The Stillwater News Press today writes about Senator Holt’s binding arbitration bill. Stillwater is ground zero for this issue, as last year the tax dollars belonging to the people of Stillwater were placed in the hands of one arbitrator, a Humble, TX attorney who ruled in favor of the unions and wrote in his opinion that he “admits to an inherent distrust of all politicians,” but apparently not labor unions. Two points of clarification regarding the below – The so-called election option cited by the union officials is not practical for many reasons, which is why it has only been used less than 20 times, out of the thousands of negotiations conducted over the last 17 years. The arbitrator has had the final say for 17 years, and Senator Holt’s bill puts that power back into the hands of the taxpayers and their elected representatives. Also, if the previous contract runs out without an agreement, the previous terms would apply.
An Oklahoma City lawmaker has introduced a bill that would repeal binding arbitration — a system that has recently been used in Stillwater police contract negotiations.
“Binding arbitration has taken the power to make spending decisions away from Oklahoma taxpayers and placed it in the hands of unaccountable out-of-state attorneys,” said Republican Sen. David Holt. “Not surprisingly, a bad system has created bad results: Tax increases, more burdens on pension systems, and cutbacks in core services, including public safety.”
Since being enacted in 1994, binding arbitration has been the state’s system of resolving contract disputes between municipal governments and their employees. When the two sides cannot agree on a contract in negotiations or there is a contract dispute, the matter will be settled by an arbitration panel.
The panel is composed of one arbitrator chosen by both the union and city and a third who is known as the unbiased arbitrator who is usually from out of state. Both sides submit their last best offer, and the panel will choose one. The arbitrators must choose one or the other and cannot broker a compromise.
In 2010, Stillwater’s branch of the Fraternal Order of Police went to binding arbitration with the city after negotiations on a new contract broke down. The panel eventually ruled in favor of the police union. Stillwater and its firefighter union have seen cases in arbitration in recent years.
Holt, who served as chief of staff to the Oklahoma City mayor for nearly five years, said he considered the recent Stillwater police case and others when he drafted the legislation.
“That arbitrator’s ruling was one of the most outrageous documents I have ever seen,” Holt said referring to the opinion. “At the state level, we would never allow an attorney from Texas to tell Oklahomans how we must spend our money and then leave us with the bill,” Holt said, “but that is exactly what’s happened at the local level for 17 years.”
Holt said that if the system is repealed, an arbitrator would work more like a mediator who tries to broker a deal between the two sides instead of picking between two offers.
“An arbitrator could come in with a Solomon-like wisdom and fashion a compromise,” Holt said.
Holt added that now is the perfect time to pass the bill. He said binding arbitration was enacted in 1994 in an overwhelmingly Democratic Legislature and that the Republican-dominated state government should make it a priority to do away with laws slanted toward special interest groups.
Stillwater City Councilor Darrell Dougherty said he favors Holt’s bill because binding arbitration takes control of city budget issues away from the officials taxpayers elected to make those decisions.
Dougherty also argued that the system gives city employees just as much say in their pay as the city that employs them. He added that would be unheard of in the private sector.
“A good business plan anywhere says that you offer the best benefits and salary package you can to get the best employees you can,” Dougherty said.
He added that the current collective bargaining agreement rewards below average employees while not letting the city give incentives to above average employees.
Stillwater police union President Todd Parry disagrees with the idea that binding arbitration takes the power away from taxpayers. Parry pointed out that under the current binding arbitration law the city has the option to put a decision in favor of the union to a public vote.
“The people can reject it,” Parry said. “Ultimately, those are the people who run the government.”
Parry added that he disagrees with the argument that cost of an election is prohibitive. He said the a city could easily piggyback the measure on any of its regularly scheduled elections.
“Police officers are prohibited to strike, and that’s why we have (the protection of binding arbitration,” Parry said. “There is no teeth (in the old system.)”
Union attorney Jim Moore said that repealing binding arbitration doesn’t solve the issues that led to binding arbitration in the first place. Moore represents police and fire unions in arbitration and represented the Stillwater Fraternal Order of Police in its 2010 binding arbitration.
Moore participated in the 1993 case of Del City vs Fraternal Order of Police, which he said led to the need for binding arbitration. In that case, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that the “evergreen clause” was unconstitutional. That clause previously said that if the two sides could not agree on a new contract, the contract from the previous year would roll over.
Moore said this means that if a city and union can’t agree by the end of the year, the two sides would be without a contract. He added that binding arbitration was put in place the following year to ensure that the two sides could settle the dispute quickly before the existing contract ran out.
