Groups Rally Against Binding Arbitration for Teachers
Thursday, June 30, 2011
“We’re calling upon Speaker [Gordon] Fox to take a stand with the taxpayers,” said Rhode Island Statewide Coalition Executive Director Harriet Lloyd in the first of two press conferences held by RISC and the R.I. Tea Party. “If you want to make an indelible mark on the taxpayer movement, this is the issue to do it. This is your chance to show true leadership.”
Elected officials from various districts joined Lloyd under the State House rotunda to voice their opposition toward binding arbitration, which would allow for a third-party arbitrator to settle impasses between teachers unions and school committees. Binding arbitration is currently in effect for local fire and police unions.
Supporters rallied in unison, some with signs, including one that read, “Kill the Bills: No binding arbitration.”
“The taxpayers lost,” said Gordon as he ripped up a copy of the bill. “The game is rigged. Binding arbitration takes the power out of the hands of our elected officials. It’s no good.”
Supporters of RISC, such as Sen. Ed O’Neill (17th District), are confident the bill will “go down in flames” based on precedents set with other legislation.
About ‘adult entitlement,’ not kids
Tea Party spokeswoman Lisa Blais continued the rally outside of the State House, questioning the intentions of third-party arbitrators while members of Teamsters Union Local 251 looked on during their own separate protest (the support of separate House and Senate bills aimed toward tightening employee classification laws).
“Binding arbitration would deal with issues where there is an impasse,” she said. “What does that have to do with preserving the quality of public education? Binding arbitration is always about adult entitlement.”
“We vote for our educated officials and for how our hard-earned revenue is used,” Blais continued. “Binding arbitration cares nothing about that. The bottom line is Gordon Fox has to put a stop to this charade. If we think pension reform will get anywhere in our state, we’re kidding ourselves. [Binding arbitration] came up last year and now it’s back to bite us in the butts again.”
“If we can’t get this settled, we’ll bring the Minutemen up here with muskets,” joked East Providence Taxpayers Association spokesman Bill Murphy.
One of the major sticking points among those opposed to binding arbitration is the potential increase in taxes, which supporters of the bill say will not be a factor due to the statewide cap on property tax increases. Detractors such as Blais and Lloyd disagree, noting that a tax cap can be raised by the supermajority vote of a local town or city council.
“There is no compromise in a binding arbitration bill that would make it acceptable to the students or taxpayers in this state,” Blais said.
Other elected officials gathered at the rotunda following the Tea Party press conference, including Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, Woonsocket mayor Leo Fontaine and Providence mayor Angel Taveras, to voice their opposition to binding arbitration.
“This is not good for the city, state or the taxpayers,” Tavares said. “We need to make sure our voices are heard. This is not the time to pass binding arbitration. The fact that we’re all here together shows how this will affect us.”
Several speakers, including Fung, pointed out the timing of passing a binding arbitration bill during a statewide recession and how that would have an adverse effect on taxpayers, while Gordon Jr. ended with an encore performance of his opening act by ripping another copy of the bill to shreds.
“I think it’s bad enough that it’s worth tearing up a second time,” he said.
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