December 29, 2012
Words of Wisdom About Teacher Pay and the Perils of Binding Arbitration: Guess the Speaker
This column by Steve Frias in the Cranston Herald contains, among other things, some fascinating history about the evolution and implementation of public pensions and collective bargaining in RI.
Some quotes highlighted by Frias from the early 1990's in particular stand out, not so much because of their substance, though they are absolutely correct, but because of who uttered them. (I have omitted the town and the candidate from the original text.)
What few may recall is that ..... during a time when XXXXX teachers were striking, candidate _____ spoke of the possibility of "a voucher system or privatization” for education because teachers were “going to price themselves out of the business." He even lobbied state legislators against approving binding arbitration for teachers because the “unions own the arbitrators.”
Can you guess who said this? (Hint: "Speaker" in the title of this post is not "Mr. Speakah" of the RI House but simply "s/he who spoke the words".)
That's right, it was Lincoln Chafee, then running for mayor of Warwick.
If you're also thinking that now-Governor Chafee's views on such matters have ... er, evolved (or possibly devolved, from the perspective of those who pay the bills), you are correct again. That is one of the main points of Frias' column - possibly as much a reminder to the public unions as to anybody.
Below is the text unedited, including more of the original paragraph that contained it. Let the record show, though, that, surprising as it may be, it turns out that there is a moment in time when I agree wholeheartedly with something that (then-candidate) Lincoln Chafee said!
Governor Lincoln Chafee’s call for negotiation over pension reform is consistent with Chafee’s predilection for fickle political maneuvering regarding unions over the course of two decades. Many recall that before signing pension reform legislation in 2011, Governor Lincoln Chafee was supported by public employee unions when he ran for Governor in 2010. What few may recall is that in 1992, when he was running for mayor of Warwick, during a time when Warwick teachers were striking, candidate Chafee spoke of the possibility of "a voucher system or privatization” for education because teachers were “going to price themselves out of the business." He even lobbied state legislators against approving binding arbitration for teachers because the “unions own the arbitrators.” After he was elected mayor by a very small margin in a three-way race, Mayor Lincoln Chafee changed his approach regarding the teacher unions. He circumvented the Warwick School Committee to give Warwick teachers a 19.4 percent pay raise with no health insurance premium co-share. ...