An attempt, strongly opposed by organized labor, to abolish binding arbitration in wage disputes between Washington's Metro transit system and its employes was soundly defeated tonight by the Senate.
The action apparently dooms this year's effort to do away with binding arbitration, a step that Metro officials claim is needed in their effort to reduce costs. The Virginia legislature approved a similiar bill, but the action of the legislatures of both Maryland and Virginia, as well as Congress and the D.C. City Council, are needed to amend the interstate compact under which the transit system operates.
The 28-to-19 vote in the Maryland Senate came on a motion by Sen. Thomas O'Rally (D-Prince George's) to amend the compact. The bill received an unfavorable recommedation from a Senate committee, and O'Reilly's motion sought to overturn the committee action.
Among those supporting O'Reilly's motion was Minority Leader Edward J. Mason (R-Allegany), who said the arbitration clause has boosted Metro wages far above those accorded state workers. Defenders of binding arbitration for Metro workers pointed to high living costs in the Washington area and argued that the mechanism would prevent the public employes from striking, thus ensuring no break in service to the public.
"With all its problems, the Metro system probably works pretty well," said Sen. Edward T. Conroy (D-Prince George's), a staunchly pro-labor legislator. "A lot of people depend on it on a day-to-day basis."