Monday, February 28, 2011

What's All This Collective Bargaining Noise?

If you've followed my blog then you know I write about being a firefighter quite a lot. I have never used this blog for political reasons, and don’t intend to make a habit of it, but this topic is an exception and I feel I must address the issues.

In the news lately, you may have heard some talk about collective bargaining and binding arbitration and other lawyer-sounding blah, blah, blah. As a firefighter I thought I'd give you a small taste of my feelings on the matter.

Hey, no dozing off. I'll try to keep this as interesting as I can.

First the boring part. (No jokes about how all of my blogs are boring, either.) Collective bargaining is how local governments negotiate with their public employees. It provides a set of rules to level the playing field between the bosses and the employees. If a fair deal cannot be agreed upon between the two parties, the contract goes to an arbitrator who looks at similar-sized communities (along with a bunch of other factors) and rules on what he/she believes is fair. Sometimes the bosses get what they want and sometimes the employees do. The arbitrator’s decision becomes the contract, hence binding arbitration. Whew. That was rough. So now here's my unbiased, wink, wink, take on what's currently going on.

If the politicians take collective bargaining from us, you can imagine what happens to our rights when it comes to negotiating. And this isn't about pay or benefits, either. Sure, those issues will be affected, but this has more to do with safety. A lot of people don't realize that equipment, staffing, ect. are covered in our contract negotiations. Here is a likely scenario of a future negotiation.

Boss: "Hey, (insert public employee name here). We found firefighter turnout gear that is much cheaper than the stuff you're wearing."

Public employee: "But, sir/ma'am. That gear isn't as good as what we have. We will be in greater danger if we use that. Can't we compromise?"

Imagine evil laughter.

Now we're in a sticky spot.

At least the budget will be fixed. Right?

Oh, shoot. That really isn't true, either. Tough economic times call for everyone to cut back, I get it. This plan doesn't do that. The politicians will still overspend, they will simply make us pay for it. Kind of like not buying your kid as good of a car seat so you can get that nice new high-speed rail. This attack on unions is just that--an attack on unions.

Let's look at Wall Street as an example. When a company's revenue goes down, let's just say hypothetically due to a poor economy, how do CEOs keep afloat? They probably take pay cuts and hold off on spending more money until things get better, right?

No? They layoff workers. Or buy cheaper parts. Did you know 2x4 lumber is really 1 ¾ x 3 ½?

I'm a firefighter. I'm not rich. I make more money than some and less money than others. Collective bargaining came around about thirty years ago. Firefighters rose from lower middle class to where we are now as a result. If you were running a city, you wouldn't like that too much, I don't imagine. If you could pay someone pennies to do a job, why would you pay them more?

Over the last few years, Wall Street and banking CEOs destroyed our country through their greed and lack of fiscal responsibility by causing the greatest economic downturn since the depression. This hurt everyone. To fix this, few CEO's if any have gone to jail or helped turn around the economy. They're not even hiring people because of fear of another crash. The people in power can't take the money from the poor since the poor don't have much to take. They won't take it from the rich, so that leaves the continuously diminishing middle class once again.

This isn't firefighters looking for extravagant paydays while watching the country crumble around them. Hell, Columbus firefighters deferred their last raise to help the city get through the hard times. Money isn't as important as getting a fair shake at the table.

I'd like to add something personal here. Sometimes at night while I'm in the fire house getting ready to lie down, I think about my family. Actually, I take that back. I think about my family every night. But some nights I think about my co-workers having to tell my wife and son that I'm not coming home. That's a pretty heavy weight but it is my cross to bear. I, along with firefighters and law enforcement personnel around the country, do that for the citizens paying our salary every day.

When the government tells you we are costing too much, ask yourself, "How many rich teachers do you know? Or firefighters? Or cops?"

Let me ask you this. Do any of you believe the teachers, firefighters, cops, etc. bankrupted this country with secret plans of world domination? Some people do. OK, not the world domination part, I threw that in. If you look at the grand scheme of things, the money saved from cutting our legs out from under us, even if the governments drastically cut our pay and benefits, would barely dent the deficit. Actually, dent is too big of a word for what it would do. This is a coordinated plan to break the last strong unions in the country. It's happening in Wisconsin, it's happening in Ohio, and it'll happen where you live soon.

Do you want the teacher teaching your kids or the police officers and firefighters saving your lives to be the lowest bid price? There is a saying, "You get what you pay for."

Let me leave you with a joke I read on Facebook the other day. I don't know who came up with it but it wasn't me. A CEO, teabagger, and union worker are sitting around a table that has a dozen cookies on it. The CEO takes eleven of the cookies, turns to the teabagger, and says, "Watch that union guy closely. He's going to try to take some of your cookie."

We don't want much of that cookie, just enough to keep us and you safe.

We are held to a higher standard for a reason. We have good jobs. But we're not stealing your money. The government should look elsewhere to find where it went.


  1. I'd like to stand up and shout "Yeah!" after reading that.

  2. I've always thought it unfair in the extreme that the people who keep us safe - firefighters, nurses, ambulance drivers, etc, - and the people responsible for education and law-enforcement, always seem to be the poorest paid. While those with their hands on the money - bankers (spit!) politicians, etc, are the ones who get the largest slice of the pie. They're also the ones who continually try to stop the essential workers getting a decent salary by undermining the unions.
    So I'm with you, Doug! You do a fabulous job that not many want to do, and your salary should reflect your true worth.

  3. We're always talking about this in school. It's highly counterproductive, definitely in a democratic society, to have good educators and protectors...yet they're picking at them! Even more unbelievable, the law was passed in Wisconsin recently, even though the democrats were hiding out to stop it. Smh.

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  4. I can't thank you enough for your service. All of our servicemen and women deserve the world and it is so unfortunate how they keep cutting budgets for the most important things in our cities and towns. As citizens, you sign up to do it because you care enough to put your life in harm's way day in, day out. We can only hope that one day our elected officials gain some wisdom to get you all the budgetary turnaround necessary to match your devotion.

  5. Thanks for all of the kind words. I actually volunteered for 10 years in my community which should help me prove that I'm not in it for the money like the politicians in Ohio right now are trying to portray. I stay away from polarizing topics like this on my blog for the most part but I wanted to say something. Thanks, everyone.