“That level of frustration will eventually boil over into very nasty situations,” Moore said.
Today would have been my maternal grandfather Col. Leonard Fuller’s 100th birthday. We were fortunate to have him until he was 96; the last three of those years, Rachel and I were his caregivers. His service to his nation (in the U.S. Army for a quarter-century) and his community (McAlester, OK, where he ran Model Cities) are an inspiration to me. This is the eulogy I delivered at his funeral in 2007:
When a 96-year old man dies, it is not typically the occasion to shake your fist at the heavens and ask why. And yet, for many of us, this week has been very difficult. How, after 96 years, could we not be prepared? I think it is because our world has lost someone that will not easily be replaced.
Leonard Hayes Fuller was the most generous, loving, gentlemanly, caring, honest, dedicated, principled, civic-minded man any of us have ever known. The Lord rarely makes them like Grandad.
Now, before I go on, I know each of us called Leonard Fuller many names – Leonard, Mr. Fuller, Col. Fuller, Uncle Chief, Chief, Len, Dad. For me, it was Grandad, and that’s what I’ll call him today.
Grandad represented a touchstone for this family, and has done so for many decades. I think a part of each of us began to believe he might in fact outlive us, and there was some comfort in that. It’s hard to accept that we must go on without him.
Grandad also represented the last contemporary link to a great generation in our family, tied together by the Robinsons of Crowder. The Fullers, the Murdaughs, the Holts – we all come together through the Robinsons. And finally, the last member of that generation in our families’ history is gone. But the stories of Rachel Robinson ringing the necks of chickens live on.
For our family, Grandad also represented an amazing generation in this nation, and in this McAlester community. He helped us win the largest war ever known to man, fought in Korea, and helped rebuild two defeated nations. When he retired, rather than spend his afternoons on the golf course, he helped to build this city, and when he had moved on from that, he served this state. If he had not outlived his public life by 30 years, this hall would not have been large enough to hold those he touched. And yet there are many who still do remember all that he did for this community, and I have enjoyed hearing from them this week.
Now in all this mourning for ourselves, there is one person today we probably don’t have to feel sorry for. Grandad lived an incredible life. Ninety-six years is a staggering length of time. In 1911, Oklahoma was four-years-old. William Howard Taft was president. That year, the Triangle Shirtwaist Company burnt down. The population of the United States was 93 million. Eleven days after Grandad was born, Ronald Reagan was born. In 1911, World War I had not been fought. The Titanic had not sunk. Adolf Hitler was only 22 years old. John F. Kennedy would not be born for six more years.
Into this world a child was born in Arkansas City, Kansas to Thomas Fuller and Goley Hamrick Fuller on January 26, 1911. Thomas was registered Osage, and in fact an original allottee, a designation Grandad missed by only five years. Grandad had one brother, Keith. Grandad was very much Indian, and though I think time melted away some of those physical characteristics, it’s important to remember that for much of his life, he was known first as an American Indian.
And so, he grew up in and around the Osage Nation. He attended an Osage school for a couple years around the age of 9, at which time his parents had divorced. His father remarried when he was 12 and until late in his junior year, Grandad lived in Ark City. He graduated from high school in 1928 from Pawhuska High, where he was a three-sport athlete.
In the summer of 1928, he wandered west, then back to Ark City. He went to work for AT&T, building telephone lines up and down the Midwest.
This is when our story takes a fateful turn. He comes to Crowder. While in the midst of building a river crossing over the Canadian, he becomes acquainted with local soda jerks Johnny and Jimmy Robinson. They suggest that he go on a date with their sister, Mary. He does, but then pretty soon he’s off to Eufaula. Mary calls him up and says “You ready to get married?” And so they do, on January 22, 1929 in Atoka, 78 years ago this year. She was 24, and he was four days shy of his 18th birthday.
In 1930, their son, Leonard was born. In 1932, Grandad was laid off by AT&T, and Jack Murdaugh got him a job in Okmulgee driving a truck for an oil pipeline outfit. Then he went to work for Shell in Ark City, and he joined the National Guard in 1933. He worked various full time jobs until finally in 1940, he went full time military. During this time, he’s all over the country – Fort Sill, Baltimore, Salina, Pearl Harbor, Presidio and Seattle. Finally, in 1942, he’s shipped to Alaska, where he is stationed for two years. In 1944, he drives day and night from Seattle to witness the birth of his daughter Mary Ann, in Winfield, Kansas.
