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July 20, 2004
Boston Police Plan To Picket, Regardless Of Arbitration

Yesterday's decision by the Massachussetts Labor Relations Board to fast-track Boston police and fire union issues into arbitration in order to keep the pickets from the convention backfired, with the union chief promising to picket no matter what and raising questions about collusion between national labor management, the MLRB, and the Democratic Party:

The Massachusetts labor board's decision to send the city's conflict with its police union to immediate arbitration before the beginning of the Democratic National Convention reflects a schism in the previously unified labor front that has the local union president saying he is more determined than ever to picket next week's political gathering.

Last week, the leader of the International Brotherhood of Police Officers, Paul Birks, was the member of the board who fought most ardently against an expedited process. On Monday, Birks made the motion to resolve the conflict through arbitration by 2 p.m. Thursday.

"Over the weekend something happened," said Lou DiNatale, a political science professor at the University of Massachusetts. "Somebody on that board got noogied. I think the national unions must have talked to someone."

If the MLRB and the national unions intended on tamping down the controversy before the cameras showed up, they badly misjudged the situation, again demonstrating the incompetence the Democrats have displayed during this entire election cycle. The sudden shift of their previously staunch defender on the panel smells like a back-room deal, and the police (who have no other leverage) do not appear likely to take this lying down ... unless it's lying down in front of the convention doors. The union even suggested that any previous deals to exempt the convention itself may have been jeopardized by the MLRB's surprise move:

After Monday's decision, union officials vowed to step up their efforts and might reconsider their promise not to picket at the FleetCenter itself.

"We're absolutely going to picket, now more than ever," said police union president Thomas Nee. "It's going to be worse now than it was before because we're calling on everybody. I'm telling you, they're coming in from around the country."

Mayor Thomas Menino, meanwhile, is delighted by the MLRB's decision. So, presumably, are John Kerry and John Edwards. Whether the arbitrators can force the union to accept a contract without provoking even wider demonstrations remains to be seen, but unless the union gets its 17%, I doubt that Menino and Kerry will be anywhere near as sanguine about it next week.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at July 20, 2004 7:56 AM

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