The Case Against Binding Arbitration
CCTA Management and several Burlington politicians, including Republican Kurt Wright, are pushing the bus drivers in Teamsters Local 597 to accept binding arbitration to end their current strike.
The drivers and their union have already rejected binding arbitration twice. Everyone who supports the drivers’ fight for livable jobs should join them in rejecting binding arbitration and demanding that CCTA return to the bargaining table.
How Binding Arbitration Works
The company and union agree to have an arbitrator come in, consider the conflict, and then impose a contract. The union has no legal recourse to challenge the arbitrator’s decision and no right to strike against the imposed contract.
Rarely Used by Unions
Because binding arbitration compels unions to surrender their rights, very few unions in Vermont turn to it. Vermont unions, including teachers’ unions, almost never use it to resolve contract disputes. Only a handful of union locals that have contracts with the City of Burlington accept it as part of their regular bargaining procedures. They are the exception and not the rule. And, in these cases, both sides have voluntarily agreed to it. This is not the case with the current CCTA dispute.
Increases Conflict on the Job
Binding arbitration does not bring management and the union together in a working relationship that can resolve disputes. It does the reverse: it drives the sides apart. Since neither party feels actual ownership of the imposed contract, their motivation to live under it is weak. As a result, binding arbitration actually triggers more not less conflict in the workplace.
Undermines Local Democracy
Binding arbitration would take away independent and democratic decision-making from those most impacted by a contract—the drivers and community. Instead it empowers an outside, third party bureaucrat to impose a settlement. And it is the drivers, not the arbitrator, who will have to live with the consequences of a bad contract. Binding arbitration thus violates something Vermonters treasure—our tradition of local, democratic control.
Not Neutral and Fair
Despite what CCTA and their political supporters claim, binding arbitration is not a neutral, fair way to resolve the contract dispute at CCTA. Why? The arbitrator would essentially split the difference between management and the drivers. Because management has not budged on any of the key issues, the arbitrator would force the drivers to concede on their key demands. The arbitrator would likely increase the length of their working day, expand the number of part time drivers, and allow CCTA’s predatory management practices to continue. The arbitrator would thus impose a concessionary contract.
Many Better Options
Binding arbitration is neither necessary nor the only option. It is only one tool in the toolbox. Both sides could bargain again alone. They could bargain again with the federal mediator. They could bargain again with a new mediator.
The best option would be for CCTA management to return to the negotiating table and agree to the drivers’ eminently reasonable demand for livable jobs that ensure the safety of everyone on the bus and on the road.
Committee to Support CCTA Bus Drivers