In 1945, the war was over, the Fullers were at Ft. Sill, and Grandad was a major. At this point, he’s shipped off to postwar Japan. His family joins him in 1947. In 1948, he returns to Ft. Sill, and then in 1950, he’s off to Korea, where he stays for two years. From there, he goes to Corsicana, Seattle, and McAlester. In 1956, he goes to Germany, then back to Ft. Sill. He is made a Colonel, an accomplishment all the more impressive in that at this time, his highest level of formal education was high school. In 1960, he retires after 27 years in the Guard or on active duty. He settles in McAlester.
For the first couple years of his “retirement,” he writes some sports for the McAlester newspaper, and for a time, he worked at First National Bank. In 1962, he goes to Eastern and gets his Associates in Social Science. In 1964, he goes to work for the City of McAlester in a program that trains youth to work. Then he becomes the first director of the Model Cities program in McAlester. I think of this time as one of the greatest legacies of his public life. And I brought today some scrapbooks he kept from those years that I hope you got a chance to take a look at in the lobby. During this time, he also served as Acting City Manager. He also was active with the Salvation Army, served as President of the Alcoholism Council, and helped found The Oaks. He also served as Junior and Senior Warden of All Saints Episcopal Church, putting together their first Constitution.
After he moved on from Model Cities, he helped the local Vo-Tech get Federal money. Finally, in 1976, he retired for good. At least from paid labor. He still had time to serve as President of the State Mental Health Association.
The 1980s brought a transition to fulltime caretaker, father and grandfather. The 1990s brought the loss of his wife of 63 years, and his daughter, my mom. I know that was hard, because there was nothing he seemed to love more than the women in his life. He cared for Mary, J.J. as I called her, in a way that no one could match. I suppose this is why it wasn’t too long before he remarried, and it’s not uncommon for children and grandchildren to resent such marriages, but I think he needed that. He needed someone to take care of, and his relationship with Louise carried him through an important period in his last years. And then she passed, too, in 2004, at the very same time that Rachel and I were moving from Washington to Oklahoma City. We moved him home to be near us, and we feel so blessed to have had that time with him these past three years. And we had a lot of fun times.
There were several words I used at the beginning of this eulogy to describe Grandad. One I will repeat now – loving. He loved everyone in this room so much. And he let us know it. Leonard and Seley, Hayes and Rosanne, Rachel – he loved the wives of his grandsons. I think it was easy because we chose so well, but I always thought there was a special place in his heart for Rosanne and Rachel. Eric and Annie, Charles and Charles. He changed your first diaper, Chase. And my dad, Stroud. He was your ex-father-in-law, but he loved you like a son.
I hope we loved him back as much as he loved us. But I don’t know if that’s possible. There were 96 years, but there just wasn’t enough time.
And now, the only tribute I have left is to live the rest of my life living up to the standard of decency that he set. May we all prove worthy. Thank you.
NPR / KOSU reports on Senator Holt’s “binding arbitration” bill here. A few points of clarification: The union official is asserting at the end of the story that the union’s representative on the arbitration panel must agree when the deciding arbitrator rules in favor of the union. This is true, and only a union spokesman would claim that a union representative on the arbitration panel is an adequate defender of the taxpayer’s interest. The union official also accurately says that Senator Holt’s bill would take power away from the arbitrators and the unions and give it back to the taxpayers’ elected representatives, with the implication that this is a bad thing. Senator Holt believes that these type of statements are exactly why the power of the purse must be taken away from unions and arbitrators and placed back in the hands of the taxpayers.
The Journal Record covers Senator Holt’s binding arbitration bill below. Some points of clarification for after you’ve read the article: Senator Holt’s bill does not effect any of the statutes that govern AFSCME (the municipal employee union), who don’t even have binding arbitration in their negotiations. And public safety officers are barred from striking. The union spokesman’s comments in the article are basically irrelevant to the legislation at hand.
Oklahoma Senate bill would repeal binding arbitration clause in municipal contracts
by M. Scott Carter (January 25, 2010)
The Journal Record
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK — Oklahoma’s cities and towns wouldn’t be required to use binding arbitration in employee wage negotiations under legislation filed by a freshman state senator.
State Sen. David Holt, R-Oklahoma City, said he’s introduced a bill to repeal the system known as binding arbitration. Holt said Senate Bill 826 would restore taxpayer control and fiscal responsibility for local spending decisions by repealing the binding arbitration clause in municipal contracts.
“Since its enactment in 1994 through labor union lobbying, binding arbitration has taken the power to make spending decisions away from Oklahoma taxpayers and placed it in the hands of unaccountable out-of-state attorneys,” he said. “Not surprisingly, a bad system has created bad results – tax increases, more burdens on pension systems, and cutbacks in core services, including public safety.”
