July 15, 2009

Arbitration Is a Union Game

Justin Katz

Anybody who still believes that public sector union arbitration isn't the unions' playroom should take a moment to glance toward Cranston. The contract between the city and the Teamsters (PDF) contains the following language:

The City agrees to offer a Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) plan for each member of the Union and his family. Each employee shall pay a percentage of the monthly working rate for the City for the plan chosen, deducted bi-weekly from the employee's paycheck. The co-share percentage will be 10% for Year 1 (FY 7/1/05 to 6/30/06), 15% in Year 2 (FY 7/1/06 to 6/30/07), and 20% in Year 3 (FY 7/1/07 to 6/30/08) of this agreement. The PPO plan will include the following: $10 co-pays for office visits, specialists, and urgent care visits and a $50 co-pay for emergency room visits each occurrence.

That contract expired at the end of June 2008, and as anybody should have expected (and the union probably did), the city continued to adjust healthcare co-shares in accord with rising prices. The union filed a grievance claiming that the dollar amount is what should carry through — which certainly conflicts with the reason that elected representatives have been negotiating for percentages — and the arbitrator who handled the grievance gave the win to the union. Despite the absence of any dollar-amount language in the contract. Despite the fact that the contract was no longer in effect.

And so, the city finds itself spending scarce funds on legal expenses to defend against union-fantasy-land justice. I say it's time to meet lunacy with resolve: If a union is going to delay contract resolution and tie the city up in court, anyway, when times are tight, fire its members and rehire.

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The complete bad faith you approach every union issue with is so transparent.

Posted by: Pat Crowley at July 15, 2009 8:24 AM

Wall Street Journal, July 11:

In 1969, the Wolverine State embraced a form of compulsory arbitration nearly identical to the one proposed in EFCA to resolve disputes with its police and firefighters. Years later, Detroit mayor Coleman Young -- who had authored the original law as state senator -- rued what he had done. "We now know that compulsory arbitration has been a failure," he lamented to the National Journal in 1981. "Slowly, inexorably, compulsory interest arbitration has destroyed sensible fiscal management and has caused more damage to the public service than the strikes it was designed to prevent."


Posted by: Tom W at July 15, 2009 10:05 AM

Oh yeah, Crowley,
And you lying union pigs approach everything in good faith.

Posted by: Mike Cappelli at July 15, 2009 10:07 AM

All it will take is a few arbitrators descisions favoring municipalities, and they will come, and this will be much about nothing.

Posted by: michael at July 15, 2009 11:24 AM
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