Collision course: Carcieri + Council 94


The standoff between Governor Carcieri and Council 94 mostly resembles a game of chicken, with two vehicles hurtling toward one another and the question unanswered as yet of whether one will swerve out of the way.

Gubernatorial fan John DePetro today called this a potential "Reagan moment" for Carcieri, likening the conflict to when the Gipper fired striking air traffic controllers.

Yet making a mass layoff of thousands of state workers would come with considerable political risk and quite possibly prolonged chaos in the delivery of state services.

Some prominent union officials sounded conciliatory when Steve Peoples talked with them for his story yesterday. But the membership went in a very different direction, and leaders such as Dennis Grilli contend that Council 94 members are hardly the well-to-do softies described by critics.

Grilli said that 70 percent of his members make less than $40,000 each year. Council 94 is an umbrella organization that includes 24 local unions across state government, representing groups such as the security guards at Rhode Island College to food-service workers at the Rhode Island Veterans Home.

The gov has this to say:

"The results of this vote can lead me to only one or two conclusions.  Either the representatives of Council 94 who were part of this agreement have not been negotiating in good faith, or that there is an internal power struggle between the union heads within Council 94 that undercut the vote.  In either case, there is no basis for further discussions.  Two-thirds of the other state employee unions have ratified the agreement, including the United Nurses and Allied Professionals Local 5019, which voted to ratify the agreement last night.  They do appreciate the severe financial pressure the state faces, and have chosen to be a part of the solution."

"The state's financial status is not improving.  In fact, there are signs that the national economic slow down, with high energy prices, may prolong the weak economy in Rhode Island.  As Governor, I am obligated by law to balance our state's budget and will do so."

"I am carefully reviewing our options with my legal and administrative staff. I intend to announce a course of action next week that will be in the best interest of our state and all its citizens."

This is a big moment for Carcieri, who has faced a stiff challenge at times in making his rhetoric stand up. That's why even some of those supportive of the governor offer this point of view, as was the case when I wrote about a possible Linc Chafee candidacy for governor in 2010.

The idea that Carcieri has been confrontational is a total fabrication of the media,” says WPRO-AM talk-show host Dan Yorke. “Why? Because he has spoken his mind and because he has a value system? Don Carcieri is Steve Laffey-Lite. You haven’t seen confrontational until you’ve seen Steve Laffey . . . The only way you can be confrontational and effective is to be really confrontational.”

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