Critics sound warning about binding arbitration bill

Feb 11, 2013

A bill to extend binding arbitration to teacher contracts -- which last hit the House floor during the 2011 legislative session -- is coming back to the Statehouse.

Binding arbitration legislation sponsored by state Representative Anastasia Williams (D-Providence) is slated for a House Labor Committee hearing Tuesday (following the House session, or about 4:30/5 p.m.) in Room 201. A vote is not expected to take place following the hearing.

In an email sent Friday, Tim Duffy, executive director of the Rhode Island Association of School Committees, exhorted his members to attend the hearing. He noted that Room 201 has a capacity for just 17 people.

Critics like Duffy and the Ocean State Tea Party in Action describe the bill as tilted in the interest of public-sector unions. Duffy calls it "the same legislation that has been submitted the [last[ several years":

It is issue by issue binding arbitration, not total package, it outlaws teacher strikes, but does not impose penalties and is silent on work to rule. ...

Our concern about passage of any binding arbitration statute is that it fails to address work to rule.  If, in a rare instance, an arbitration award, in part or in whole, went against a union they can continue to force the committee back to the bargaining table by working to rule, if on the other hand it goes against the Committee, they have no choice to but, either accept the award or appeal it to Superior Court, where an award can only be overturned for a blatant disregard of process or the language of the statute itself.  Highly unlikely.

In 2011, a binding arb bill died in the House after it passed the Senate.

Speculation continues about whether the House will pass binding arbitration as an inducement for the Senate to pass same-sex marriage. Robert Walsh, executive director of the National Education Association Rhode Island, downplays talk of a deal, noting how labor backs both same-sex marriage and binding arbitration.