Legislators don’t tackle ‘evergreen’ veto override

Posted

The decision of the House leadership not to override the governor’s veto of what has become known as the “evergreen bill” dealt a psychological blow to unions while local leaders applaud the decision.

Johnston Mayor Joseph Polisena, who lobbied for the governor’s veto, said in a phone interview last week that he thought unions would delay contract talks if there were an override. He thought binding arbitration would even be preferable.

“If I don’t like an award from an arbitrator, I can always go to the Superior Court, appeal it, and then if they uphold the arbitration it goes to Supreme Court, but at least I have two avenues. With the lifetime contracts I might as well throw the keys on the table and say, ‘Here you go, run the place, I’m going on Slack’s Pond on my boat,” he said.

He was elated with the outcome Wednesday. He said “we” met with Mattiello at 1 p.m. Tuesday to express their opposition.

“I think the speaker understands. I suggested, if there is going to be a compromise next time around, that the mayors are a part of the conversation. We’re not anti-union; this is just so anti-taxpayers that it would tip the scales way over to the union side,” he said.

In an email Wednesday Mayor Scott Avedisian said, “The House deciding not to make action on the governor’s veto leaves the mediation and arbitration processes front and center.” He said it would be interesting to see if Warwick teachers agree to the arbitration ruling.

Up until Tuesday afternoon it was unclear whether House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello would bring an override before legislators even though the unions were strongly pressuring him and representatives to do so. According to reports, the unions mounted a $90,000 advertising campaign in support of the argument that the contracts of municipal unions should remain in force until a new pact is negotiated. Darlene Netcoh, president of the Warwick Teachers Union, in a Sept. 12 letter to legislators appealed for an override. Representatives said emails and calls were five-to-one in favor of an override.

Reasoning that the legislation would impair incentives to reach a contract and that the bill would push up costs that would be borne by taxpayers, town and city mayors and managers urged denial of the bill when it came up in the closing days of the session.

“I’m glad the speaker and the Senate president heard the concerns of the mayors and decided not to take up this issue,” said Cranston Mayor Allan Fung.

Despite opposition from cities and towns in late June, the House and the Senate approved the bill introduced by Warwick Representative and former Ward 3 Councilwoman Camille Vella-Wilkinson.

Governor Gina Raimondo sided with municipal leaders, vetoing the measure when it reached her desk.

In her veto message Raimondo said, “It ties the hands of our municipal leaders and ultimately binds our taxpayers to contracts that would never end. Rhode Island already has some of the highest property taxes in the country and I cannot support legislation that would increase this burden on everyday Rhode Islanders.”

An override seemed certain if Mattiello had put it on the calendar for Tuesday’s one-day session aimed at cleaning up a number of bills that had been passed by either the House or the Senate and were slated for a vote but went into limbo when the speaker ended the House session on June 30 before Tuesday’s 10 p.m. session, therefore became the focus of those supporting an override.

Raimondo was closely following developments and, when questioned at the CCRI Knight Campus Tuesday afternoon, said she heard the override wouldn’t come up. She remained cautious.

“We’ve been working hard to make sure they don’t override it. The mayors have been making a lot of noise. I feel good about it,” she said.

On Wednesday Netcoh said she was disappointed the House hadn’t taken up the override.

“The basic principle here is that this law would codify what has been labor practice in this state for 40 years. And it would just codify what the Rhode Island State Labor Relations Board ruled and the courts upheld in 1992,” she said. She went on to say teachers in the state, including Warwick teachers, frequently went on strike because their contracts expired and the school committees decided to violate it.

“Since 1992 there haven’t been any teachers’ strikes. And now here we are at the 25th anniversary of the big one in Warwick where teachers wound up in jail, and here we have a school committee again violating the terms and conditions of our agreement,” she said.

How close it came to an override is difficult to gauge. Some House members said an override “was in play until the last hour” with pressure coming from the Senate for an override.

No question there was Senate support for the bill.

Senate Majority Leader Michael McCaffrey of Warwick thought the Senate would have overridden the veto had the House done so. He acknowledged some members “were pushing for an override” and that, like representatives, senators were being pressured for an override.

He found it ironic that Tim Duffy, executive director and lobbyist for the Rhode Island Association of School Committees who had strongly opposed binding arbitration on teacher contracts – a measure that passed the Senate but not the House a couple of years ago – would suggest binding arbitration as an alternative to the evergreen bill.

Asked what an override would have done for Warwick teacher contract talks McCaffrey said, “I think it could have potentially helped it.” He said teachers would have been at the table “knowing they have a contract.”

So far the court hasn’t agreed with the union and a finding by the state Labor Relations Board going back years that terms of the prior contract remain in effect until a new contract is in place. The court ruled in favor of the School Committee when the union challenged the administration’s action to layoff more than 20 teachers with the consolidation of secondary schools.

