Renee Campion, New Office of Labor Relations Commissioner

Mar 9, 2019 by

It’s a ( choose your own adjective) job, but somebody’s got to do it.  

The city’s new Labor Commissioner, Renee Campion, ( the only woman to be in charge of the city’s Office of Labor Relations in the more than half-century of its existence), knows her role comes “with a bulls-eye on my back”, but she’s confident she’ll still be able to dodge the bullets.  

If she’s by nature inclined or at least willing to negotiate even-handedly, she’ll do well, especially if she can reconcile economic and political reality with justice for workers. Will she be able to deliver contracts that are fair to workers while protecting the interests of the city?  Ideally, she’ll be able to make it clear to New Yorkers that both can be done together?  

It’s an impossible job with many possibilities. How much will be under her direct control?  How much leverage will she have? What will the landscape for labor be during unsettled and unsettling times?  

Whatever she’s given to work with, there’s one hard to quantify yet decisive element that will establish her reputation and credibility: her capacity to achieve balance and to see the “big picture”.  

Having been First Deputy Commissioner for five years under recently retired Robert W. Linn and served in other capacities with OLR since 2002, she has a “heads up” on what to expect.  That may be advantageous or a handicap. She must create her own chemistry in conjunction with other key players.  

Ms. Campion sounds authentically excited by  her new assignment. She doesn’t seem to regard her new position as just a higher rung in her career ladder.  

While a student at Clark University, she was a labor-relations intern.  There is a tone of some dismay and indignation in her recounting of the final term of former Mayor Bloomberg when the proper route of labor contract negotiation was abrogated by the city administration and the unions were forced into litigation.  

Ms. Campion will have her hands full. She’ll inherit the wrath of the PBA and will embitter many city workers if they suffer further slippage of the health benefits.  

The fact that she’s saying all the right things as she undertakes her new position doesn’t guarantee that she will be able to live up to them. But she doesn’t seem  possessed by proclivities towards heavy-handedness and reflexive favoritism. She diplomatically credits her predecessor but adds that their styles are different.  

Let’s hope the honeymoon will last.  But let’s not get ahead of ourselves: first there must be engagement!  

Ron Isaac    

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