Tag archive for firefighters

Audit fires up New Orleans’ pension controversy

Should taxpayers be responsible for soaring costs in a pension fund that has been mismanaged by its trustees, many of whom are government workers elected by their colleagues to run the retirement system? That’s the debate playing out in New Orleans, where Mayor Mitch Landrieu …

Firefighters as oppressed sweat-shop workers

Few groups of employees have a more lucrative deal than government firefighters. In California, their compensation packages average in the $170,000s, they can retire at age 50 with 90 percent or more of their final year’s pay, and they have light work schedules (paid while sleeping, multiple days …

Should idle firefighters be turned into police officers or doctors?

Fires and Firefighters.png
As this chart from marginalrevolution.com shows, structure fires in America have declined dramatically over the decades, but the number of firefighters has continued to rise, even during the recent recession. This has left local governments with an excess of idle fire personnel. What to do? Communities could look to reduce personnel, but there are limits on how low firefighter complements can go, and not only because of pressure from firefighters unions. After a certain point, shutting down firehouses pushes up response times. And though, even in the case of medical emergencies, researchers have cast doubt on the low-response-time imperative, certainly minutes matter to the public.

Have California Dems really embraced pension reform?

California’s legislative Democrats and Democratic governor have announced a pension-reform package that doesn’t go particularly far, but goes far enough to annoy some public sector unions. California Professional Firefighters President Lou Paulson said in a statement today, “The pension proposals outlined today represent a retreat from collective bargaining and basic principles of retirement security.” He portrayed the state’s unionized firefighters — who earn total compensation packages that average in the $170,000 range, and who can retire with more than 90 percent of their final year’s pay at age 50 — as “everyday working people.” Other unions are complaining also. It’s absurd that unions continue to insist that reform can take place at the bargaining table. That’s where they have the most power and where reform rarely happens. Democrats have suddenly embraced pension reform because polls show that without such reform, voters are unlikely to approve the tax-increase initiative they back in November, so the proposal are more about cynicism than reform.

California: Giveaways continue

California state legislators haven’t found the time to enact significant pension reform in the Golden State, but that didn’t stop them from serving up another big expensive union giveaway, this time on death benefits to the families of public safety workers. California already has one of the most generous of death-benefits systems, allowing the family of a public safety officer who dies of a heart attack, cancer, pneumonia, tuberculosis or any bloodborne disease to collect service-related death benefits on the presumption that death from any of these causes is job-related. Now the legislature has gone one big step further,  voting to eliminate the statute of limitations on such deaths so that the family of a firefighter who retires at 55 but dies of cancer or heart attack at 75 can claim his death was job related and collect benefits between $250,000 and $300,000.&nbsp

Philly looks for arbitration relief

Philadelphia is appealing a $200 million arbitration award to firefighters that city administrators say is financially ruinous and unaffordable. The award earlier this month represents yet another example of how Pennsylvania’s binding arbitration law, which requires that municipalities and unions go to arbitration if they reach an impasse in contract negotiations, is busting budgets in the Keystone State., where arbitrators often ignore the ability of a city to pay big awards. Scranton nearly ran out of money earlier this month thanks in large part to an arbitrators’ ruling last fall that the city owed police and firefighters $30 million that the mayor says the city couldn’t afford. Then the arbitrators in the Philly case awarded firefighters three years of pay raises and protection from furloughs the city was using to save money.

Pension anger driving concern about police issues

In my recent column on Bloomberg, I argue that concern over the pension crisis is causing many people to rethink their deference to police officers. If police unions are scamming the public on this pension issue, then they might be scamming us in other ways, also. Indeed, the peace officers bill of rights, signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in the 1970s, has made it almost impossible to get rid of bad police officers

Jerry Brown: Still Crazy After All These Years

Last week, I posted about one of California Governor Jerry Brown’s intermittent moments of sanity: vetoing a bill that would have allowed babysitters to unionize in the Golden State.  For Brown, who has cannily developed an overblown reputation for political independence, it was a golden opportunity: take one of big labor’s craziest proposals, make a show out of the veto, and then use it as a smokescreen for other union giveaways.

As the Los Angeles Times reports:

When the dust settled on Gov. Jerry Brown’s
first legislative session in nearly three decades, no group had won
more than organized labor, which heralded its largest string of
victories in nearly a decade.

Miami Pension Vice

Readers of local newspapers around the country have become accustomed in the last several years to newspaper investigations that expose pension nightmares for taxpayers. The Miami-Herald has added to the literature with a detailed investigation of abusive pension practices in South Florida that are draining funds.

Ongoing brouhaha over Alameda non-rescue

The news story about Alameda firefighters and police who did nothing while a man drowned to death continues to make waves in northern California. I was on the radio today and my column from the weekend looked more deeply at the issue. Virtually all of the emails I have received from self-described firefighters and police have been supportive of how the Alameda “first responders” handled the situation, although a handful were appalled by the comments of the chief who admitted that he would rather let a child drown than violate department policy against cold-water rescues.