July 30, 2008

Were Council 94's "Non-Negotiations" Part of a Larger Plan?

Monique Chartier

Let's examine Council 94's urgent insistance that the thirty meetings with Governor Carcieri do not constitute negotiations in the light of the status of those negotiations informal discussions at meeting ninteen. On May 23, Governor Carieri appeared on WPRO's Dan Yorke Show:

They have not put a single thing ... after 19 meetings, hours, hundreds of hours in, they haven't put a single thing on the table. We laid out for them a proposal. They've sat with my team, the house finance team, the senate finance team, 'cause I don' think they believed what we've beeen saying in terms of the magnitude of the problem. And they got it from all three parties. And so if they're not willing to sit down and make the kinds of concessions that we need to get in the 09 budget, then we're going to have to come up with them other ways.

So now it is clear that, on the part of Council 94's leadership, those thirty negotiating discussion sessions were simply a passive-aggressive act. Why? Did they realize from the beginning that because of the serious budget deficit and the economic condition of the state - subsequently confirmed by the Governor's office and the legislature - they were not going to be able to bring back an "acceptable" offer; i.e., terms that were substantially better than the expired contract? So rather than bringing their membership up to speed and explaining that the facts on the ground made it likely that the administration's final proposal would be a highest and best offer (not to mention the charmingly archaic nature of an 8% premium co-share), was this a deliberate decision by Council 94 leadership to drag out the entire process?

"We sat there like bumps on a log so those thirty meetings were not negotiations. First we file a complaint with the labor board. Then we go to negotiations. When negotiations are over and we don't get what we want, we go to mediation. Then we go to arbitration. It's okay that it's non-binding; the point is to drag this out. If we still haven't gotten what we want, we start on the court system. At some point (fingers crossed), either we'll wear the administration down or obtain a favorable ruling from an ally along the way."

Council 94's redefinition of thirty meetings as "not negotiations, definitely not negotiations", while absurd on its face, may be the first step of a larger plan. If so, it is a plan with two potentially fatal weaknesses, requiring as it does both time and a passive Executive branch. A constitutional requirement to annually balance the budget places the former in scarce supply. The latter has yet to be determined but initial indications are not promising.

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Wouldn't be surprised if that was the plan from the beginning - perhaps the believe (or think its worth a try) to not make any counterproposal or express any opinion and then adopt the position that absent those the meetings were unilateral, not a negotiation which entails "back and forth" exchanges, i.e., "bargaining."

Hopefully even the union-friendly labor board would outright reject this pretense, for the union simply could have refused to attend (but that would have blown the cover on their plan). And let's not forget that they took it to the membership for a vote, and as far as I know did not do so under any statements about presenting to the members merely as a courtesy to the state / administration.

As you stated Monique, they may be hoping for a favorable ruling somewhere along the line.

I suspect that more likely they are just trying to drag things out until after the November elections, at which time the tax increase monster may well arise from the grave.

Posted by: Tom W at July 30, 2008 11:18 AM


Are you suggesting a "conspiracy"?? Becareful, you are dangerously close to being brought up on such charges by some of the more sensitive & confused folks out there. :)

So here is a question (or in some people's view, an "ad-hominem attack"): if bonifide negotiations did not occur, then what were they voting on and more importantly, what exactly was Bob Walsh supporting ...something that wasn't negotiated?

Posted by: George Elbow at July 30, 2008 11:17 PM

Given that Pat Crowley recently posted, I'll ask him the same question that I asked Bob Walsh. I never received a response.

How could the Council 94 vote have been so one-sided after several weeks of negotiations?

This indicates to me that either that a.) union leadership was not soliciting membership input; or

b.) union leadership knew the package would get voted down, but proceeded anyway (which would justify Carcieri's charge that negotiations weren't in good faith).

While it can always be asserted that union leadership does not "control" the membership, such a lop-sided voted indicates that it doesn't listen to its' membership either.

Also, suggesting that union leaders were "discussing" a package as opposed to "negotiating" a package seems a little dishonest to the average guy on the street.

Everybody knows that when a union's leadership meets with management and talks about concessions, benefits, etc. they are de facto negotiations.

In fact, previous newspaper articles used the term "negotiations" and at no point did Council 94 correct the press by saying "these are discussions, not negotiations". The mere fact that a vote was taken on the package indicates that something was being negotiated.

It wasn't until after the whole thing blew up that some strange attempt to use wishy-washy language was made.

Posted by: Anthony at July 31, 2008 8:06 AM

How come Council 94 didn't correct the previous newspaper reports describing "negotiations" between the state and the union?

I guess they only became "discussions" after the whole thing blew up.

Posted by: Anthony at July 31, 2008 3:27 PM


Didn't you get the memo? Asking Upfront-Bob Walsh questions is a no-no.

Expecting answers to the questions is just plain stupid.

Posted by: George Elbow at July 31, 2008 10:25 PM

I must have missed that memo.

For someone who rants against negative comments, he sure does stay quiet when someone tries to understand his side of the argument....

Posted by: Anthony at August 1, 2008 2:50 PM
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