Additionally, the union has submitted more than two-dozen grievances under terms of the prior contract that the court is being asked to adjudicate. Superior Court Justice Jeffrey Lanphear was scheduled to make a ruling on those issues last month, but the hearing was postponed when attorneys for the union couldn’t be present.

Before leaving on a trade mission to Ireland last week, Mayor Avedisian told a Conimicut Village Association town meeting that he thought the sides were very close to an agreement last month and he had even gone so far as informing City Council President Joseph Solomon to expect a call. Avedisian would have been looking for Solomon’s read on possible additional city funding to close the deal.

Avedisian said talks broke down when the School Committee insisted that talks be confined to unresolved issues and the union wanted everything on the table. Since then Avedisian, who joined attorney Vincent Ragosta in an effort to mediate an agreement, has offered to bring the parties together again. The teachers have not responded.

Meanwhile, interest arbitration has concluded and arbitrator Michael Ryan is expected to render his findings within the next 30 days. Ryan disclosed to the parties his “leanings” and it was on the basis of those that the committee based its last offer of no retroactive pay increase for the first year of no contract followed by 2.5 percent retroactive for a part of last year followed by 3 percent raises for this year and the next two years. The offer was rejected, as was the union’s counter offer for 3 percent raises for each of the five years.

In an email Superintendent Philip Thornton said, “Never ending contracts are not in the best interest of any city or town. I am pleased to hear that the state legislators will not override the governor’s veto.”

Includes reports from Ethan Hartley, Jacob Marrocco and Tim Forsberg

Comments

12 comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment
Justanidiot

Public unions had a win with this veto. Had it been overridden, the Man would have no incentive to come to the bargaining table. You have a contract, get to work. Have a nice day.

Thursday, September 21
richardcorrente

Camille Vella-Wilkenson wrote a bill that said basically the teachers would be paid "something" while they were negotiating any new contract. It struck me as a "minimum wage - minimum rights" sort of issue so teachers would have the stability of knowing they wouldn't be taken advantage of. Her bill would have encouraged negotiations. Without it, we have the present stalemate that benefits no one ESPECIALLY the students. Her critics said she would never get it approved but her bill passed both the Rhode Island House and Senate, to which I say "WAY-TO-GO-CAMILLE-VELLA-WILKINSON!"

Sadly, the Governor sided with Mayor Avedisian and the other Mayors that want greater control than I believe they should have. As a result the School Committee has too much power to decide what part of the expired contract they wish to honor. The Warwick teachers are literally at the mercy of the School Department. That is just plain wrong. For the record...As Mayor, I would NOT support Governor Riamondo's veto of this bill. As Mayor, I would support Camilles' bill.

Happy Autumn State Representative Camille Vella Wilkinson.

Happy Autumn everyone.

Rick Corrente

The Taxpayers Mayor

Thursday, September 21
CrickeeRaven

"The Warwick teachers are literally at the mercy of the School Department."

Taken from the above article, which the fake "mayor" conveniently ignores:

"So far the court hasn’t agreed with the union and a finding by the state Labor Relations Board going back years that terms of the prior contract remain in effect until a new contract is in place. The court ruled in favor of the School Committee when the union challenged the administration’s action to layoff more than 20 teachers with the consolidation of secondary schools.

"Additionally, the union has submitted more than two-dozen grievances under terms of the prior contract that the court is being asked to adjudicate. Superior Court Justice Jeffrey Lanphear was scheduled to make a ruling on those issues last month, but the hearing was postponed when attorneys for the union couldn’t be present...

"Since then Avedisian, who joined attorney Vincent Ragosta in an effort to mediate an agreement, has offered to bring the parties together again. The teachers have not responded."

The teachers union has used every legal avenue at its disposal to get a favorable contract, including grievances, court cases, and intervention by the sitting mayor. This is not being "at the mercy" of the school committee.

Thursday, September 21
PaulHuff

Richard....you're pandering again. Please stop.

Thursday, September 21
CrickeeRaven

Hello PaulHuff:

It is curious why someone trying to become an elected official would seek to reduce contract leverage for them.

With your incisive reply, you provided the answer: He is pandering again.

Thank you for again calling out the fake "mayor."

Thursday, September 21
richardcorrente

Dear PaulHuff,

You can call it pandering if you wish. I call it giving credit where it is due. I also criticize when that is due. Your request that I "please stop" is an attempt to stifle free speech. Sorry. Won't do it.

I did check with the Beacon on your behalf and they confirmed with me that when I write a comment you are under no obligation to read it.

Happy Autumn PaulHuff.

Happy Autumn everyone.

Rick Corrente

The Taxpayers Mayor

Friday, September 22
CrickeeRaven

Hello PaulHuff:

In addition to the already-voluminous list of things the fake "mayor" gets wrong, "understanding the First Amendment" can now be included.

