Testimony by Pres. Fidler on Transparency in Labor Negotiations

Testimony Before the County Council on Expedited Bill 24-16, Collective Bargaining – Impasse Procedures – Amendments

by  Joan Fidler, President of the Montgomery County Taxpayers League, July 12, 2016:

President Floreen and members of the Council, I am Joan Fidler, president of the Montgomery County Taxpayers League and I am here to testify in support of Expedited Bill 24-16 on Collective Bargaining – Impasse Procedures.

First, we would like to thank President Floreen for proposing the bill as it reflects a degree of courage that we admire. It begins to restore the balance for the taxpayers of the county.

Bill 24-15 is a new beginning. Let us count the ways:

The bill provides transparency – it requires public disclosure at the outset of bargaining and at evidentiary hearings.

The bill introduces objectivity – it separates the roles of mediator and arbitrator

The bill recognizes the need for a level playing field – it replaces the single arbitrator with a 3-member panel.

There will be opposition to this bill from the labor unions. We believe that labor unions are important and so are employee rights. But taxpayers are important too and they too have rights.

So to the argument that requiring public disclosure would impede efficiency and effectiveness, we would respond that opening proposals are not exactly state secrets to be hidden from the taxpaying public and that evidentiary hearings in all trials are open to the public. Why not here?

To the argument that the transparency provisions of this bill are harmful, we would argue that the only two transparency provisions in this bill are opening positions and evidentiary hearings. Should the taxpayer be barred from those? The bill does not require any open bargaining sessions.

To the argument that using the same individual as mediator and arbitrator streamlines the process, we would argue that separating the two roles is a standard method of mediation used in our court system and in other local collective bargaining laws. Why not here?

To the argument that labor relations professionals will be replaced by retired judges, we would argue that retired judges have vast experience in assessing facts fairly. Why would we reject an experienced judge?

Most important, the current system of interest arbitration has a direct and tremendous impact on the cost of County wages and benefits. In the last 3 years most county employees have had pay raises of 21% with another 4.5% this year. The bulk of property tax increases fund the salaries and benefits of our county employees. It is said that he who pays the piper calls the tune. Could taxpayers see the arbitration sheet music before the score is settled?

We invite you to post your comments.

 

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