News articles highlight problems with binding arbitration

January 14, 2013

The King County Council is expected to vote soon on this proposal to expand the use of binding arbitration in the County (see K.C.C. 3.16.050). On January 9th, I wrote about why this idea is bad public policy.

Here are some interesting articles from The Spokesman-Review showing how binding arbitration creates controversy and drives up costs:

Binding arbitration disregards ability to pay
“It isn’t about bargaining in good faith or getting a better or worse deal than last time. It isn’t about comparing one department to other departments that operate under the same unreasonable state labor law. It’s about the ability to pay. Yet that’s not even on the table in the binding arbitration process. When arbitrators get involved, cities lose control over nearly half their budgets. That threat skews collective bargaining. Unless citizens insist on a rewrite of binding arbitration laws, the erosion of city services will continue.”

Taxpayers deserve view into police bargaining
“We understand the concept of giving public safety unions more leeway because they cannot strike, but they’ve consistently leveraged the threat of binding arbitration to the detriment of public service. As a result, they have lost public support over pay and benefits that don’t reasonably reflect the taxpayers’ ability to pay. Perhaps unions wouldn’t be so brazen if they had to bargain in public, but they don’t. Stephens declined to give the Public Safety Committee details on the current labor negotiations with the Police Guild. Taxpayers are rarely offered insights into why labor costs are changing, but they are handed the bill.”

County budget cuts services
“Some uncertainty exists over future pay for sheriff’s deputies. The deputies are going to binding arbitration with the county. An arbitrator will decide how much the county will have to pay deputies under a new contract based on pay at similar agencies in Washington.”

Council OKs firefighters contract
“The Spokane City Council voted 5-2 on Monday to accept a four-year contract with the Spokane Firefighters Union. Both sides agreed that the union likely could have forced the city into paying them more had they entered arbitration. And yet the new contract will add about $1.3 million in costs to the city next year.”