A Process of Suffocation
The relationship is perhaps not entirely direct, but two stories from last Saturday’s paper strike me as thematically related. First:
Because of poor design and construction and lack of maintenance, the underground parking garage at the Providence railroad station has suffered so much structural damage caused by leaking water that the state Department of Transportation says it might have to be closed.
The 360-space garage is a key transportation facility whose importance is likely to increase. It’s the most convenient station parking and is full of commuters’ cars on weekdays. The station will see more use, and presumably need more parking, when the state extends rail service south of Providence over the next two years.
At a time when Rhode Island desperately needs to ensure smooth sailing for the economy, public transportation infrastructure is crumbling. And second:
The head of the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority’s biggest union has threatened a strike if state officials remove binding arbitration, a mechanism for settling deadlocked contract disputes, from state law governing the authority. …
RIPTA officials said that the possibility of eliminating binding arbitration for RIPTA employees came up at a meeting of a legislative committee looking into the authority’s operations. RIPTA officials said they were asked to take the issue before the authority board of directors. The legislators suggested that RIPTA request that arbitration be removed from the authority’s enabling legislation.
Even just a hint that officials might be considering the possibility of potentially revisiting binding arbitration sparked threats of the union’s nuclear option. (Gee, that binding arbitration thing must really not be in a union’s interests!)
In sum: During the worst economic recession since the Great Depression, with the state kept solvent merely through the ill-advised deficit spending of a radical U.S. president, as our transportation infrastructure falls apart under our desperate feet, public sector unions have their eye firmly focused on their own grubby hands. Rhode Island can’t afford to tolerate this extortion and abuse any longer.