As a former 14-year president of our local college faculty union and chief negotiator for seven contracts, I urge the voters of San Luis Obispo to vote no on Measures A and B.
I’ve dealt enough with binding arbitration over the years to have learned a few things, and most of what the “Yes on A and B” people are saying is nothing more than fearmongering.
First, no one wants to go to through the process of binding arbitration. It’s not cheap, it’s work-intensive for both sides and it’s often lengthy. A union goes to binding arbitration as an absolute last resort: when management — which has the power (never forget that) — has refused to treat its workers fairly or is not bargaining in good faith. Without binding arbitration, the city will have all the power, not just most of it. Workers have no leverage without binding arbitration and remain at the mercy of management.
Second, the arbitrator is agreed to and paid for by both sides, is neutral and not bound to either side. To claim that out-of-towners will dictate how SLO is run is nothing short of sensationalism. The decision the arbitrator makes is based on what is fair and equitable to the employees when compared to employees in similar situations and on the city’s ability to pay.
Unless you’ve been in the officers’ shoes or those of their families, you probably don’t know about those lean years when they received very little or nothing in the way of a salary increase or those years in which the union most likely traded a salary increase for a much-needed increase in benefits.
The unions have agreed to work with the city on lessening the financial impact. Why isn’t that enough? Because this is all an insidious attempt at union-busting, which seems to be the rage around the country.
It is happening at a time when proponents of Measures A and B know the citizens of SLO are ripe for the picking: “It’s a tough economy, so let’s get those big, bad unions while we have the chance.”
It’s building on the “the haves vs. the have-nots” fervor, which relies on emotion rather than reason.
I, for one, believe that unions should stand proud, and in a town like San Luis Obispo, that’s not often easy to do. Instead of envying unions for being able to negotiate living wages and pensions, the unorganized should look to unions for help in bettering their own conditions.
Please vote to maintain a level playing field. Vote for our firefighters and police officers. Vote against Measures A and B.
Marilyn Rossa works in San Luis Obispo and lives in Arroyo Grande.