Share This Article


Summary of Public Safety Interest Arbitration Cases, Volume 4

This information update summarizes public safety interest arbitration awards that have been issued since November 2014 when our third update appeared. (For prior editions, visit Readers are encouraged to read the entire award for a complete understanding of each case. (See:

Determining comparables for the first time, Arbitrator Mawhinney stated: “Contrary to popular opinion, the comparable pool is not set in stone. It is only a guideline that is useful for this case, at this time.” She found that the City’s lowering its health insurance contribution rate by 5% was not supported in the comparables and was without a quid pro quo. She also found that its wages were “a little below” average. Arbitrator Mawhinney found no pattern of internal settlements. She selected the Union’s offer.

Arbitrator Krinsky favored the City’s offer with respect to local “economic conditions” and the cost of living. The City calculated the Union’s actual wage increases at 4.7% in 2013 and 3.9% in 2014. While the Union argued wage parity with the police, the Arbitrator rejected it since (1) there is no history of parity; and (2) the City does not have the resources to raise additional revenue. Arbitrator Krinsky favored the City’s offer on external and internal comparisons.

Under the law applicable to the City of Milwaukee, the parties utilize conventional arbitration to resolve disputes meaning the arbitrator has the power to craft a settlement without regard to the final offers of either party.

Arbitrator McLaughlin elected not to include the pension change citing caution when altering benefits and the lack of bargaining on the need for or reasonableness of the change.

Because of implemented furlough days, a 1.15 % annual negative wage impact occurred in 2013 and 2014. After an extensive analysis of the external comparables, cost of the offers, and financial condition of the city, the Arbitrator awarded an across-the board increase of 2.5% effective in July 2013 and July 2014.

Arbitrator Hempe rejected the Union’s attempt to argue a quid pro quo was necessary on the limited wage reopener. He noted that the County’s costs were growing at a 3% clip while the County’s ability to provide those services is projected to grow at only 1.3%. Thus, he concluded that the Union’s 2% wage increase was “untimely and fiscally risky” and favored the County’s offer on the interests and welfare of the public factor. He also favored the County’s offer on the greater weight, “ local economic conditions” factor.

The wages under the County’s offer improved among its comparables when longevity and educational incentive pay were included. Moreover, a 17 year history of consistent settlements among the internal bargaining units was strong evidence in the Arbitrator finding support for the County’s offer. The County’s offer prevailed.


Since the historic change in public sector labor relations with the passage of Acts 10/32 in 2011, there have been only a total of 19 public safety arbitration awards. The employer’s offer was selected in 8 cases (44%) while the Union’s offer was selected in 10 cases (56%) with one additional conventional arbitration case. Clearly, voluntary settlements were the norm and preferred outcome of collective bargaining with police, firefighters and deputies over the past four years.

In the latest update, wages dominate the issue most likely to be arbitrated. Municipal finances face continued pressure where the ability to raise revenue is increasing at a rate of about one-half of the projected costs. Some arbitrators have been sympathetic to the precarious financial position facing municipalities while others rely more upon the external settlement pattern to influence their selection of the most reasonable final offer. Internal settlement patterns, where they exist, are an important factor according to most arbitrators.

Many employers have successfully bargained the full employee share of Wisconsin System Retirement (WRS) being paid by employees so that issue is no longer being arbitrated as it once was. The law has been clarified to prohibit bargaining with respect to costs, payments, design and selection of health insurance plans. Only the employee’s share of the premium contribution is subject to bargaining. Some employers have used the health insurance issue as leverage to obtain concessions or secure other employer proposals.

Analyzing the past 19 public safety interest arbitration awards issued since the passage of Acts 10/32, reveals that a wide variety of arbitrators has been used as shown below:

  1. Arbitrators with 1 decision favoring the employer:
  2. Kossoff, Flaten, Strycker, Roberts, Krinsky

  3. Arbitrators with 1 decision favoring the union:
  4. McAlpin, Vernon, Gallagher, McGilligan, Gordon, Morrison

  5. Arbitrators with 2 decisions favoring the employer:
  6. Hempe

  7. Arbitrators with 2 decisions split between employer and union:
  8. Malamud

  9. Arbitrators with 3 decisions favoring the union:
  10. Mawhinney

  11. Arbitrator with 1 decision under conventional arbitration:
  12. McLaughlin

The bargaining units involved break down like this: Police – 8, Deputy Sheriffs – 7, Firefighters – 3 and Police Supervisors – 1.

If you have any questions regarding arbitrator awards, please contact your Davis & Kuelthau attorney.