Having been asked to give this local union's point of view on final and binding arbitration and the cost-of-living adjustment, I would like to make it clear that they are two different and separate issues. Some members of the Metro board and some local politicians would have you believe that our cost-of-living provision is a product of arbitration and dependent on arbitration to stay in existence. Nothing could be further from the truth.
An escalator clause (cost-of-living adjustment) has been a provision in our contracts with Metro and its predecessor companies since July 1, 1952. The purpose of this provision is to keep the workers' wages from being eroded by inflation, to help them keep pace so that an hour's work today will buy as much as it did yesterday.
Even a full percentage escalator clause will not keep the workers' wages even with inflation because of "taxflation" and "bracket creep," but it does serve to keep them from falling far behind.
Another seldom-mentioned fact about our escalator clause is that it not only raises wages as inflation progresses but, should we have deflation, it would also lower wages.
In meeting its cost overruns, Metro does not argue to its suppliers of goods and services that the total 100 percent increase in costs plus profits may not be passed on. It does not argue that those suppliers of goods and services must be compelled to subsidize the community for some portion of those increases in the cost of Metro's work. Why then must such a rule be imposed on Metro's human resources, its drivers, mechanics, clerks and other workers?
Other than cost-of-living adjustment increases, the only real wage increase for union employees since Metro took over the private transit companies here was 31/2 cents an hour in 1973.
As for arbitration, it is a fair and equitable procedure to resolve differences when impasses develop that cannot be resolved by negotiations or collective bargaining. Both sides present their evidence and, with an impartial arbitrator having the deciding vote, come to a final, binding decision.
To reject arbitration is to reject the 200-year history of our American judicial system. It differs in that the interested parties by agreement establish an impasse resolution process that is final and binding.
There is no economic justification for opposing arbitration, certainly not by Metro and not by the governmental jurisdictions involved. Since 1949 there have been four arbitrations concerning the terms of a new contract. Each time the employer (O.Roy Chalk in 1969; Metro in 1976, 1978 and 1980) had reason to feel it had won a victory as a result of the arbitrations.
Indeed in the last arbitration between Metro and this local union, the local Metro jurisdiction in analyzing the award did, in fact, calculate net savings to Metro at as much as $13.4 million over the term of the contract, assuming a 12 percent inflation rate.
Similar concessions have been awarded by the arbitrators in each of the other Metro arbitrations, including the use of part-timers, wage progression and elimination of front-end wage improvements.
Perhaps what public officials and management here want by pressing for the removal of arbitration is to create a strike situation, during which the transit authority would continue to receive taxpayer subsidies, thus reducing and perhaps even eliminating any deficits. No matter that the community would suffer, no matter that the workers would be unable to earn wages to provide for their families, no matter that the elderly, the handicapped and other users of the system would be deprived of needed transportation. What appears more important to some public officials and some in management is that they be able to reduce the transit deficit regardless of the costs to the community and its citizens.
Arbitration is a way to resolve labor-dispute impasses without disrupting service to the riding public or wages to the workers--it is to the benefit of all citizens and is therefore in the public interest.