Passing the Eternal Contract
The email is already rapidly permeating the Rhode Island wing of cyberspace announcing Senate passage of S0713 (PDF), which adds the following language to teacher-related labor law:
In the event that a successor collective bargaining agreement has not been agreed to by the parties, then the existing contract shall continue in effect until such time as an agreement has been reached between the parties.
As today’s RISC-Y Business newsletter suggests, this legislation “removes any incentive for unions to negotiate, and comes close to transferring the largest element of town budgets from town councils to the unions.” If school committees ever get it in their heads to begin scaling back pay and benefits, unions could simply stall in perpetuity.
RISC also offers the interesting note that this bill was originally scheduled for debate on the day that the legislators ran away from the Gaspee Tea Party. According to the Senate journal for the next session (PDF), when we voters weren’t literally at the gates, the votes went as follows:
YEAS- 32: The Honorable President Paiva Weed and Senators Algiere, Bates, Blais, Ciccone, Connors, Cote, Crowley, DaPonte, Devall, DiPalma, Doyle, Felag, Gallo, Goodwin, Jabour, Lenihan, Levesque, Lynch, Maselli, McBurney, McCaffrey, Metts, Miller, O’Neill, Perry, Raptakis, Ruggerio, Sheehan, Sosnowski, Tassoni, Walaska.
NAYS- 2: Senators Maher, Pinga
ABSTAINED- 1: Senator Picard
The three names in bold are Republicans who voted for this desperate attempt to dig a deeper grave in which to bury Rhode Island alive, and if it becomes law, not a single one of them should ever receive the support of Republican voters again.
House bill 5142 (PDF) would have the same effect, although it would create binding arbitration on all issues (right now it is not binding on financial matters), with the arbitration panel resolving “each individual disputed issue by accepting the last best offer thereon of either of the parties.” So, for instance, if a school committee agrees to certain requests of the union as part of negotiations toward higher healthcare co-shares, but the union won’t budge on the benefit number, the arbitration panel could pick the union’s “last best offer” without anything previously set aside being taken up again. The new contract would, as a matter of law, be retroactive to the previous contract’s expiration, and it’s worth noting that, although the bill makes financial arbitration binding, it does not remove language forbidding appeal.
H5142 is currently being “held for further study” in the House Labor Committee. I’m not very familiar with the rules for the speed at which it could happen, but 5142 could be resurrected at any time.