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Bill changing collective bargaining process in Oklahoma passes state Senate

Senate Bill 826 would make changes to binding arbitration, which occurs when negotiations on work contracts fail between cities and police or firefighter unions in Oklahoma.
BY JOHN ESTUS Published: March 11, 2011

Among the proposals in the bill approved Thursday are giving preference to arbitrators from Oklahoma and changing the criteria arbitrators use when considering contract offers.

Chalk Norton, a lobbyist for Professional Firefighters of Oklahoma, said while he has worked with Holt on the bill, his group has maintained it would prefer no changes to binding arbitration.

Several firefighter unions have spoken out opposing the bill. However, the state Fraternal Order of Police supports the bill, said Bobby Stem, a lobbyist for the police union.

SB 826 goes to the House, where it is being carried by Rep. Scott Martin, R-Norman, whose own bills attempting to change arbitration and other collective bargaining practices are awaiting hearing in the full House and have also received firefighter union opposition.

SB 826 passed the Senate with Republican support. Some Republicans voted against it and joined Democrats in criticizing it as unfair to workers.

“To say this is leveling the playing field is just saying cities get an advantage,” said Sen. Roger Ballenger, D-Okmulgee.

The title is off the bill, meaning it will have to come back to the Senate for another vote if it passes the House.