Sides divided on extending expired city labor contracts

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Should municipal employees and teachers in Rhode Island have their contracts automatically extended while new contracts are negotiated?

That is the question being mulled by the Rhode Island House of Representatives, as they prepare to debate Bill H5593, which “Requires that the contractual provisions contained in and an otherwise expired collective bargaining agreement with certified school teachers and municipal employees continue until a successor agreement has been reached between the parties.”

The bill was introduced by Rep. Camille Vella-Wilkinson (D-District 21, Warwick) and is co-sponsored by Rep. Moira Walsh (D-District 3, Providence) and Rep. Robert Jacquard (D-District 17, Cranston). It has been recommended for approval and now awaits to be discussed on the House floor. According to Larry Berman, spokesman for Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello (D-District 15, Cranston), the bill will be debated later today.

“This bill is actually a bill of equity,” said Vella-Wilkinson. “What this bill takes into account is, number one, to make sure everyone is negotiating fairly, and it also takes into account the best interest of the taxpayers.”

Vella-Wilkinson said the bill aims to take contractual disputes back to a more amicable time. She said the bill would force both sides in a contract dispute to participate in fair negotiations.

“If you’re a member of the negotiating team and you’re going to have to live with this contract until it is superseded by another contract, are you going to give away the house?” Vella-Wilkinson said. “And let’s say they do ask for the store. Who says management is going to agree to that? Management is acting as if the cards are stacked in the favor of labor. That is not the case. Both parties have to agree, otherwise you don’t have the contract.”

The bill faces heavy opposition from lobbyists and municipal leaders who allege the bill will do the exact opposite – discourage contract negotiations and harm the taxpayers.

A letter from the League of Cities and Towns was released on June 20 in opposition to the bill, and was signed by mayors of Central Falls, Cranston, Cumberland, Johnston, North Providence, Pawtucket and Warwick, as well as town managers/administrators from Burrillville, Charlestown, Jamestown, Lincoln, North Smithfield, Smithfield, South Kingstown, West Warwick and Warren.

“The expiration date of collective bargaining agreements is a key component of contract negotiations,” the letter reads. “It motivates the parties to come together and resolve their issues prior to the close of the contract. If, for some reason, the parties do not complete negotiations prior to the contract expiration, we believe that they should be able to extend contracts temporarily if both parties agree.”

“The evergreen contracts proposal in the General Assembly…it’s certainly bad news for any city and town, whether it’s on the city side or even on the school side,” said Cranston Mayor Allan Fung. “It creates a situation of perpetual contracts, particularly with respect to the financials that cities and towns can’t afford and it will be stifling from a management perspective. It’s not something that’s needed, and sadly the unions are pressing this at a time when it’s the end of the session. Certainly we are united as cities and towns in opposition to any such proposal.”

The letter further alleges that, if the bill were successfully adopted, it would discourage unions from signing any new contracts that included less favorable terms for their members, even if economic conditions required the unions to make concessions.

“If this passes and I have to raise taxes, any Johnston Senate representative that votes for this I swear to God I’m putting their name on the tax bill if there’s an increase,” said Johnston Mayor Joseph Polisena. “They have to be a representative of the taxpayers, not the union leaders, and I’m not anti-union I just think that this is very unfair to the taxpayers. We automatically lose our seat at the negotiating table if this passes.”

Cranston State Rep. Robert Lancia (R-District 16, Cranston) initially signed on to the bill and said supported it in a letter to Cranston Teachers Alliance President, Liz Larkin, dated June 13, but he pulled his name off the bill after seeing the opposition against it.

“Everybody was coming out against it,” Lancia said. “I didn’t realize the ramifications of that bill initially. Vella-Wilkinson came up to me asking if I would sign on to the bill, at the time I signed it I didn’t realize the ramifications of the bill and, after listening to testimony, it was going to cost too much for the schools and cities and towns.”

In response to the opposition, Vella-Wilkinson offered a direct retort.

