In a Letter to the Editor published July 31, Arbitrator and former NAA President, Richard I. Bloch, responds to “Unions kill a smart arbitration proposal in Montgomery County” (The Washington Post’s editorial published July 28).

The Post’s editorial attributed the wage increases experienced by public employees in Montgomery County in part to “an out-of-whack arbitration system … tilted in favor of public-employee unions,” noting that over the last 28 years, unions have prevailed in 80 percent of the disputes.   The editorial blames the concern that arbitrators have with being “blackballed by the unions” for these one-sided results.

In his reply, Mr. Bloch notes that arbitrators “call them as they see them” and points out that a 50-50 split in “victories” would unlikely be perceived as less problematic as arbitrators might then be accused of “splitting the baby.”

There seems to be increased activity at the state and local levels on proposals and initiatives involving reassessment of the use of interest arbitration.  We have recently posted links to news articles and other reports about interest arbitration.  See here, here and here.

In this regard, we note a recent article by Thomas Kochan (MIT) and his colleagues involving a comprehensive review of the effects of the use of interest arbitration.  (The Long Haul Effects of Interest Arbitration: The Case of New York State’s Taylor Law, Thomas Kochan, David B. Lipsky, Mary Newhart & Alan Benson,  Industrial & Labor Relations Review, Vol. 63, No. 4 (July 2010), pp. 565-584).   Among other findings, the authors conclude that, based upon a national sample of the effects of interest arbitration on wage changes, wage increases differed little in states with arbitration from those without it.