You can now read 5 articles in a month for free on Read as much as you want anywhere and anytime for just 99¢.


Edge to Connolly

John Connolly, left, and Martin Walsh met Tuesday in their first debate of the general election campaign.

Essdras M Suarez/ Globe Staff

John Connolly, left, and Martin Walsh met Tuesday in their first debate of the general election campaign.

Like two nervous novice boxers, Boston mayoral candidates John Connolly and Marty Walsh spent long rounds of Tuesday’s debate reluctant to engage with each other in a pointed or sharp way.

But when Connolly finally found his footing, he won the only memorable exchange of the evening — and with it the debate itself — by pointing out two recent instances where Walsh has put labor’s specific interests over the general interest of taxpayers.

Continue reading below

By spotlighting those, Connolly highlighted his rival’s biggest vulnerability: A relationship with unions that is so cozy it calls into question whether Walsh, a former union official, could be tough or independent enough to be an effective fiscal steward for the city.

During the 2011 struggle to bring lavish municipal health benefits more into line with the plans state workers get, Walsh filed legislation stipulating that if city unions and municipal management couldn’t agree on plan changes, the matter would go to arbitration. Although Walsh tried to obscure the issue, had his legislation passed, it clearly would have undermined the reform effort led by Democratic House Speaker Robert DeLeo.

Connolly then linked that legislation to another bill Walsh has filed, which would eliminate any City Council review of arbitration awards and instead make an arbitrator’s decision binding on the city. As Connolly noted, that would have meant that Boston had no recourse against outsized arbitration awards like those that Boston Firefighters Local 718 won in 2010 and which the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association recently received.

Walsh’s basic response was to insist that he could get contracts done at the bargaining table and thus avoid arbitration altogether. Given the recent history of labor relations in Boston, that’s just not persuasive.

This issue is not going away. Walsh will have to find a way to address it — or see his candidacy suffer from that failure.

Scot Lehigh can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @GlobeScotLehigh.
Loading comments...
Want each day's news headlines delivered fresh to your
inbox every morning? Just connect with us
in one of the following ways:
Please enter a valid email will never post anything without asking.
Privacy Policy
Subscriber Log In

You have reached the limit of 5 free articles in a month

Stay informed with unlimited access to Boston’s trusted news source.

  • High-quality journalism from the region’s largest newsroom
  • Convenient access across all of your devices
  • Today’s Headlines daily newsletter
  • Subscriber-only access to exclusive offers, events, contests, eBooks, and more
  • Less than 25¢ a week
Marketing image of
Marketing image of