“For the towns and cities to come against it, I find very disingenuous,” she said. “They’re acting as if they’re not original parties to the agreement. The fact of the matter is this bill keeps everyone on the up and up. It prevents administrators from deciding to ‘give away the farm’ because by the time the next contract is up for renewal, perhaps they’ll be out of office. It prevents them from not negotiating with the taxpayer’s best interest in mind so they can garner additional monetary support or labor support during the elections, and so forth.”

It has also been alleged that, should the bill pass, it would open up opportunities for teachers who had previously been fired to revisit grievances and successfully appeal their dismissal, letting them back into their previous teaching positions.

Again, Vella-Wilkinson brushed off this criticism as a scare tactic.

“If management does the appropriate action in taking the time to document [the incident] and provides a training plan to get the individual back on track – if they do all the steps they’re required to and the employee continues to be a bad actor, then they have the ability to terminate,” she said. “This bill is not going to change that at all. It seems to me they’re throwing the kitchen sink at this. They’re trying to prick every potential fear that the general public may have with regards to this.”

When asked if the bill would further delay Warwick contract negotiations that have been ongoing for over two years, Vella-Wilkinson promptly denied it.

“I’ve had the opportunity to speak with Mayor [Scott] Avedisian a couple of weeks ago and he said they were making progress,” she said, following up by saying that this bill has larger implications than just one city. “Right now we’re in the throes of a significant problem with the contracts in Warwick. This could be East Providence, it could be North Kingstown; this could be occurring in any town or city.”

Representative Jacquard said that the bill is an opportunity to show teachers that the public supports their efforts to educate, even though, in his view, charter schools and increased expectations have made the job increasingly difficult in recent decades.

“We need good teachers in this state and we need to support them,” Jacquard said. “They have been under fire. I think this is a really small thing to be able to give them to say that we care about the work they’re doing for our children and we want them to be able to do that work without the worry that they’re not going to have the benefit of a contract between them and their employer honored.”

Tim Duffy, Executive Director of the Rhode Island Association of School Committees, said on Tuesday that if the bill was amended so that only certain elements of the prior contract – such as health care benefits – were extended while new contracts were negotiated, it would have a better chance at gaining support.

Vella-Wilkinson was resistant to such amendments, but Berman confirmed on Wednesday that “both sides are working on a compromise right now.”

A conference of mayors reportedly will be held at Warwick City Hall today at 11 to continue discussion of the controversial bill.

(This story includes reports from Jacob Marrocco and Tim Forsberg)

Comments

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richardcorrente

If the economy in Warwick is going to improve, it needs to be more stable. This bill does just that. No guaranteed raises. No cuts from the previous contract. No hidden clauses. Just keeping things stable until a new contract can be agreed to by all sides. I think it is a great piece of legislation. I wish I had thought of it myself and, one more thing...

WAY-TO-GO-CAMILLE-VELLA-WILKENSON!!

Happy Fourth-of-July everyone.

Rick Corrente

The Taxpayers Mayor

Thursday, June 29
HerbTokerman

Why would unions negotiate in good faith if they have no real reason to do so?

Market conditions (i.e. skyrocketing health insurance premiums) change, contracts will need to be changed so that staff are contributing their fair share of the increased overhead.

What is to stop a union from refusing to negotiate and just accept the current contract indefinitely?

nothing...

Typical RI politicians being union whores.

Thursday, June 29
Scal1024

I agree with Herb. What happens if the economy worsens and health insurance costs continue to rise? If the union is contributing 15% cost share in the old contract towards health insurance and the new contract being proposed requires 30% cost share towards health insurance why would the union negotiate? If the old contract has 3% raises built in, and the new proposal is calling for a 3 year pay freeze why would the union accept that deal? How can you "cut spending" if you aren't able to guarantee you'll be able to gain concessions? Another lie from Rick Corrente to the REAL taxpayers of Warwick.

