Arbitration Is a Union Game
Anybody who still believes that public sector union arbitration isn’t the unions’ playroom should take a moment to glance toward Cranston. The contract between the city and the Teamsters (PDF) contains the following language:
The City agrees to offer a Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) plan for each member of the Union and his family. Each employee shall pay a percentage of the monthly working rate for the City for the plan chosen, deducted bi-weekly from the employee’s paycheck. The co-share percentage will be 10% for Year 1 (FY 7/1/05 to 6/30/06), 15% in Year 2 (FY 7/1/06 to 6/30/07), and 20% in Year 3 (FY 7/1/07 to 6/30/08) of this agreement. The PPO plan will include the following: $10 co-pays for office visits, specialists, and urgent care visits and a $50 co-pay for emergency room visits each occurrence.
That contract expired at the end of June 2008, and as anybody should have expected (and the union probably did), the city continued to adjust healthcare co-shares in accord with rising prices. The union filed a grievance claiming that the dollar amount is what should carry through — which certainly conflicts with the reason that elected representatives have been negotiating for percentages — and the arbitrator who handled the grievance gave the win to the union. Despite the absence of any dollar-amount language in the contract. Despite the fact that the contract was no longer in effect.
And so, the city finds itself spending scarce funds on legal expenses to defend against union-fantasy-land justice. I say it’s time to meet lunacy with resolve: If a union is going to delay contract resolution and tie the city up in court, anyway, when times are tight, fire its members and rehire.