Gov. Raimondo signs bill to extend public employee contracts

May 14, 2019

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Gov. Gina Raimondo signed legislation about public employee contracts and allowed a bill about firefighter overtime to become law without her signature Tuesday, despite strong opposition from municipal leaders.

The Democratic governor signed the House and Senate versions of a bill to automatically extend expired municipal worker and teacher contracts. She vetoed a similar plan in 2017.

Raimondo said the new bill is a fair compromise that protects workers’ wages and benefits from unilateral cuts after a contract expires, while not binding cities and towns to other provisions of the expired contract. While mayors and town administrators have said it gives unions no incentive to negotiate in difficult times, Raimondo said unions will be motivated to remain at the bargaining table for future wage increases.

Raimondo also transmitted legislation to mandate overtime for firefighters to the secretary of state, allowing it to become law without her signature. Most municipalities already pay firefighters overtime after 42 hours.

The Rhode Island League of Cities and Towns said lawmakers are rewarding special interests and punishing taxpayers. Executive Director Brian Daniels said in a statement Tuesday that the governor’s decision will only make it harder for community leaders to manage property tax increases. Taxpayers, he said, will live with the harm of Raimondo’s decision long after she has left office.

The National Education Association Rhode Island, a teachers union, publicly thanked Raimondo for signing the continuing contract legislation, which it says “restores the balance between the rights of workers and the rights of employers.”

If it becomes clear that mayors need additional tools, Raimondo said, she’ll work with them.