Rick, you are wrong AGAIN. When mayor after mayor is lining up against this deal, when the league of cities and towns says it is a bad deal for taxpayers. How can you support this legislation? Again your willingness to pander, while showing total ignorance on every major issue facing our city is astonishing. When contract concessions aren't achieved guess what choices the city will be faced with? Raise taxes or cut services.

That is the difference between REAL mayors who actually get elected, and have to craft budgets to make numbers work and FAILED candidates who are all talk and zero substance (see. Corrente '16 mayoral debate). Rick, you once again prove why you and your message lost HUGE in the election.

Thursday, June 29
patientman

This legislation is beyond stupid. When a community contracts (less population, less revenue etc) instead of expands it needs the ability to reduce spending. If a city can't reduce spending, then more population, more jobs and more revenue leave the area. More people lived in Warwick in 1970 than lived here in 2010. It would be interesting to see what % of Warwick's roads and infrastructure budget was in 1970 versus the less than 1% the city has for it today. Mr. Corrente stop embarrassing yourself. Good God what is wrong with some people.

Friday, June 30
Thecaptain

Bear in mind that this legislation was crafted by the former Failed Finance Chair Vella Wilkinson. The city council GIANT PANDA-ER who oversaw failed budget after failed budget. The woman who was fined by the AG for open meetings violations. The woman who openly obstructed the residents from asking questions at the budget hearings and at the actuarial hearing. The woman who completely pandered to every union non-stop. The woman who never asked 1 question during a finance committee meeting. The woman who voted 6 times to raise your taxes. The woman who violated RI Election Laws. The woman who single handedly sabotaged the school restructuring which then cost us $350,000 to get the same results that the VOLUNTEER panel got. The woman who allowed explosive overtime on the fire department, then argued for 2 hours why we shouldn't replace 2 children's slides at our play grounds.

The woman who was sued by a resident. The woman who is a completely financial mess in her own personal life and whose credit is in the toilet. The woman with zero management skills.

Come to think of it, she has alot in common with MAYOR DUMBNESS.

Friday, June 30
Kammy

For me a picture was worth a thousand words: A room filled with Union bigwigs that came out in force for this bill. Nothing else needs to be said. We have been held hostage by unions in this state and this bill gives them even more leverage. I am disappointed and frankly dismayed. We can no longer support the old way of doing business.

Friday, June 30
DanElliott

Mr. Corrente,

You campaigned for Mayor on a platform of cut taxes, cut spending. You reminded voters over and over that in 10 years, 5,000 taxpayers and 4,000 businesses have left our city. So families are fleeing Warwick, public school enrollment is declining sharply, and now your solution is to resurrect decades-old contracts that will adversely impact taxpayers and schoolchildren?

With 9,000 fewer businesses and taxpayers (your own numbers) paying for Warwick Schools, you want us to cap staffing adjustments, preserve arbitrary weighting, provide 90 paid sick days per teacher per year, and subvert State regulations: hiring based on seniority and not teaching expertise, and failing to utilize a RI Dept. of Education approved evaluation system? The cognitive dissonance you're showing us here is breathtaking.

You can continue openly pandering to the unions, going after that precious PAC money, or you can speak out and oppose these excesses at the expense of the taxpayers. The hard working people of Warwick have grown tired of this routine, and many have given up and moved away. Our public schools are failing our children, and we need a new strategy to rebuild and revitalize them into centers of excellence for future generations. When you come out in support of bills like this one, your true colors shine through. "Cut taxes, cut spending" comes across as just another empty campaign promise. The voters are looking for leadership, not perpetual tax increases to preserve corrupt Rhode Island politics as usual.

Happy Independence Day,

Dan Elliott

Greenwood

Sunday, July 2
richardcorrente

Dear HerbTokerman,

First, I commend you for having the integrity of using your real name.

Second, to answer your honest question: Why would unions negotiate in good faith if they have no real reason to do so? Because this bill encourages then to do so. Any new contract request is for more money. This bill says they can't get there today but while the teachers are waiting for the School Committee to meet with them at the bargaining table the teachers can at least get the compensation of the old contract. It brings stability to the otherwise tense situation.

