October 19, 2009

RE: Binding Arbitration

Marc Comtois

As Monique notes, the bill requiring binding arbitration in union/town disputes is slated to be heard this Wednesday. You can also hear NEA/AFT funded radio advertisements touting the bill. I wonder why labor unions--which traditionally take pride in being negotiating pit bulls--are apparently going all warm and fuzzy over the prospect of a supposedly fair and equitable process? What happened to taking pride in all of their victories? Well, in addition to Justin's explanation, could it be they know what the local roster of arbitrators looks like?

State Sen. John Tassoni, a Smithfield Democrat who until last spring was a senior business agent for the largest state employees union, has landed on the state’s list of qualified mediators to call when there is a state or local labor dispute.

Though his newly formed company — The Sentinel Group — has not yet won any state or local mediation contracts, it is now within a small, select group that the state purchasing office has deemed qualified for use. Tassoni has offered his services for $125 an hour, $1,000 a day.

Some on the list are better known than others, including Bernard Singleton, a state pensioner, former top official in the National Education Association of Rhode Island and state labor director in the DiPrete administration; and Gerard P. Cobleigh, who is one of the lead lawyers for the largest of the state employee unions and Tassoni’s former employer: Council 94, American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees.

Deck = stacked? It would seem those "in the know" know that the winds are shifting in a particular direction, regardless of the "hearing" on Wednesday.

UPDATE: NEA's Bob Walsh writes in the comments that I'm "mixing up mediation and arbitration, and mediators and arbitrators." I'm not mixing it up. I understand the difference: Mediators try to help parties come up with a mutual decision; arbitrators are selected by both parties to make a decision for them. As the ProJo report continues, it seems like the qualifications for mediators and arbitrators are similar and that they come from the same pool:

The minimum qualifications to get on the state’s list of potential mediators include “a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university” and five years experience “as an arbitrator and/or mediator for labor management matters, or a lawyer representing parties” in such matters.

Tassoni is a 1976 Smithfield High School graduate, who lists the New Horizon Computer Learning Center in Cranston, the George Meany Labor Institute in Washington, D.C., and the Institute for Labor Studies and Research in Cranston as his higher-education experience.

As for his “relevant skills and experience,” his resume notes that he is chairman of the Senate Committee on Housing and Municipal Government, and a member of the Senate Labor Committee who has over the years, in his union roles, had to “negotiate union contracts and resolve union grievances” and research, prepare and present cases for arbitration.” {emphasis added}

So, is there any chance that cross-pollination between mediators/arbitrators occurs? That's the impression I get. If not, my apologies.

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You are mixing up mediation and arbitration, and mediators and arbitrators.

Posted by: Bob Walsh at October 19, 2009 12:07 PM

Hey Bob, if labor so often comes out with less after arbitration, as your folk have been citing, why do you want it? The stats I see bandied about over there at RIF show that non-arb cases get more on average. So shouldn't you all be opposed to this legislation?

Or are you going to disappear to the ether like your beady-eyed lieutenant?

Posted by: Patrick at October 19, 2009 1:26 PM

If you live by this simple creed, you will never be wrong: If the unions are for it - I am against it.
It is that simple. No matter what figures/forecasts/theories the union pigs put forth, you know damn well they are lying through their teeth. They are a despicable bunch of clowns.

Posted by: Mike Cappelli at October 19, 2009 2:21 PM

Interesting how Bob and Pat's home blog site worry so much about trolls, but that's exactly what they do here. Drop a bomb with zero substance and then scamper back into the darkness. Kinda like a cockroach.

Posted by: Patrick at October 19, 2009 11:00 PM

"Cross-pollination" is highly unlikley in the instant case, and to suggest otherwise was simply inflamatory. From the AAA website:

Qualification Criteria for Admittance to the AAA National Roster
of Arbitrators

The American Arbitration Association (AAA) is the nation's leading provider of alternative dispute resolution
services. Openings on our Regional Roster of Neutrals are extremely limited, based primarily on caseload
needs and user preferences. Consequently, even candidates with strong credentials may not be added to our roster.

Applicants for membership on the AAA National Roster of Arbitrators must meet or exceed the following

a. Minimum of 10 years of senior-level business or professional experience or legal practice.
b. Educational degree(s) and/or professional license(s) appropriate to your field of expertise.
c. Honors, awards and citations indicating leadership in your field.
d. Training or experience in arbitration and/or other forms of dispute resolution.
e. Membership in a professional association(s).
f. Other relevant experience or accomplishments (e.g. published articles).

a. Freedom from bias and prejudice.
b. Ability to evaluate and apply legal, business or trade principles.

a. Ability to manage the hearing process.
b. Thorough and impartial evaluation of testimony and other evidence.

a. Held in the highest regard by peers for integrity, fairness and good judgment.
b. Dedicated to upholding the AAA Code of Ethics for Arbitrators and/or Standards of Conduct for

a. Willingness to devote time and effort when selected to serve.
b. Willingness to support efforts of the AAA.
c. Willingness to successfully complete training under the guidelines of the Commercial Arbitration
Development Program.

When requested by the AAA to do so, furnish letters from at least three active professionals in your field,
but outside of any firms or professional associations in which you are employed or on which you currently
serve as an officer, director or trustee. Each letter must address the following:
a. Nature and duration of the relationship
b. Why the applicant would be qualified to serve
Recommended sources for letters:
1. Current AAA Panel member
2. Current or former state or federal judge**
3. An attorney who served as your opposing counsel**
4. Former employer or client
* Letters of recommendation must be sent directly to the AAA Vice President from the writers, in sealed
** Suggested for attorney applicants.

Submit a letter to your local AAA office explaining why you feel you would like to be included on AAA's Roster
of Arbitrators along with a current copy of your personal resume or CV. Your letter should provide a detailed
description of your willingness to commit yourself to serving and representing the Association. Also indicate
in the letter whether or not you are currently a neutral with any other ADR agencies. Please feel free to
contact your local AAA office should you have any questions.

Posted by: Bob Walsh at October 20, 2009 11:47 AM
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