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Lisa Blais: RI Needs to Oppose Binding Arbitration Bill

Monday, February 11, 2013


The legislative bill that will bury RI once and for all: Teachers’ Binding Arbitration and perpetual contracts, House Bill 5340

The Chairwoman of the Labor Committee is the lead sponsor of a Binding Arbitration bill scheduled for hearing on Tuesday, February 12th in Room 201 at the State House. Binding Arbitration has been a long sought after piece of legislation by Labor, and in particular, the unions that represent employees in our public school system.

In a nutshell, school districts and unions will turn to a panel of arbitrators if mediation fails. Typically, these arbitrators are chosen through the American Arbitration Association, to settle any issues that either side perceives as stumbling blocks to agreement on a new contract. The arbitrator(s) determines what specific terms and conditions in question will become part of a new agreement that the school district must abide by. School districts in RI are already operating under a law that binds them to arbitration decisions that do not impact the expenditure of money.

So, why does Labor need House Bill 5340? Because, Labor wants control of the money that House Bill 5340, if passed, will give them. It provides for binding arbitration over expenditures of money. This means that if an arbitrator determines that increased school expenditures seems reasonable to him or her then every taxpayer will be on the hook for increased property taxes. It means that we may witness yet more cuts to programs for our kids that may be deemed “unnecessary” in order to partially offset the expenses that the arbitrator may impose on any community in our state.

Binding arbitration on fiscal matters means that a private citizen earning compensation by virtue of being an arbitrator (think former Senator Tassoni who stated his desire to join the club), potentially living out-of-state, will decide how taxpayers’ dollars in RI will be spent for such matters as raises, longevity pay, health insurance, sick days, and potentially rates at which step increases kick-in.

Gone will be the legal authority of local school committee and town or city councils to determine what local budgets can bear. An unelected, private citizen will take over the reins on fiscal matters in your city or town. With House Bill 5340 you can bet that one of two outcomes may occur – either school committees will succumb to Labor demands to avoid the mediation and arbitration process or Labor will be gleefully aggressive in order to get to arbitration.

They know full well that arbitrators tend to make decisions myopically by looking at other local districts that may serve as examples of having already met the unions’ demands.

Taxpayers’ ability to absorb increased costs will have little bearing should House Bill 5340 pass. Students’ needs will most assuredly take a back seat to adult entitlements.

The toxicity of House Bill 5340 is that it also undermines the long-standing law that no contract shall be in effect for more than three years. This bill has “perpetual contract” language contained in its text. Diametrically opposed to the concept that contracts do not run in perpetuity, they expire!

Don’t let the explanation of the bill fool you. It claims that it will help to avoid strikes. Teachers are not supposed to strike in RI. It claims that “Every decision made concerning public education must be in the best interest of our students”. Yet, the potential to bury every city and town with unsustainable costs is hardly in the best interest of our students.

If you agree that your local elected official should run your municipality and that this egregious legislation must be stopped once and for all then please consider attending the hearing on Tuesday, February 12th in Room 201 at 4:15. Or, call Chairwoman Williams via the Clerk of the Labor Committee at 222-2587 and ask her to let Representative Williams know that House Bill 5340 is bad for Rhode Island’s economy and as bad for our kids.

Lisa Blais is a Board Member with the OSTPA organization. She can be reached at [email protected] or [email protected].


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And people say labor doesn't dominate RI politics... THis bill and the person who introduced it need to go away..

Comment #1 by Mike Govern on 2013 02 11

This should be a good test for new Woonsocket Representative and firefighter Steven Casey. What will he do? Of course, knowing the General Assembly, they will vote in favor of it in committee hearings, knowing that they have a majority BEFORE they make Mr. Casey vote so he can vote against it to make himself look good to the citizens of Woonsocket. Let's see if he votes for the Unions or the finances of the City of Woonsocket. I hope he supports the City, and I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt on this bill, but certainly would like him to be public of who he actually supports.

Comment #2 by Vinnie Ward on 2013 02 11

Power hungry, greedy politicians want to finish destroying this state.

We are sinking fast economically and in our education system. Our schools are less than mediocre; don't let the fake statistics fool you. Teachers, once they unionized, became the enemy of your children. Keeping the populace dumb keeps the Left in control, easy to fool.

Next to completely unionize will be the nurses and doctors with the "Affordable" Obamacare takeover. Frightening future for all.

Comment #3 by CYNTHIA OCONNELL on 2013 02 11

this article says The Chairwoman of the Labor Committee is the lead sponsor of a Binding Arbitration bill but it does not say who the person is...Blais does not menton her name
who is the chair?

Comment #4 by Karmenn Sense on 2013 02 11

this article says The Chairwoman of the Labor Committee is the lead sponsor of a Binding Arbitration bill but it does not say who the person is...Blais does not menton her name.
who is the chair?

Comment #5 by Karmenn Sense on 2013 02 11

Anastasia Williams, the chair, Scott Guthrie, Spencer Dickinson , Deborah Fellela, and Mary Duffy Messier are the sponsors. Williams is a high school graduate, Fellela, a school secretary in Providence, Messier, a retired teacher, and Guthrie, a retired fireman.

Comment #6 by CYNTHIA OCONNELL on 2013 02 11

This is how the unions pull this stuff off. They pay campaign contributions for these legislators to do their dirty work.
Anastasia Williams: $650
Scott Guthrie: $17,040
Spencer Dickinson: $17,140
Deborah Fellela: $11,815
Mary Messier: $8,905

Do you honestly think the taxpayers will have any voice with this committee? Doubtful but the taxpayers also have to wake up and see this for what it is. The unions are also pulling this now just after the blizzard of 2013. They don't want the taxpayer groups at the statehouse and hoping many people won't be able to make it underscores the underhanded methods the public union leaders will do to get their way with the legislature. They will take this state down if you, the taxpayers don't stop them.

Comment #7 by Gov- stench on 2013 02 12

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