Dear Scal,

If you can put aside the vicious personal attacks for a minute, you will find that I am agreeing with you in principle. You ask "What happens if the economy worsens and health insurance costs continue to rise?" An excellent point Scal, and one that would be sincerely considered in the negotiations for the new contract but not in the extension of the old one. The "Cut spending" part of The Corrente Plan Scal, is in the form of reducing the compensation of any new employees and offering pension buyout plans similar to the ones being offered in Texas, but Scal, you already know that. I have explained it to you several times. I know the Mayor wants you to attack me but can't you come up with anything better than this?

Wasn't the bill "recommended for approval"? And just because you claim you don't understand my plan, that doesn't make it a lie Scal. You say "When contract concessions aren't achieved guess what choices the city will be faced with? Raise taxes or cut services." You are being short-sighted...again. Under my plan Warwick can increase total tax revenue WITHOUT increasing taxes-per-taxpayer. The Corrente Plan for tax rebates to attract new home buyers will increase total tax REVENUE without increasing TAXES. In fact I believe it will allow us to decrease them. The Corrente Plan for a two year moratorium for building permits will cost Warwick a small-money loss in permit fees today with a big-money gain of new tax revenue forever, once again increasing total tax revenue without the need to increase taxes. So you see, Scal, this is NOT "all talk and zero substance" as you say. You, on the other hand, haven't offered one idea, not one plan to better the City of Warwick.

Finally you say "Rick, you prove how you and your message lost HUGE in the election". But you're wrong AGAIN old friend. True, I received 13,278 votes, more than ANY previous opponent of the Mayor, but it was not enough to win the election...this time. But there has been so much talk around the city about "Cut taxes - Cut spending" that ALL NINE MEMBERS OF THE WARWICK CITY COUNCIL VOTED AGAINST ALL OF THE MAYORS TAX-INCREASING AMENDMENTS!! Even the Mayor, when given the chance to veto the budget decided not to, calling himself "a political realist". You see Scal; the message didn't "lose HUGE". In fact, the message WON HUGE! I am proud to be part of that movement and Scal, 2018 is around the corner. and I have 13,278 voters / taxpayers / supporters as my base. See you then old friend.

Dear Patientman,

I totally agree with you when you say we need to cut spending because we have far less people today as compared to 1070. But Vella-Wilkensons bill doesn't give more tax dollars to the teachers, (or less for that matter) which I agree with you is being divided up by A LOT LESS TEACHERS THAN BEFORE. The problem is, that the School Committee is demanding even more money in their budget, in spite of the declining number of teachers. That's why Patientman, I have campaigned that we should not give the SCHOOL COMMITTEE a dime until they agree to an audit. If you say "Good God what is wrong with some people?", then I believe that statement applies to the current mayor who continues to give $160,000,000+- of the taxpayers hard-earned money to the School Committee with no accountability whatsoever. My plan is to make them 100% accountable to the taxpayers BEFORE THEY RECEIVE A DIME! And Patientman, my plan is something I worked very hard on. I'm very proud of it, and if you are unable to think of a BETTER plan then even you will have to admit that The Corrente Plan is the best plan.

Dear Dan Elliott,

I believe that this bill gives a degree of stability to our teachers while they are waiting for the School Committee to arrive at the bargaining table. You have every right to disagree. The bill seems to be gaining popularity in the state house but I don't see how you can accuse me of "going after that precious PAC money" when you know that I have always refused any PAC donation checks! In fact there was a full page ad in the Warwick Beacon that shows a picture of me and Career politician Mayor Avedisian. He accepted 237 checks from PAC's. I accepted ZERO CHECKS DAN! How can you accuse me of "openly pandering to the unions" Dan? I never accepted, and will never accept their money. It has too many strings attached. My loyalty is, and will always be, to the Warwick Taxpayer.You owe me an apology Dan. You did say, however that "the voters are looking for leadership, not perpetual tax increases." I wholeheartedly agree Dan. You should read The Corrente Plan. You just described it perfectly.

