It’s not uncommon in arbitration relationships to see one side dismiss the impartial arbiter after a few major cases fall the other way. Major League Baseball, for instance jettisoned Shyam Das after he sided with Ryan Braun in Braun’s original challenge to his PED suspension. Now, according to the Daily News, the MTA has dismissed Richard Adelman after a few too many pro-TWU rulings. The news comes just one day after a report explained how this arbitrator required the MTA to continue a program to ferry unionized bus drivers around the city due to seniority work rules at a cost of $270,000 annually.
In his piece on Adelman’s dismissal, Pete Donohue had this to say:
Last week, a transit executive informed Adelman in a letter that the MTA “has decided to discontinue your services.” An agency spokesman declined to comment. Adelman, 72, didn’t speculate on why he was getting the boot. “Being replaced goes with the territory,” Adelman told The News. “I think every arbitrator understands that.”
But transit officials had grown increasingly frustrated with Adelman’s rulings, which often favored the union and its interpretation of the joint labor contract, said Local 100 lawyer Arthur Schwartz. The role of an impartial arbitrator is not to decide whether a rule or practice is the most efficient from a management point of view. The arbitrator decides whether or not a rule or practice is consistent with the language that labor and management officials previously hammered out in negotiations.
During his tenure, Adelman has thwarted MTA attempts to expand the now-limited use of conductorless subway trains, a major cost-cutting goal. Just a week before getting canned, Adelman incensed transit management when he ruled NYC Transit couldn’t fire a union official who allegedly made inappropriate sexual comments to two female bus dispatchers. Contract language designed to protect union officials from management retaliation in most cases prevents management from pursuing disciplinary charges against a union official — as long as the official is on the TWU payroll, Adelman ruled. If an official returns to his original day job — in this case, driving a bus — the MTA can take disciplinary action.
TWU officials claim the MTA cannot unilaterally dismiss the arbitrator and say they will fight the move. But most arbitration agreement allow either party to fire the person chosen as referee.
Meanwhile, I have to wonder if this is a sign that the MTA is willing to play hardball with the TWU as contract negotiations remain an open concern. Adelman, in 2005, torpedoed OPTO, and as the MTA continues to eye aggressive cost-cutting measures, it could again try to push one-person train operations. Either way, this is likely not the last we’ll hear of this tale.