Foretelling the Future in Cranston
Steven Frias, a Steve Laffey ally of old and author of a book on Cranston’s political history, relates the origin of school committees’ authority to negotiate contracts (even though they can’t tax to pay for them) and binding arbitration for police and fire. Sadly, there are some discouraging parallels to our proximate future:
The leader of the state association of firefighters pledged to “mount a lobbying campaign for compulsory binding arbitration that will shake the foundations of the state capitol.” In 1968, police officers and firefighters descended upon the State House to support binding arbitration for police and firefighter unions.
In response, the General Assembly passed the desired legislation over the near-unanimous objections of municipal officials, who said that binding arbitration would take away the ability to set tax rates from elected officials and from average citizens at town financial meetings. But a compliant Republican governor, John Chafee, signed the bills into law with no formal explanation while his spokesman suggested that binding arbitration should be “given a try.”
With binding arbitration came longevity bonuses, minimum manning, and lifetime healthcare benefits regardless of age of retirement. No doubt, some of the usual suspects are hoping that the late governor’s son will oversee a repeat of the process for teachers across the state, although they’ve already got most of those benefits, so the objective is to build a firewall around them. Or at least we can hope that their objective doesn’t go beyond that.