Reformation of the labor arbitration rules doesn't sound like a very charismatic legislative goal.
But changing the system of arbitration law that has been in place since 1968 would have a far-reaching impact.
Lock Haven Mayor Rick Vilello, president of the Pennsylvania Municipal League and a member of the Coalition for Sustainable Communities, joined Williamsport Mayor Gabriel J. Campana in detailing the proposed changes last week.
He described the changes as "pro-taxpayer and pro-public safety and not anti-union."
He may get some disagreement on that, but the changes would certainly level out the system in place now with the following reforms:
Make an arbitration award based on evidence presented during negotiation and calculations of new costs to municipalities.
Prohibit post-retirement health care and pension benefits from being the subject of collective bargaining.
Penalize either party for failing to engage in good-faith bargaining.
Start the arbitration process earlier.
Expand the neutral arbitrator list from three to seven.
Require the cost of arbitration to be shared equally by both parties.
Encourage presentation of the proposals to be open to the press and public to prompt more serious offers from both sides.
Allow appeals of arbitration decisions to the courts.
Frankly, some of these measures should already be in place but they are not.
And, to be honest, the system in place now encourages public unions to seek arbitration rather than an agreement when negotiating with municipalities.
The proposal is in the state Senate right now. History suggests it will be tough to get passage, but it's worth a try, given the positive changes this proposal could bring to the arbitration process.
As it stands now, there's not a lot of motivation for the labor side of a negotiation to come to terms given the way the arbitration playing field is tilted.
These changes would promote mature discussion toward a labor agreement rather than rewarding impasses as the system now does.