Have you ever heard the phrase “Firefighters are their own worst enemies”?

What about “If you don’t have anything good to say…don’t say it”?

Given the latter I rarely listen to…it is still good advice.

As I understand it, someone set down an entire company of firefighters and told them that collective bargaining was bad and that we don’t want it.

Without going into the entire story, I will provide the good parts.

Firefighters were told that the collective bargaining would lead to us starting over at square one. We would lose everything and have to negotiate for everything. That the dreams of huge pay raises and better benefits could not come true with collective bargaining… and that we should not support the collective bargaining bill.

I find this entire story hard to believe. Either way, I figure I will offer up some insight on collective bargaining. Merely my opinion….

For the sake of argument, I will provide some facts.
1. We have not had a raise in 3 years.
2. We cannot lose what we don’t have.
3. Our benefits continue to dwindle or get more expensive.
4. Once they run out of stuff to take a way….it will be our pay.
5. Money doesn’t grow on trees.
6. The collective bargaining process can be very beneficial.
7. Change will not happen over night.
8. It could be years before we see collective bargaining…even if it passes
9. Even if you speak against, aren’t in the Local, or don’t give a shit you will share the bounty of the hard work and dedication it has taken and will take to get to collective bargaining.

Look at it this way… If collective bargaining is passed and we draw up a contract for the same exact stuff we already have (or have left), then we will at least know that we will not lose anything more!

I know money doesn’t go on trees. I understand that if we negotiate for something which will require funding we might have to give something up. That is fine….it is a system of priorities.

For the past 3 years I have worked without a pay raise. Yet groceries, insurance, child care, fuel, and just about everything else has gone up in price.

I am not alone. So many firefighters are in the same place I am. We are waiting for the economy to turn, the City to turn the corner on the economic decline, and someone to begin realizing that the workers need to see a light at the end of this tunnel. So many projects are still underway. Projects which are good for the community and will hopefully have something to do with the turn around. However, we cannot forget about the people who keep the City going day in and day out.

Since I have been with the City (11 years) I have seen our ICMA match go from $15 to $25 dollars…and then quickly to $0. The guys before me saw the typical 2-3% yearly cost of living increase disappear into thin air and rely on merit raises instead.

The cost of health care has skyrocketed since I have been here, not only for the ones working, but for the retirees as well. That status as a retiree is something that many of us are working towards. Unfortunately when we get there insurance will either be unaffordable or unobtainable.

Not to seem totally pessimistic, we did get a substantial raise the first year I was here. It was great for me and long awaited for the guys before me. It was a way of increasing pay because it was way below the National average….and still is.

We have lost engine companies, stations, positions, tuition assistance, ICMA match, and vacation slots to name a few off the top of my head.

We have lost all that and not really asked for a thing. We have fought hard to keep certain things like companies and staffing…and lost them.

The truth of the matter is that the ones who want to and can afford to do this job will continue to do it…even if it kills us. The others will find something better or different.

How is collective bargaining a bad thing? We have to stand up for ourselves, nobody else is going to do it for us.