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How the Boston Mayor Race is Hinging on the Politics of Arbitration

Tuesday, October, 8, 2013


The $83 million pay increase awarded to the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Union by a panel of arbitrators has been a hot button issue in the mayoral race.  Some claim that the City of Boston—a city that has a $2.6 billion operating budget—should be able to reasonably pay the increase to its necessary workers. 


Some claim that the only way to afford that amount is to take away money from other necessary programs, workers and services within the city, such as increasing the number of students per teacher in public schools, cut the parks program and close city parks, and lower the number of police officers on the streets.  These options are, of course, not pleasant for the city to think about, so concerns over affordability are simmering within public conversation about the arbitrator’s ruling, as well. 


Marty Walsh, a very pro-arbitration candidate and sponsor of House Bill 2467 (which would make arbitration binding and cut out the City Council’s say), has felt the heat of the battle.  While Walsh has been clearly campaigning as a mayor who would be union-friendly, opponents are running on what might happen if the recent ruling sets an unhealthy and fiscally unsound precedent.   They believe that with the large amount awarded, police will now be making considerably more than public service workers in other unions across the city.  Their predictions are that soon, the firefighters and teachers will demand equal treatment and the city will suffer economically because of it.  Sam Tyler, head of the Boston Municipal Research Bureau, compares the situation to a “Cold War.”