The drivers have rejected binding arbitration, and they will continue to reject it. Politicians are demanding binding arbitration to back up the CCTA management, and to bring an end to the strike. It may look like a "fair" and "neutral" solution... but In taking the employer's side, they are clearly abandoning the workers.
Here are a few points about binding arbitration:
• Contrary to impressions cast in the media, binding arbitration is hardly used in Vermont, despite the fact that it’s available to all public sector workers. There are a handful of municipal units (AFSCME) that have traditionally used it, including Burlington, but it is used almost nowhere else.
• Binding arbitration is an option for all teacher and school support staff bargaining, which covers hundreds of collective bargaining agreements… but it is essentially never used (there may be a couple of instances over the years; but totally negligible).
• The question has to be asked: If it seems so “fair” and so “reasonable”… why is it almost never used? There are numerous answers, from the employers’ point of view:
o Most public employers (school boards, select boards and city councils) don’t want to give up “local control.”
o Most public employers fear that an arbitrator will not adequately protect the “taxpayers’ interest” (i.e., that they will give away too much to the workers and drive up the tax rate).
o Most public employers want the chance to trade economic issues (wages and benefits) for work rule issues (duration and intensity of work)… and fear that an arbitrator will not take local conditions into account, leaving them with a CBA that doesn’t suit the local situation.
• So, does Kurt Wright’s demand for binding arbitration mean that he doesn’t care about local control anymore? (That’s an un usual switch for a Republican. Even more unusual… he’s on the same side as the Democratic Mayor.)
• It could be said that Democrats and Republicans (and at least one Progressive, sadly) are willing to join hands to challenge and undermine the clear, unequivocal position of the bus drivers. So, the issue looks more like the political elites against the workers.
• Unions also generally do not like binding arbitration… and for some of the same reasons as employers. They care about the importance of local conditions, and maintaining the right to decide what they will, and won’t, trade during bargaining.
• But the key issue about binding arbitration is this: The whole point of American labor law is to bring the parties together, so they can resolve issues and build a relationship. Binding arbitration does the reverse: It drives the parties apart. It must be remembered that bargaining is only one part of the relationship; most of the labor relationship happens day-to-day and year-to-year as the parties figure out how to live together, under the agreement. If neither party feels actual ownership of the CBA (because an arbitrator has imposed it on them), then their motivation to live under it is weak. The binding arbitration orders are not treated as seriously, and therefore workplace conflict is more likely.