Tilted Labor Relations All Around the State


The Providence Journal editorial board points to one of those deep details of state government that does more damage than the average voter probably realizes.  The subject is the State Labor Relations Board (SLRB):

It is supposed to include three members representing labor, three representing management, and one representing the “public.” What could be fairer?

Except the politicians’ appointments heavily tilt the board toward labor.

Board Chairman Walter Lanni, appointed by Gov. Lincoln Almond in 2000, is supposedly in the management camp. But he served for more than two decades on the executive board of the Cranston firefighters union, securing extraordinarily generous contracts for union members.

Another “management” appointee is lawyer Alberto Aponte Cardona, who has represented public employees and is the brother of Democratic Providence City Council member Luis Aponte.

However experienced and dedicated to public service they might be, these hardly seem like rock-ribbed defenders of the interests of management and business. There are plenty of other business people, surely, available to serve.

To my experience, among those who negotiate contracts in Rhode Island, it’s well understood that the SLRB is a dead end for managers seeking protection of their rights — basically an added step (and expense) before getting into an actual court.  (And the courts are only fair in comparison.)

Of course, the SLRB is only one gear in the machine tilting things toward organized labor.  Last week, Democrat state Representative John “Jay” Edwards told the Tiverton Town Council that the way to get legislation passed is to ask the local unions to put in bills.  (I’ll have a post on that in the near future.)

All of this raises a concern that it’s impossible to have truly good faith negotiations in the Ocean State.  When legislators use bills to put a thumb on the scale for labor unions during specific negotiations and the SLRB can’t be trusted to keep labor relations fair, there can be no doubt who holds sway.

A related problem is that simply grousing about the inequity in local publications is going to have absolutely no effect.  We need a concerted effort to disrupt the political fortunes of those who resist change toward a more fair arrangement, and few are willing to make themselves that clear of a target.

  • ShannonEntropy

    You are now a public official in Tiverton and in a position to take on these unions, Justin… but I would tread Verrrrrry carefully if I were you

    Last millenium, a friend of mine was appointed by the governor to a State board that oversees one of Rhody’s largest corporations that, due to the nature of its business, is both heavily regulated / intertwined with gum-mint *and* heavily involved with several large labor unions

    This poor guy somehow got mixed up in some dumb-ask dispute between one of those unions and the corp’s directors. He then got his cars’ tires slashed; his home vandalized; and was the recipient of multiple threatening emails & voice mails. The State Police were almost aggressively dismissive of the entire affair

    He ended up resigning from that board — wouldn’t you ?? — retiring and moving to Florida

    Just watch yerself, is what I’m sayin’ ….

    • Joe Smith

      Arbitration isn’t that much better either. Only refuge for now is Superior court; of course, continued Democratic governors won’t help that. GOP would be smart to back McKee in 2022 – only electable person in the current environment who could bring some management friendly appointments. The unions will be gunning to defeat him – not a bad deal with “enemy you know” for the GOP to back him and use the dollars in local races..

  • stuckinRI

    “retiring and moving to Florida” – seems like the only way to escape this place. I know more and more folks doing just that, most of them having been public servants here in RI. Think about that, our tax dollars pay their salaries, pay for their benefits, including a pension. Then once they retire they GTFO and move to a much more friendly state. You’re welcome Florida.

  • Rhett Hardwick

    If I recall my economic history correctly, it was unions that destroyed British industry in the 70’s and created the political wisdom that “government cannot win a strike”. Britain basically nationalized the auto industry and succumbed to strike after strike. In the 70’s there were about a dozen British “British Cars”. Try and name one now. The names still exist but they are owned by Ford, BMW, VW and several Indian companies. About Swedish socialism, Volvo is now a Chinese company. Of course, Chryslers are now FIATs. perhaps I picked the wrong industry.