On Wednesday, the Boston City Council was struggling to make sense of arbitrator Tim Buckalew’s recent salary award of 25.4 percent over six years to the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association. At the same time and just a short distance away, about 200 arbitrators gathered at the Hynes Convention Center for a meeting organized by the Minnesota-based Labor Arbitration Institute. Finally, an opportunity to see members of this controversial profession up close and personal.
Few professions are capable of drawing such ire. Boston Mayor Thomas Menino almost blew a gasket upon learning of Buckalew’s award, which was double the hike that the city had negotiated with about 30 other municipal unions. City Council President Stephen Murphy referred to Buckalew as “mental’’ during a radio interview. That was actually a measured response when it comes to discussing the work product of arbitrators. “Off with his head,’’ reads a 2012 Chicago Tribune headline referring — sort of tongue-in-cheek — to the appropriate punishment for an arbitrator who reduced the suspensions of a group of thieving Chicago firefighters.