"Your request that I 'please stop' is an attempt to stifle free speech."

For one thing, this website is owned and managed by a corporation, which sets and maintains rules for its use [something the fake "mayor" has been reminded of again and again when he has bullied other commenters for their use of pseudonyms, which is allowed by the owners of the site]. It is not a public forum in the same way that, for example, City Hall is, and users are not provided the same protections for their statements on this website as they would in a public forum. [If he were to visit the recent article on Mayor Avedisian going to Ireland, the fake "mayor" would see that his false statements were removed from the comments, presumably by an editorial staffer who saw that, however thoroughly his claims were disproven, the fake "mayor" persisted in repeating them.]

Secondly, his whining about being asked to stop pandering to Rep. Vella-Wilkinson and the teachers union is further proof of his unfitness for office, as he again shows his inability to take even the slightest criticism.

Thirdly, his claim about "check[ing] with the Beacon" should be taken with as much credibility as the other claims he has made -- zero.

And lastly, that he should petulantly and hypocritically insist on his right to use this site to continue his stealth campaign, while telling other users to "get a life" or to not read the site, shows that he thinks a losing campaign, record of tax delinquencies, and long list of disproven claims somehow still earns him the right to dictate other users' behavior on a site he does not own or mange.

Friday, September 22
Kammy

I had the absolute pleasure of directing a fellow Warwick citizen to the comment section of the Beacon this past week so they could get a peek at the person who was going around calling himself the taxpayers mayor. We were talking about the city and the WTU contract. She had some conflicting thoughts about the current situation. I told her that if she were to read a few articles she would see Corrente's comments on just about any random one she picked and she might feel better about her election decisions. She was dumbfounded by what she read. While she believed it was pretty cost-effective to use the comment section to campaign, she had to concede that he was shooting himself in the foot. Most normal, average, intelligent citizens can see through what he is trying to do. Before I used to get irritated that he was taking credit for things he had ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH. Now, I find it supremely humorous and I am sure it will come in handy as we get closer to election season. He is his own "What Not To Do When Trying To Win a Mayoral Race"!

Friday, September 22
CrickeeRaven

Hello again Kammy:

Thank you for your insightful anecdote about how people in Warwick regard the fake "mayor." It was especially instructive to read how your friend saw his behavior as using the comment section "to campaign."

As you may be aware, the fake "mayor" has maintained his campaign in "active" status with the Rhode Island Board of Elections. With other campaigns, this typically means that they engage in fundraising activities in preparation for the next election -- not the fake "mayor," though. Instead, he apparently feels that this status gives him the ability to get free publicity and exposure for his next run.

It is further very clear that all of this behavior is meant to support his candidacy in 2018 because he regularly ends his comments with the imaginary title of "taxpayers mayor," rather than his own name.

Thus, it is quite evident that the fake "mayor" has been engaging in a stealth campaign to mislead readers and voters, one which you and many other commenters on this site have seen through very easily. I take additional comfort in knowing that new readers likewise understand the antics of the fake "mayor" for what they are.

Friday, September 22
ronloparto

The Democrat Governor, 39 Cities and Towns Mayors, Administrators, Managers, City and Town Councils,Superintendent, School Depts, School Committees and more, Elected by Taxpayers All said No. The Entire State House knew this Bill by Vella-Wilkinson was Illegal and no good. No one was crazy enough to call for a vote. These areTaxpayer elected officials not a Representative Elected with 2500 votes where 60% of the Voters in her District said they don't want her.

When the Bill told Taxpayers, even if your city or town fall on Hard Times (which does happen) and the contract was signed years ago in a Boom! Tough, You have to pay the same high price. That's stealing. Every leadership Supporter was paid by these special interest.

No Taxpayer, City or town needs to be told how and when to spend Their money by any paid off politician.

Rightfully Vella-Wilkinsons Bill had No Support and was Stealing from the Taxpayers! Intelligent negotiations are in order.

Friday, September 22
davebarry109

Isn't McCaffrey or one of his brothers a teacher? Shouldn't he recuse himself from this taxpayer held hostage legislation?

Monday, September 25
ThatGuyInRI

Ahem...as I've said before, the Sunset clause does not apply, ask the teachers in E.P. this is a long ago decided upon issue and it went against the teachers and their "unions."

Only the WTU (or it's ancient minded leadership) has steadfastly refused to acknowledge facts. This helps no one. It's time for the WTU to find new leadership and deal with the reality of the situation; they are not a union, have no power at all and need to find new leadership and deal with the world as it is, not as they wish it would be.

As a Warwick resident with kids in the school system, I hope the WTU and School Committee comes to their senses and gets this done before any and all morale that remains is destroyed.

Monday, September 25