Under the binding arbitration system, when negotiations stall between local governments and labor unions, the negotiations are turned over to a panel of arbitrators. The deciding arbitrator chooses from the two positions, and any decision in favor of the labor union is legally binding unless an election is called and voters disapprove.
Holt said the deciding arbitrator was almost always an out-of-state attorney submitted by the federal government.
“Despite routine dissatisfaction with such rulings, the calling of an election has not emerged as a practical option in the 17 years since enactment, leaving the arbitrator’s ruling as the final word,” he said.
Union officials said they opposed the bill, calling it a reaction to a problem that didn’t exist.
“In his press release the author indicated that this will free up cities from financial problems,” said James Moore, a spokesman for the state’s municipal employees union. “But what’s not said is that the binding arbitration laws have been with us for 40 years. And if you look at the progress the cities of this state have made, it’s been remarkable.”
Moore, who represents Local 2406 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Union, said at its core, collective bargaining was simply a procedure.
“Many industries – including the financial services and construction industries – have used binding arbitration laws for decades,” he said. “The advantage is that you keep the disputes out of court and the procedures are shorter. The process has been on the books for years and it’s worked well.”
Holt countered that his bill returns the power of the purse to the taxpayers of Oklahoma by repealing binding arbitration. In lieu of that process, parties will continue negotiating, but taxpayers will never be forced to accept spending increases mandated by an arbitrator, he said in a media release about the measure.
Moore said the claim that binding arbitration had caused the financial problems of Oklahoma cities was not reality.
“To say now, in 2011, that cities wouldn’t have financial troubles if it weren’t for binding arbitration is really not reality,” he said. “Collective bargaining and arbitration haven’t been a drag. Everyone knows that the state and the country’s financial problems were caused by Wall Street and the mortgage crisis; it had nothing to do with police and fire contracts.”
Holt, Moore said, was trying to take advantage of the state’s current problems.
“It’s just an opportunistic kind of approach,” he said.
Holt said much has changed since binding arbitration became law and now that Republicans control the governor’s office and the Legislature.
“The voters of Oklahoma delivered a reminder this past election that the citizens are in charge of how their tax dollars are spent,” he said. “At the state level, we would never allow an attorney from Texas to tell Oklahomans how we must spend our money and then leave us with the bill – but that is exactly what’s happened at the local level for 17 years.”
Moore countered that the binding arbitration system was a trade-off for strikes.
“The law came into being at a time in the 1970s when many places were seeing those strikes,” he said. “Here, the Legislature and the governor said let’s get ahead of the curve and if the law was repealed it would only be a matter of time before you started seeing strikes again.”
State lawmakers will review SB 826 when the Oklahoma Legislature returns to the state Capitol on Feb. 7.
The Oklahoman covers Senator Holt’s “binding arbitration” bill here.
The McCarville Report covers Senator Holt’s newest legislation here.
I have introduced Senate Bill 826, which repeals “binding arbitration,” a union negotiation process that was enacted in 1994 by the labor unions and the Democrats. My bill takes the power to make spending decisions with your tax dollars away from some attorney in Texas and puts it back into your hands. For the full press release and explanation of what is a complex but extremely important issue, click here. I was thrilled to get the opportunity to address the Mayors of Oklahoma today at the Capitol on this legislation.
People of the 30th District – I’d like to introduce Dorynda Dusek.
I have the potential for a limited number of Senate page appointments this session. The program is for 11th and 12th graders in or around my district. The student will spend a week serving as a page to the Senate. Send me an e-mail at email@example.com if you have an interested student. Thank you!
Today, I had the pleasure of making remarks at the grand opening of Putnam City’s new Smart Start Early Childhood Center at N.W. 50th and Meridian. The facility will provide 100 four-year-olds with an all-day pre-kindergarten education.
It’s a wonderful initiative, and I’m so grateful to Putnam City Superintendent Paul Hurst and his staff, Julie Jenison and her School Board, Bob Ross, Dave Lopez, Stacy Dykstra, and all the people that made this education innovation possible!
Inauguration Day was a historic day for Oklahoma, in many ways that have been repeated many times.
I was honored to represent the people of the 30th District on the Inauguration platform as Mary Fallin became our Governor, and I was proud to be an Oklahoman.
And Rachel and I had a great time that night at the Ball, with Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Leon Russell performing.
The Bethany Tribune’s coverage of Senator Holt’s swearing-in can be read here.