Labor Peace, Town or State

Julia Steiny makes a reasonable point about the ability of the General Assembly — with limits and mandates for local teacher contracts — to ensure “peace at the local level,” but her assessment doesn’t go quite far enough:

And this is the point: labor peace must be bought. And nothing is excluded from negotiations. Everything is subject to bargaining rights.
To prevail in negotiation, weak-kneed management has often won what it wanted, extra minutes of instruction or commitments to professional development, by giving away expensive perks such as more generous sick leave. To hide or delay paying for the give-away, perks were often additions to retirement benefits.

The operative clause is that “labor peace must be bought”; if it isn’t bought at the local level, it will be bought at the state level. As we’ve recently seen, AFL-CIO honcho George Nee sneezes, and Providence quakes. If reformers somehow manage to push contractual limits through the General Assembly, it will only happen on the terms of National Education Association Rhode Island Executive Director Bob Walsh. And we can be sure that those aren’t terms that we should prefer to what we can secure with labor decisions close at hand in our own communities.
Look. The basic calculation is as follows: If the people of Rhode Island don’t care enough to counterbalance the unions when it comes to electing school committee members, and if there aren’t three to five residents willing to stand against union aggression as elected officials in each municipality, then the even larger court of the state government is not a place that we want the ball in play.

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