by Gary Fazzino, John Barton and LaDoris Cordell
We believe there is a better solution than the outright repeal of binding arbitration, as proposed by Measure D, and encourage voters to vote no so the City Council, police officers, and firefighters can work together for a compromise alternative.
Having served on the city council, we know what it's like to negotiate contracts with the city's public safety unions under the city's binding arbitration law. It isn't always easy, but it is true that the best solution always comes from agreement at the bargaining table. And that's how the majority of contracts have been reached over the last three decades, including the successfully negotiated contract agreement that was announced by the city and the firefighters just last month.
When the voters of Palo Alto passed binding arbitration in 1978, it was a different time. The city was facing a different financial picture and had different obligations. There is no doubt that times have changed, and laws need to change with those times. That's why the city council spent the last several months looking at real options to reform binding arbitration, rather than repeal it. A process where the city council works with our police officers and firefighters to craft an updated modification of binding arbitration is the better approach and the fairer approach.
It was only by one vote after a controversial debate that outright repeal was put on the ballot in the form of Measure D. In Palo Alto, binding arbitration is a matter of fairness; and Palo Altans value fairness. Unlike other unions in the city, police officer and fire fighters do not have the right to strike. Their only option in cases where contract negotiations break down is to go to a neutral third-party arbitrator to settle disputes. Without binding arbitration, an alternative resolution process, or the right to strike, police officers and firefighters effectively lose their collective bargaining rights. Binding arbitration gives police and firefighters a level playing field with other city employees.
In addition, Measure D is unnecessary because binding arbitration has rarely been used. In the 33 years since binding arbitration was passed by the voters, binding arbitration has been used only six times. In fact, the last time binding arbitration was used for fire fighter wages and benefits was in 1980.
We urge voters to take a close look at Measure D and realize that there is a better solution that treats our police and firefighters fairly while protecting taxpayers. Updating binding arbitration or finding an alternative that is updated for the 21st century without undermining the collective bargaining rights of police and fire should be our goal. Measure D does not achieve that goal.
We urge voters to join us in opposing repeal of binding arbitration. Vote No on Measure D, so the city council can work with police and fire fighters to craft meaningful consensus reform that everyone can support.