Commentary: Measure A - Arbitrators Not Accountable

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, April 10, 2009

Proponents of Sacramento County's Measure A say it will protect taxpayers. But that's not what it really does. Measure A provides binding arbitration to county probation officers and managers in the Sheriff Department. That means in the event of an impasse during labor contract negotiations, the board of supervisors don't get to resolve the dispute. An unelected panel of arbitrators is brought in instead.

The unions want binding arbitration for one reason. They think they can get better contracts for their members. That is, bigger wage increases and richer benefits. They think so-called neutral arbitrators will be more generous than elected officials.

 Voters should be wary. "Neutral" in this case means unaccountable. Unlike elected officials, arbitrators don't have to weigh higher wages for probation officers against the need to resurface crumbling county roads. They don't have to choose between closing libraries, which serve as safe havens for kids after school, or giving managers in the sheriff's department richer health benefits.

 Binding arbitration takes decision-making powers out of the hands of people voters have elected to make those tough calls, and hands it over to arbitrators: elected by no one, and accountable to no one. That's bad public policy, and that's why I'm voting No on Measure A.


Ginger Rutland writes for The Sacramento Bee opinion pages.