2009-07-02 / Letters to the Editor

State bargaining law needs teeth

The state’s collective bargaining laws need teeth. Communities deserve statutory language that strengthens and protects managerial rights. Appallingly, last week’s passage by the R.I. Senate of a bill that would lock in place expired teacher contracts gives all the teeth to the unions.

In no other state does a bargaining impasse trigger the unlimited extension of an expired teacher contract. Rhode Island would be the first.

In most states, when an impasse is reached, a school committee can implement unilaterally any terms or conditions reasonably embraced by proposals made at the bargaining table. In a handful of states, school committees can unilaterally implement these terms once other avenues, such as mediation or arbitration, have been exhausted.

If passed by the House, this legislation will undercut the effort by the East Providence School Committee to save its school system.

A recent Providence Journal editorial (“Stop Special Interest Law,” June 21) posed the question of whether taxpayers are “truly so poorly represented at the state house.” Let’s hope that the House has the courage and foresight to respond to this seemingly rhetorical question by rejecting the proposed legislation.

Taxpayers can hold only one side of the bargaining table accountable–the elected school committee. When statutory language does not protect and preserve managerial rights, the public loses control of public education.
Cathy Kaiser, Chair
Jamestown School

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