June 28, 2011

John Ward: Binding Arbitration Makes Local Governance Unaffordable and Nearly Impossible to Fix

Engaged Citizen

Dear Representatives and Senators representing Woonsocket:

I write today to express my strong opposition to the H5961 and S0794, teacher binding arbitration bills to be heard in each chamber's Labor Committee on Wednesday. Representative Phillips and Senator Picard, as members of the labor committee in each chamber, I am asking that you vote in opposition to sending these bills to your respective chambers for a floor vote. To the rest of the delegation, I expect that should these bills be brought to the floor for a vote that you will vote NO.

It should be clear to you all by now that your community has suffered from the effects of the existing binding arbitration statute. Benefits, once granted by arbitrators and not negotiated for, become virtually impossible to negotiate away. It is being rumored that this is a "payback to labor" as part of some quid pro quo. If so, who negotiated that deal on behalf of the taxpayers of Woonsocket? Passage of a bill like this will be the same as passing an unfunded mandate! You will be causing an increase in property taxes and then blaming the local officials for "negotiating away" the benefits that will be granted by someone else! Let's not go there.

The House Commission on Municipal Financial Integrity heard the appeal of local leaders from across the state. The common thread running through their pleas for help was the desperate need to remove binding arbitration from the state law. It has made local financial governance unaffordable and nearly impossible to fix. It has actually been the cause for reduced public safety staffing because of an inability to undo the high cost of benefits granted by arbitrators. It's already tough enough to make ends meet when developing our local budgets, PLEASE DON'T MAKE MATTERS WORSE!

Do not vote on this bill until you have done you duty and called your Mayor to hear first hand about the services we no longer provide because of our financial problems.

I am asking all that I have copied with this email to personally contact their representatives and senators to demand that they vote in opposition to these bills and support the taxpayers they represent.

John Ward is President of the Woonsocket City Council.