedent for Bill de Blasio's upcoming, high-stakes negotiations with the city's municipal unions is also a fund-raiser for the new mayor.

The arbitrator, Martin Scheinman, is currently overseeing separate negotiations between the city and two unions, the New York State Nurses Association and the United Federation of Teachers.

The result of the arbitration, whatever it may be, is likely to have an outsize impact on de Blasio's first year in office. The mayor-elect, a close ally of organized labor who has received crucial help from unions at various points in his career, will have to find room in a tight budget to award the raises the municipal unions are now seeking.

His personal and political relationship, including a fund-raiser he hosted at his home for de Blasio in October, will have no bearing on his rulings, Scheineman says.

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"These fund-raisers are often cosponsored by advocates and lawyers who represent both labor and management, in many cases where I would serve," said Scheinman in a phone interview with Capital. "This has nothing to do with our professional lives, and it's based on our beliefs and this is simply how we participate as citizens."

It's both a comment on the specialized field of labor arbitration, and on Scheineman's reputation, that his de Blasio connection is seen as a curiosity but not a conflict. 

"You never know who's gonna end up being an arbitrator, his ruling has to be rooted in reality and clearly both sides agreed that this guy is balanced," said Ed Ott former executive director of the New York City Central Labor Council.

"He has no obligation to Bill de Blasio; his responsibilities are to the two parties who retained him to execute a fair deal," said Dick Dadey, executive director of the Citizens Union. "He wouldn't have the reputation that he has if people believe that he's influenced by outside forces."

Scheinman leads a three-judge panel that will decide whether the nurses and teachers receive a requested four-percent raise.

The nurses' arbitration is binding, and could set a precedent for the rest of the city's municipal unions. An outcome in the nurses' negotiation is expected this spring. 

"Does it affect things? Absolutely,” said Ott. “I can tell you the day that arbitration comes back, municipal union leaders, everybody around the mayor who is responsible for negotiations, will be sitting by the phone waiting for somebody to call and tell them what the arbitrator decided.”

Scheinman, an arbitrator with more than 40 years' experience, has handled cases for the health care workers' union 1199SEIU, the New York Times and newspaper delivery unions, among others.

He was selected almost a year ago, when de Blasio was barely registering in the polls.

De Blasio's office didn't respond to a request for comment.