Town's Lawyer Responds To Judge's NKFF Ruling

Credit: http://www.massfiretrucks.com/
Credit: http://www.massfiretrucks.com/
On Monday, Superior Court Judge Brian Stern ruled against the Town of North Kingstown in nearly every respect in the case over the town's decision to unilaterally impose a new 24-hour shift schedule on firefighters in March 2012.

On Tuesday, the town's labor lawyer, Dan Kinder, submitted this assessment of the ruling to town officials:

The court's decision is no surprise. The Labor Board adopted Judge Stern's prior decision in its decision. Now, Judge Stern has upheld that decision, again. The Supreme Court, however, has stayed Judge Stern's prior decision, and Judge Stern has stayed this decision, pending further consideration by the Supreme Court.

The decision to uphold the Labor Board is at odds with several important earlier decisions of the Rhode Island Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court.
The decision sets up the firefighters' union as a branch of government that can veto the lawful actions of a municipal government, taken to protect all its citizens in time of economic crisis. The only precedent for this view is a 20-year-old decision of the State Labor Relations Board. The Supreme Court has said that labor board decision is wrong. The Town Council believes that this decision is contrary to the Rhode Island Constitution, and contrary to the North Kingstown Charter, as ratified by its citizens and adopted by the legislature.

The town bargained thoroughly and in good faith in an effort to gain agreement with the union to reduce the costs of the fire department's operations. All decisions of the National Labor Relations Board and of the Rhode Island Supreme Court and the US Supreme Court support the Town in this. The decision's conclusion that a sovereign government does not bargain in good faith when it tells a union it must act to protect its citizens and then bargains for months over the ways and means by which it will do so is novel and unprecedented. It is also contrary to established decisions of the Supreme Court.

Remember that all this to do is about the town's adoption of an organizational structure for its fire department that is the same as what the overwhelming majority of fire fighters in America enjoy. The Town's costs for fire fighting, like most Rhode Island communities', are far higher than the rest of the nation. Three consecutive Town Councils concluded that this had to change. It was simply unaffordable.

The Town has offered repeatedly to bargain with the union, and offered to make changes to the  firefighters' schedules if they didn't like the one they have worked for the last two years. The union's response? Pay us $2million first, and then maybe we can talk. No other Town union has refused to help with the financial crisis that began in 2008.

Both the union and the Town have retained experts in the past. The one thing all agreed on was that the current work schedule in the fire department is safer than the old one was.

The Superior Court decision invites an appeal to the Supreme Court. The Town Council will consider filing an appeal soon. In the meantime, pursuant to the order of the  Court, the firefighters' work schedule, and the 10% salary increase they received two years ago, remain in effect.

NK January 08, 2014 at 12:02 PM
If the firefighter's aren't bargaining, can you please explain why the Town Council rejected a T.A. THEY drafted and the firefighters agreed too? This seems like a very disparate, poorly written attempt to save face. The Allied Forces are closing in on your bunker Mr. Kinder.. What's your next tax payer draining, money making move???
Lavender January 08, 2014 at 01:18 PM
Financial crisis??? Where ? There are towns in R.I. much , much worse off than NK and they don't battle with the F.D. they all sit down like adults and compromise. Crisis in NK, the teachers are on the verge of a contract with raises, just read an article in the Independent. The U.S. Supreme Court support this??? Haven't read that yet? Really, the $ you were susposed to be saving....are in your bank account Mr. Kinder. Not quite sure where some officials learned to read... is there another English language up for interpretation? What I have read ...does not support a lick of this above banter by Mr. Kinder. Perhaps the other towns and cities that are really having financial problems should hold a conference on how to work together with their employees to make smart decisions that benefit all not just the bank roll of one. So let me get this straight, the Labor relations board is wrong, the judge is wrong, the laws are wrong but NK TC and Kinder are always right? Boy I guess I need to really learn to read again in this new language they speak, so I can live a "always right life" Must be wonderful........ yea not reality. Wake up!! I know CR you came out of the woodwork again for the FF's . Is your hole in the ground a bit chilly in this polar vortex? Some people are just so predictable .........
Govstench January 08, 2014 at 05:41 PM
When the laws were amended to allow unions into government in the 1960's under Governor John Chafee, the seeds of corruption and deceit were planted - taxpayers lost control of their government. This contract argument is very similar to the one being fought in the courts by the unions over the pension issue. As is the case with North Kingstown, if the government loses, so does the taxpayers and you will see municipalities fail. While North Kingstown attempted to over-ride an existing contract with an ordinance to save money, they may find themselves on the losing end if the courts invalidate or repeal that ordinance. The North Kingstown taxpayers will pay dearly for the legal expense of these court actions and also all the back pay and overtime if they lose this case. It does make you wonder who really runs this town.
Concerned Resident January 08, 2014 at 06:35 PM
lavender, always nice to see the return of someone that has changed their patch name again and again! wonder why north kingstown is in better shape than the towns you allude too? sounds like you should be leading the towns with financial issues. your posting demonstrates what can happen when groups such as police, town employees and teachers work with town leaders. By the way the teachers are separate from the town. Your ramblings about us supreme court, mr kinder, labor board, judges, the law and town council are just that, sounds like you are already spouting using a new language. Please get your facts straight before you post again. Looking forward to your next post under a new patch name.
wickchevy January 09, 2014 at 11:09 AM
Concerned. if you are such a concerned resident why is the only thing you ever comment on in your history only under Firefighter columns? Is it because you hate Firefighters? Please don't take my word for it look at your history. Were there not other columns you were concerned with in the past? FYI... Yes i live in NK and am a Firefighter in another Community.


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