The din of questions that followed December’s arbitration agreement — Philly police will enjoy a seven percent raise over the next two years — was deafening. Where would the cash-strapped city find $114 million? What would this mean for future union negotiations? And just who the hell are these arbitrators?
Regarding the last: Look to city labor attorney Ralph Colflesh — one of about 8,000 lawyers belonging to the American Arbitration Association. By law, unions deemed too important to strike can request binding arbitration to settle their cases, at which point the AAA supplies a list of three potential arbitrators; the city and police then each knock one name off. Colflesh, 66, with residences in Philly, New Jersey and Maryland, was the last man standing, earning a tidy $23,135 fee.
He can’t comment — though plenty have, including City Councilman Bill Green. “The problem is that arbitrators do this for a living,” he says, having unsuccessfully lobbied the Nutter administration to appeal the decision. “In order to get hired again, they want to appear as if they always split the baby. The police claim victory on salaries, the city claims victory on pensions and health care. But this is no victory for the city.”