“Modified” Binding Arbitration: A Bad Idea is Still Bad Even if It’s Tweaked

Following upon a very well attended hearing yesterday,

Opponents clogged the State House committee room, spilling into the marble hallway and lining the walls. Some held signs of protest above their heads for hours.
It was an unusual display for a workday hearing on a legislative proposal entitled simply, “School Teacher Arbitration.”

the Providence Journal’s Steve Peoples reports this morning on the latest status of binding arbitration.

[Spokesman for House Speaker William Murphy Larry] Berman characterized the draft legislation discussed Wednesday as “a touchstone for a larger discussion of the issue itself,” suggesting a modified version may emerge.

Andrew had pointed out that binding arbitration undemocratically (and possibly unconstitutionally?) removes the expenditure of tax dollars from the hands of elected officials and places it in the hands of (usually biased) non-elected ones who do not answer to the taxpayer/voter.
And Justin highlighted the cost of such a system in Connecticut; namely, compensation adjustments that go only one way.
What would a modified version of binding arbitration look like? Compensation adjustments that continue to go one way, just at a slower rate? (As tax revenue on Smith Hill and around the state has been going in the other direction for the third year in a row, this doesn’t seem terribly feasible.) Would elected and non-elected officials take turns writing checks on the taxpayers’ account so it’s non-democratic “only” 50% of the time? (Still sounds undemocratic to me.)
So let’s throw it open to suggestions. How would you “modify” binding arbitration – still leaving in place the current precedents and arbitrators which tilt significantly to one side of the table – to make it a fair, equitable and democratic process?

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Pat Crowley
Pat Crowley
12 years ago

when you write: “still leaving in place the current precedents and arbitrators which tilt significantly to one side of the table – to make it a fair, equitable and democratic process?” What do you mean “current precedents?” In contract arbitration that phrase has no meaning, so what do you mean by it? I am truly curious because it has no impact in the world of collective bargaining? And when you say that arbitrators tilt in one director or another….based on what? You do realize that the stories about Sen. Tassoni being a potential arbitrator are simply wrong…right? He has signed up to be a mediator, not an arbitrator. The state runs the mediation process, and for a mediator to be assigned both sides have to agree on the person. Now, when it comes to arbitration, the arbitrator is selected through a private company called the American Arbitration Association. Tassoni is not one of their arbitrators. I answered this question weeks ago on RIFUTURE, but here is the answer again: *** The arbitration process is coordinated by an neutral private company called The American Arbitration Association. http://www.adr.org/ here are the qualification to be an arbitrator for AAA http://www.adr.org/si.asp?id=4223 This is the process for selecting an arbitrator in a typical arbitration. I am not sure it will be exactly like this in the proposed bill because I haven’t seen the bill but it will likely take a form similar to this The matter is submitted to AAA for arbitration. AAA sends a list of ten arbitrators, with their CV’s, to the parties. Each side strikes the names that are unacceptable to them, mostly because those people’s backgrounds would lend one to think they are biased against their case. Hopefully, there are names left on the list that each side finds acceptable. If… Read more »

12 years ago

I have no suggestions, but I liked how “Dolores from Cranston” put it last night on the Matt Allen Show:
We pay taxes to support our school committee, we pay taxes to support our school administrators, we pay taxes to support our courts. Now we’re going to have to pay more taxes to support arbiters as well? We already have a system for sorting this out, it works, continue it.
Not coming to a resolution isn’t nothing. That is all a part of the process.

12 years ago

Naive view of arbirtration from Pat Crowley. Maybe he thinks that’s how it should or would work (along with the fiction that all arbitrators are impartial) but he misses the most basic point in opposition to this proposal: binding arbitration is not appropriate in the scenario contemplated for its application in RI by the NEA et al. Binding arbitration is not commonly included in contracts where parties are of equal footing. Only when a party is in the weakest position (i.e. they need the contract more than the other party, there is no other avenue to obtain the product/service wanted for the price they can pay, leaving that party with zero leverage, etc.) would such a relinquishment of the right to access the courts be considered. The taxpayers should never be in the weakest position when it comes to the relationship with public employees, although that is where our elected officials serving the NEA are putting us. We have the jobs, they want them/need them. If they don’t want what we can afford, we need to find employees who do. Why does NEA wants this? They want a law because no school committee would so clearly betray its obligations to the taxpayers by agreeing to a binding arbitration clause in a contract. They want this for the same reason they wanted legislation making teachers’ contracts never-ending: because they are not happy with their inability to control the courts and judges. Binding arbitration instead of a judge ordering them back to work and jailing illegally striking teachers? I want to take my chances with the laws still left that protect the taxpayers, as a non-elected RI Judge will enforce those laws. In answer to Monique’s question, the proposal should not be modified, it should be thrown out in whole. Attempts to… Read more »

Ragin' Rhode Islander
Ragin' Rhode Islander
12 years ago

Can anyone name anything positive that the teachers unions have done for the advancement of education? Anything.
We know the teachers union track record.
It they want it, it’s good only for them, not for anyone else.
End of debate.

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