Happy Fourth of July Herb, Scal, Patientman, and Dan.

Once more...

WAY-TO-GO-CAMILLE-VELLA-WILKENSON!!

Happy Fourth of July everyone.

Rick Corrente

The Taxpayers Mayor

Monday, July 3
richardcorrente

Dear Kammy,

I read your comments and wondered; are the "Union bigwigs" in the room in favor of this legislation or "FIRMLY OPPOSED" as the caption under the picture states?

For the record, I agree with everything else you stated.

Happy Fourth of July Kammy

Rick Corrente

The Taxpayers Mayor

Monday, July 3
CrickeeRaven

Hello DanElliott:

You should be aware that the claim of lost businesses by the "fake" mayor is demonstrably, objectively false. It is a lie that he cobbled together from two unrelated sources, and that he has never, in spite of several reminders of its falsehood, corrected.

Please take a few moments to read the following article, which properly compares data from three sources and finds that Warwick has had no such reduction in its business sector. All of the information is supported with links and documents that you can review on your own: http://warwickpost.com/numbers-game-corrente-claims-of-lost-businesses-dont-add-up/

You should also know that the fake "mayor" has never produced any such documentation for his claim of 237 "PAC checks" to the current mayor. All he has said, in his typically bullying fashion, is that anyone questioning his assertion should look up the campaign finance reports themselves. Maybe you agree that this is hardly the kind of behavior that should be exhibited by someone who wants to be taken seriously.

His apparent pride in "not accepting" PAC funds completely ignores his total inability to attract even the barest of support from any donors at all; in fact, the current mayor raised five times as much in private donations in one quarter than the fake "mayor" could collect in an entire year. This is a man who sought to buy the mayor's office with his own money, plain and simple, and he is trying to maintain the facade of popularity by using this site to post his statements.

If anyone should apologize, it is the man who calls himself "mayor" despite losing an election 65-35% and who claims to represent taxpayers when he, himself, is a proven tax delinquent.

Undoubtedly, the losing failure fake "mayor" will continue embarrassing himself on this site in his next comments.

Monday, July 3
CrickeeRaven

Looks like the fake "mayor" already embarrassed himself in a prior comment, crediting HerbTokerman with using his real name. I wonder, is his birthday 4/20?

As he has shown time and again, the losing failure fake "mayor" has a nearly unlimited capacity to make a fool of himself; he will undoubtedly continue that trend in his next comment.

Monday, July 3
Scal1024

Rick, what "vicious personal attacks" are you referring to? If pointing out your lies and flaws is vicious and personal well then yes, guilty as charged.

You told anyone who would listen the city was near bankruptcy. If that is true I ask: How can we afford rebate checks? How can we afford freezing permit fees? Or paying car taxes for seniors and veterans or pension buyouts? You say by attracting new taxpayers. That doesn't happen immediately or in a year or two. If this city is as broke as you say then the cost of your plans upfront would put the city in dire financial standing. Not to mention you have never attributed a single cost to ANY of these plans. They are just words on a website. When asked you told me you wouldn't put it out there for me to attack. Isn't that part of running for mayor? Very telling that you couldn't be honest with the taxpayers that you foolishly claim you represent. You should be letting the taxpayers look at your plans, and their cost so they can make an honest judgement. Instead you lie and make excuses because the truth is there is ZERO substance to these plans and you have no clue what they cost.

Again you accuse me of "attacking" you on behalf of the mayor. Another lie for which you have no proof, and for which there is no substance to. Does Rob Cote also attack you on behalf of the mayor? He has proven you to be fraud and a liar several times for the same reasons i have. He along with everyone else knows you would be a train wreck for this city.

