Bargain in good faith, treat all with respect
TBO.comSome elements under pressure turn into something wonderful: carbon turning into diamonds, for example. Other things, however, turn into something ugly, and that's what we're seeing these days with public unions under fire by elected officials who also are under fire from citizens.
Published: February 10, 2013
Published: February 10, 2013
Local firefighters are experiencing this firsthand as it becomes clear that there are sour feelings between the Sebring City Council and local firefighters. Similar situations have happened with other fire departments.
Elected officials are trying to save taxpayer money, and that's no easy task. Unions, such as firefighters, police, teachers and so on, see benefits lost that they've won through bargaining agreements.
There is a movement across parts of the country to — if not bust unions — remove their power. The result is nastiness spewing from many people. Union members are making allegations against managers and the governments they work for, and elected officials are whacking away at hard-earned wages and benefits.
We're in a brave new world compared to where we used to be on this issue. Government workers used to make less than non-government workers, but that gap has closed as wages have dropped in the private sector. More voters than ever think that pensions are a thing of the past, since they rarely get them, and saddle governments with too much debt.
No one denies that we can bury our cities, counties, schools and state in debt with such benefits. But in many cases the amount of debt is overstated, or at least the ability to pay for it. Clearly some of this cannot continue, unless we're willing to raise taxes or find the money elsewhere.
More importantly, though, is that our firefighters, police and teachers deserve better than the onslaught they've been facing by elected officials when it comes to pay and benefits. It goes way beyond this, though. It's a respect issue.
These are crucial positions holding great responsibility in our communities. Many of these positions deal with life and death situations daily. They deserve fair compensation for the expertise they bring to the public and should be paid for their work.
We value these public employees. Our lives depend on them. Our economic future and the education of our children depend on them. Low-balling and trying to take them apart is a horrible recipe and could lead to devastating situations.
When our homes are burning or our lives are endangered, we want the best, most qualified men and women coming to the rescue. We don't want our best people being forced to leave because officials are attacking their well being.
Clearly both sides have to give. That's always the case. But being the biggest cheapskate isn't good governance, no matter how many times your buddies pat you on the back and tell you so. And the first time public safety is put in harm's way, there will be hell to pay.