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.