Roxbury City Councilor Chuck Turner said he would reject an arbitration award that grants Boston firefighters a 19 percent raise in exchange for undergoing random drug and alcohol testing. He called the award "fair but unaffordable."
Turner is the first of the council's 13 members to come out publicly against the arbitration award, which was issued last week. The award is expected to cost the city $74 million at a time when the city is closing libraries and community centers and laying off hundreds of workers.
"So despite its fairness, I feel compelled to vote against it," Turner said in a statement today. "During these difficult financial times, we as government officials have to maintain financial balance. That is, we have to make sure that we are not giving increased benefits to the personnel of some departments while taking away benefits from others."
Where do the other councilors stand? The Globe asked them for their views.
The full text of the arbitrator's decision can be found here. Read the dissenting opinion from Leominster mayor and arbitration panel member Dean Mazzarella here. Local 718, the union, has defended the proposal on its website.
City Council President Michael Ross (District 8)
"We want to know what the true costs of a 'yes' or 'no' vote would be, and we want to know what this contract means in terms of contracts with other unions. I think in the end the council will be making that decision based on full information, I would say, void of the emotions and theatrics that are playing here."
At-Large Councilor Felix G. Arroyo
"I can't answer that question right now. We want to make decisions on facts. We want to make the decision after the hearing. Until that's happened, it would be imprudent for me to make that decision."
Update from Arroyo (4:57 p.m.): "After reviewing the arbitrator's decision, I believe the decision is fair and deserving of our support. The arbitrator's decision made a strong argument that the funds are available to pay for this contract. As a former labor organizer, I value collective bargaining as it is one of the ways that workers have an equal voice on the job."
At-Large Councilor John Connolly
"I'm undecided. I'm concerned about the price tag, but I want to go through all the hearings and do my due diligence."
At-Large Councilor Stephen J. Murphy
Late this afternoon, a Murphy aide contacted the Globe. "He wants to do his due diligence and see what the facts are before making a decision. There are definitely a lot of questions to be asked and answered before moving forward," said Seth McCoy, Murphy's director of policy and communications.
At-Large Councilor Ayanna Pressley
"She's going to do her due diligence, look at the arbitrator's opinion, the dissenting opinion. If there is a hearing, she'll participate, and she'll listen to her constituents and make a fully informed decision when the vote happens," chief of staff James Chisholm said.
East Boston Councilor Sal LaMattina (District 1)
"It's going to be a tough one for all of us. For me personally, I've got to do what's right for the city. It's one thing to give them raises, but next year we're going to be cutting services and laying off people."
South Boston Councilor Bill Linehan (District 2)
"I will be voting for it, based on reading the award this past weekend. This award, for fiscal year '07, '08, '09, and '10, comes up to anywhere between $39 [million] and $45 million. We have the reserves to pay for that. That's really what we're supposed to do, approve the award if it's fundable. Do we have the money? Yes, we do. I've always been a union supporter, I've been in unions most of my working career. I think this particular ruling is fundamental to collective bargaining and the issue of having binding arbitration."
Dorchester Councilor Maureen Feeney (District 3)
"Several months ago, I gave my word to 718 that I would approve it. In 16 years, we have never not approved a collective bargaining settlement or award in arbitration. That said, this is an incredibly challenging award, and we are going to do our due diligence to see how we can find an amicable resolution to this."
Mattapan Councilor Charles Yancey (District 4)
"It's somewhat awkward because we're kind of walking a fine line; we can't participate in negotiations, we can't do Monday morning quarterbacking. But I think it's perfectly legitimate that the council do some fact-finding. I believe that the vast majority of our colleagues support our firefighters, but we have some fiscal responsibilities as well. I'm not leaning 'yes' and I'm not leaning 'no.' That's where I'm at right now."
Hyde Park Councilor Rob Consalvo (District 5)
"I have not decided yet either way. I am keeping an open mind to both sides. I've sat down with 718 and I've sat down with the administration. This is such a serious issue I want to make sure I have all the facts. The final piece of that for me is the public hearing."
West Roxbury Councilor John Tobin (District 6)
"I'm still a firm yes." Tobin says voting "no" would undercut the spirit of collective bargaining.
Roxbury Councilor Chuck Turner (District 7)
"The contract is fair but unaffordable. ... During these difficult financial times, we as government officials have to maintain financial balance. That is, we have to make sure that we are not giving increased benefits to the personnel of some departments while taking away benefits from others."
Allston-Brighton Councilor Mark Ciommo (District 9)
"I think we need further analysis. The math is just not adding up on either side. Usually in all parts of life, the truth lies somewhere in between. What has always been my concern is the impact on the budget. We're closing libraries, and community centers, and laying off hundreds of workers. How do we fund that? And we've got to talk about sustainability, too."
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