MTA axes union ref who made pricey ruling in favor of Bronx, N.Y., bus drivers
Source: Arbitrate this! The contract arbitrator who just ruled that New York’s MTA can’t stop its high-priced shuttle service for Bronx bus drivers has been pink-slipped by the authority, the Daily News has learned. Richard Adelman has been the independent arbitrator of contract disputes between the NYC Transit division and the Transport Workers Union Local 100 for a dozen years. 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. The MTA earlier this year proposed canceling a shuttle service it has provided to Bronx bus drivers for the last 15 years. A transit official estimated the service costs about $270,000 a year. Union officials said the cost estimate was grossly exaggerated. The bus drivers periodically are taken by car from their routes back to the depots so they can pick their next work assignment based on seniority. Adelman on Friday sided with Local 100, which argued the MTA agreed to provide “pick cars” and replacement bus drivers in contract negotiations in 1998 — and can’t just walk away from such a deal. Transit officials said Adelman’s termination would be effective Nov. 7. Schwartz, the union lawyer, said the arbitrator was jointly selected by NYC Transit and Local 100. Adelman can’t be unilaterally fired, Schwartz said. He added that he expected the dispute would either go to court — or arbitration.