Good call on Herb Tokerman also. Another stellar job by the losing candidate for mayor. Herb's cousins with RI Hall of Famers Dawn Keiballs and Seymour Butts. I look forward to another post of Corrente's greatest hits of pandering, excuses and once again ignoring my claims about what his plans will cost the city now and in the future. He'll also ignore the fact that AGAIN i answer that NO i don't work for the Mayor, on behalf or for any PACs associated with his campaign. It doesn't take a genius to see he is a much better candidate than you will ever be.

Monday, July 3
Thecaptain

Have you all noticed how the Non-Taxpayer Mayor will deliver rhetorical comments to you all but fails to address any comment that I make to him. That is because he knows he will be slaughtered by facts and eviscerated in public, AGAIN. For example, I have asked him numerous times to indicate which line item in the budget that he will commit funds from to institute his "Buy a House, Get a Check" plan. He fails to answer the simple question due to the fact that he has no working knowledge of the budget system. I have challenged him numerous times on this site to have a public debate on any civics issues, I will pay for the venue and feed anyone that comes, he fails to answer. He continually lies that he only owed "1 PENNY" ON HIS CAR TAXES. He even lacks the basic knowledge to realize that anyone can look it up and see how much was overdue and when he paid it (2 years late). He has failed to answer the question as to where his car was registered after it came off the tax rolls in 2013 - 2015 during the time that he was living as a squatter not paying taxes and defaulting on his mortgage at 177 Grand View Dr. and not paying his utility bills.

What few comments he has made at council meetings border on mental illness but clearly exemplify buffoonery indicating no working knowledge of our budgetary system.

He fails to recognize the inefficiency that is plaguing our city which is a direct result of political pandering to unions and the entitlement mentality.

He fails to see that perpetual contracts hold the taxpayer hostage and that the unions will always want more no matter what the revenue stream generates. They will never take cuts for adjustments to the economy, never. He continues to pander to people like Vella Wilkinson who was a disaster for Warwick and a danger to Rhode Island. Another blowhard union panda-er concerned only for herself.

On another interesting note., has anyone realized that the mainstream media completely ignored Corrente? He got no press other than what he purchased from this publication. He had a 2 minute spot on channel 12 at 6 am where his plastered on Gilbert Godfried smile was only superseded by his inability to articulate anything sound ! That is why he had 1 and only `1, 2 minute segment.

WPRO outright refused to even speak with him on air. As a regular guest of WPRO, I asked the question. The answer was "NO INTEREST, WASTE OF TIME".

Furthermore, to run for office with a graveyard of financial skeletons and litigation in your closet shows the "DUMBNESS" that we have become so accustomed to hearing (in print) on this blog.

Can you imagine if Corrente got elected to any position, the cost of medical care the city would incur paying for all of his psychiatric care? That in itself would bankrupt the city.

Tuesday, July 4
Scal1024

Captain, I'd ask that you just copy and paste the above comment under any future comment Corrente makes. Well said and thank you for AGAIN calling out this fool.

Tuesday, July 4
CrickeeRaven

Hello again, Scal1024:

Like you, I wonder how the fake "mayor" justifies his claim that you work for the current mayor; for one thing, I find it difficult to believe that your astute observations of his pathetic behavior are somehow only attributable to those associated with the current duly elected mayor.

It is also rather pathetic, don't you think, that someone calling himself "mayor" and claiming to be a "servant" of the actual taxpaying residents of Warwick has still not accepted their overwhelming rejection of his losing candidacy?

And like Thecaptain, I have regularly noticed how the fake "mayor" goes silent when confronted with the actual, verifiable truth that proves him a liar. It seems we all agree that anyone purporting to be a "servant" of the voters would actually show the barest responsibility to prove their statements instead of hiding from the truth.

Tuesday, July 4
davebarry109

This state is so corrupt. This union giveaway will cripple pensions systems and ultimately bring us all down. The union's are so greedy they cannot see that this will lead to bankruptcy and the end of their little party. Just look at Illinois to see what happens when democratic controlled teachers unions and others have their way. Bankruptcy. A state as large as Illinois is nearly bankrupt. Welcome to RI.

Wednesday, July 5