Binding Arbitration as Viewed by One of RI’s Public Labor Unions
The following e-mail was distributed today to members of NEARI.
A message from NEARI President Larry Purtill:
URGENT!!!! The RI House Labor Committee will hear legislation on binding arbitration for teachers Wednesday, October 21, 2 PM at the State House, and the full General Assembly is scheduled to reconvene October 28-29.
After over two decades of lobbying for binding arbitration, our time has come. It is imperative that NEARI members call, email, or write their representatives and senators urging their support for binding arbitration. Our opponents have been contacting members of the legislature – now it is time they hear from us. Binding arbitration will provide a closure mechanism to the collective bargaining process that we have needed for a long time. We cannot allow another East Providence situation to occur in Rhode Island !
You can find contact information for your legislators here. Below are talking points to help you craft your message.
Binding Arbitration Talking Points
– Under present law, there is no final dispute resolution mechanism to settle teacher contracts. Collective bargaining depends on compromise from both parties. Now, those across the table can refuse to talk for as long as they want. If one believes in a collective bargaining process, then one must also believe in a way to bring such a process to a reasonable end. There must be a means to bring finality and fairness to the contractual process for students, teachers and taxpayers.
– When contracts remain unsettled, teachers are left with lousy choices to get their message across. Both strikes and “work-to-rule” strategies are frustrating to all involved. Binding arbitration legislation can end teacher strikes and work-to-rule forever.
– In polling conducted earlier this year, 70% of Rhode Islanders agree that binding arbitration is the appropriate solution to resolve teacher contract disputes that cannot be resolved through collective bargaining. Rhode Island law already calls for binding arbitration when police, firefighter and correctional officer contracts remain unresolved.
– Connecticut has had binding arbitration for teachers for 30 years. A lot of people incorrectly believe binding arbitration in Connecticut favors teachers, but the evidence doesn’t support it. According to the Connecticut Education Association, between 1994 and 2003, 75 contracts out of 638 – fewer than 12 % – went to arbitration. In judging those contracts, arbitrators chose the district’s side on 379 of the 756 issues – roughly half the time. The arbitrated salary increases averaged 2.39% while the negotiated salary increases averaged 2.48%.
– It is true that teacher salaries in Connecticut rank first or second in the nation. It is also true that a law passed in 1986 at the behest of the governor was responsible for setting a minimum salary and boosting state education funding by $300 million. Prior to its passage, Connecticut teacher salaries ranked 14th in the country – the same before and after binding arbitration became law.
– The point behind binding arbitration is to force two sides to negotiate. The real hope is that no contracts have to be arbitrated, and that both sides will see arbitration as an unwanted last resort. Fair and evenhanded legislation can bring to an end teacher contract disputes in Rhode Island once and for all.