Colorado Springs Firefighters Local 5 have put a measure on the April municipal ballot, “Issue 1A,” that would grant them and no other municipal employees, collective bargaining rights.
We support all our public safety professionals and want to ensure they are well-compensated, staffed and equipped. However, we do not believe unionization of our fire department advances this goal, nor is it in the best interests of our community and its taxpayers.
Colorado Springs Forward, Mayor John Suthers, the Colorado Springs Chamber and EDC and the Gazette editorial staff all agree to oppose 1A. The Union is basing its campaign on a slogan of “making Colorado Springs safer” and “giving firemen a seat at the table”. These are disingenuous messages; the truth of the matter is that this measure will only make Colorado Springs more expensive. In and of itself 1A will not provide additional staffing, newer equipment or any of the other myriad of promises made by the Union. The fact is that over 52.7% of our City budget is consumed by fire and police already, and a viable and cost efficient long-term plan is in place in regards to staffing and equipping our public safety professionals. Please give this measure careful consideration. We are opposed for the following additional reasons:
- Firefighter compensation (and benefits—including medication, vacation and life time pension) meets or exceeds that of other fire departments in similar sized communities.
- All public safety employees currently have full access to the Mayor and City Council. In short, they already have an established seat at the table.
- Police and fire are well represented on all city compensation and benefit committees.
- Police, as well as utility lineman and foresters, are not included in the ballot issue.
- In the last four years, wages for line firefighters have risen 16%, from $68,820 to $79,884 (not including overtime compensation).
- Collective bargaining will turn a historically collaborative relationship into a contentious negotiation between the city and an “exclusive bargaining agent.”
- The responsibility of budget allocation should not be delegated to unelected persons who advocate exclusively for one group of employees.
- Impasses will cost money for special elections (as much as $500,000 per election).
Colorado Springs has prospered with low taxation and affordable cost of living while long embracing the entrepreneurial spirit of our founding fathers. We have flourished through the decades without unionization of our employees, and currently rank as America’s most desirable city to live (US. News and World Report, July 2018). Collective bargaining is a step in the wrong direction and could lead to a slippery slope of the potential unionization all public employees. This would lead to significantly higher taxation and erode the significant progress our City has made in establishing ourselves as one of the best places to live and work in our nation.