Palo Alto to debate binding arbitration tonight

City Council to consider ordinance to repeal 1978 provision from City Charter

Palo Alto's effort to strike the binding-arbitration provision for police and firefighters from the City Charter will take center stage at tonight's (Monday's) meeting of the City Council.

The council asked the City Attorney's office a week ago to draft a ballot ordinance that would repeal the 1978 ordinance, which empowers an arbitration panel to settle labor disputes between the city and its two public-safety unions.

The council made the request at the end of its discussion of a recent report from a Santa Clara County Grand Jury, which concluded that employee costs throughout the county are out of control and need to be reined in.

Palo Alto officials said the provision, which was initially passed to prevent strikes by public-safety officials, is no longer necessary because other state laws and rulings have since made such strikes illegal.

Palo Alto isn't the only California city to revisit the subject of binding arbitration. Vallejo voters repealed binding arbitration earlier this year; the Gilroy council considered repealing it before it reached a settlement with its firefighters union; and the Stockton council is scheduled to consider it tomorrow (July 26), according to a new report from the Palo Alto City Attorney's office.

If the Palo Alto council votes to place the repeal on the November ballot, it will be one of two ballot initiatives dealing with firefighter compensation. The Palo Alto Professional Firefighters, Local 1319, had already collected enough signatures to place its own initiative on the ballot. The firefighters' proposal would force the city to hold an election any time the council wants to reduce staffing levels in the Fire Department or close a fire station.

The council is scheduled to vote on whether to put binding arbitration on the November ballot on Aug. 2, the final meeting before its August recess.

The council meeting will begin at 5:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 250 Hamilton Ave.

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Like this comment
Posted by David Pepperdine
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 26, 2010 at 4:41 pm

We should definitely eliminate the binding arbitration provision from the City Charter if it helps us negotiate with the unions. So I would definitely support putting it on the ballot in November.

Like this comment
Posted by M
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 26, 2010 at 5:20 pm

If the City can not negotiate if good faith after mediation then arbitration is the next step and it should be binding. There City should look for it's cuts elsewhere and not put public safety at risk.

Like this comment
Posted by fireman
a resident of another community
on Jul 26, 2010 at 5:33 pm

You wait until now to print this, What you do not want citizens to show up.. Advanced notice mean anything to you?

Like this comment
Posted by Oh God
a resident of Addison School
on Jul 26, 2010 at 6:35 pm

Everyone who hasn't been living under a rock knows this is up for discussion tonight. read the previous articles and blogs.

Can't wait for the November election to vote down the fire initiative

Like this comment
Posted by Louis
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 27, 2010 at 12:22 am

Well, they discussed it after 11:00 PM tonight. They will continue to discuss it next week and vote on it. If I was to make a guess after tonight discussion it will be a 5 - 4 vote. It all depends on Greg Schmid who was absent.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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