Puts into law decades of past practice
To the Editor:
Mayor Polisena, Mayor Avedisian and the other municipal leaders have been wrong in characterizing the continuing contract bill for teachers and municipal leaders as a bill that hurts taxpayers. The legislation that overwhelmingly passed the House and Senate simply puts into law decades of past practice. Until a few recent court rulings, when a teacher or municipal; worker contract expired, both sides continued to work under the old contract. Judges’ rulings in East Providence (2009) and Warwick (2016) allowed municipal employers to change contract terms once the contract expired.
Lawyers in East Providence received more than $1 million of taxpayer money in legal fees when the School Committee unilaterally changed the contract for East Providence teachers. Instead of costing the taxpayers money, I would argue that the contract continuation bill saves taxpayers money by avoiding unnecessary legal costs.
The bill preserves the status quo. Under the bill, workers do not get raises or additional benefits nor do employers get pay or benefit cuts. Both sides work under the old contract. I am the lobbyist for the Rhode Island Federations of Teachers and Health Professionals and have spoken to dozens of elected officials about this bill. Senators and Representatives understood the unfairness of the current situation and voted 60-12 in the House and 23-7 in the Senate to support the legislation. As a resident of Johnston, I am proud that all of the town’s Senators and Representatives who voted on the bill cast a yes vote on contract continuation.