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For  workers and unions, there hasn’t been much to celebrate on Labor Day in recent years. RIPR political analyst Scott MacKay says things may finally be looking up.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

When Maria Montanaro took the reins of the state department of Behavioral Health, Developmental Disabilities, and Hospitals, she inherited an agency with massive responsibilities, and major challenges. Among them, mounting costs and allegations of abuse at Eleanor Slater Hospital – the state psychiatric and long-term care facility for people with serious illnesses.

John Bender / RIPR

Picket lines will be visible outside the Rhode Island School of Design Thursday because of a labor dispute with some workers. The Technicians Union represents 44 employees, responsible for many of RISD’s famous studios. 

From glass to ceramics and metalworking, Union President Tucker Houlihan said they’re crucial to a RISD education.

Negotiations continue between Rhode Island Hospital and employees with the Teamsters union. The latest round of talks ended in another stalemate.

The Teamsters represent about 2500 nursing assistants, food service, and other workers at Rhode Island Hospital. They’ve threatened to strike if negotiators can’t agree on job protections and wage hikes, as well as improvements to their retirement plan.

Unions representing nearly all state workers have tentatively agreed to a new contract.

The unions representing every state worker except correctional officers and state police have agreed to a contract that increases wages by six percent over four years and increases health care deductibles and co-pays.

State employees have gone nearly three years without a raise.

When will Rhode Islanders stop debating public employee pensions? RIPR political analyst  Scott MacKay says that won’t happen anytime soon.

As if the 2014 Rhode Island election campaigns won’t provide enough grist for everyone’s political mill, here comes the vote on the proposed public employee pension settlement crafted by their union leaders, Gov. Lincoln Chafee and State General Treasurer Gina Raimondo.

Organizers said the vast majority of workers in a state-subsidized child care program have indicated their support for joining a union.

Chas Walker of Service Employees Union, Local 1199, said more than 500 of about 600 workers have signed cards to become union members. “We’ve filed those cards with the state Labor Board and it’s the process in the law,” said Walker, “and we’re looking forward to having an election as soon as possible.”

The General Assembly passed a law this year allowing the child care workers to unionize.


Mediation is set to continue over the challenge by a series of public-employee unions to an overhaul of the state pension system in 2011.

The outcome of the case has big implications for the state.The two sides in the pension case have repeatedly asked for more time to mediate their differences. Following another such request, the next update is slated before Superior Court Judge Sarah Taft-Carter on September 5th. Taft-Carter was the one who ordered mediation in the case last December.

The start of June has done nothing, naturally, to stop the breakneck flow of news in the Land of The Gift That Keeps on Giving. So welcome back to my weekly column. You can reach me at idonnis (at) ripr (dot) com, and (please) follow me on Twitter. Let's head in.

State Treasurer Gina Raimondo's office and one of her most prominent critics, Ted Siedle, are trading shots anew after the state's largest public-employee union hired Siedle to review the work of the state Investment Commission.

In a statement, Raimondo spokeswoman Joy Fox says:

AFSCME's Council 94, the largest union of state public employees, has hired pension expert Edward "Ted" Siedle, whose Forbes.com piece in April sparked debate about state Treasurer Gina Raimondo's heightened allocation of hedge funds in the $7 billion state pension fund.

The mediation aimed at settling a legal challenge by a series of unions to the state pension overhaul of 2011 is set to continue through the month of February.

Superior Court Judge Sarah Taft-Carter met Friday morning with the two sides in the case, according to court spokesman Craig Berke. "They are going to continue to mediate," Berke said, adding that Taft-Carter is scheduled to get another update on February 28.