Ohio SB 5: A Raw Deal for Firefighters and You

I’m pretty upset right now with the state in which I live.

As a fire family, I staunchly oppose Senate Bill 5 (SB5; bill text here) which aims to remove collective bargaining from unions. Every time I think of this bill, sponsored by Senator Shannon Jones (R – Springboro), I get this mix of angry anxiety in the pit of my stomach. It’s not just the security of my husband’s job and thus our livelihood on the line. It’s the safety of the citizens of Ohio.

While Firefighters are affected, they’re not the only ones. Who else will be affected by SB5? Your police officers. Your teachers. Your nurses. Your government workers. People you rely on for safety, for security, for education, for your day-to-day stuff. The stuff you take for granted. The Middle Class. For those that think teachers or firefighters or police officers or what-have-you make too much money, I’d like you to live a balanced life on our budget.

There’s a video on Facebook making the rounds right now from Xenia’s Word on the Street. I wish it was embeddable, but it’s not. It shows the faces of your public workers who will be affected by SB5. About a minute into the video, FireDad is seen with both BigBrother and LittleBrother after the big downtown fire in 2009. (Warning: Music is bad/cheesy.) And speaking of Facebook, feel free to join Stand Up for Ohio to keep up to date with the news on SB 5.

The below video isn’t strictly about Ohio as it delves more into the problems New Jersey is facing, but it’s a must watch. Touch my husband’s pension, will you? I think not.

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“What they’re doing to firefighters is un-American. It’s a Raw Deal.”

For more information on the SB 5 and, even more specifically pensions, you should read this letter sent to the Springfield News-Sun by Brian Leciejewski is president of the Springfield Professional Firefighters, IAFF Local 333.. Here’s some important information that the public should understand about firefighter pensions. It’s misunderstood and being misconstrued by those supporting SB 5.

It is clear to us that this plan is a product of the governor’s personal hostility toward Ohio’s firefighters and police officers, and not based on the facts.

Here are the facts: First, the idea that your public servants retire with a windfall or “golden” pension benefit is an overstated myth.

For fiscal year 2010, the average annual Ohio Police and Fire Pension Fund benefit for recipients was $35,650. Keep in mind that your professional firefighters and law enforcement officers do not pay into, and therefore do not draw from, any Social Security retirement or disability benefits. As far as our pensions go, this is it for us.

We share the cost of our pensions with the city in just the same way that people in the private sector share the cost of Social Security with their employer.

The Ohio Association of Professional Fire Fighters (OAPFF) has issued an Action Alert. (Obviously.) They’re asking for supporters to show up for hearings, which are running this week. I encourage you, if you can, make your way to the hearing today.

Tue., Feb. 15, 2011, 2:30 PM, South Hearing Room
Sen. Bacon: 614-466-8064

Columbus Local 67 is providing an assembly area ahead of time if you’re interested at 12:00 with a briefing at 1:00pm. Location: Columbus Local 67 – 379 W. Broad St. – Columbus – 43215. We can’t attend as I’m working today, but please go if you can. Also, heed the warning on the site to act as professional as possible. There will be opponents present. Be the professionals that you are, whether you’re a family member or a firefighter.

Lastly, go ahead and look up your Senator and share your thoughts on the issue.

After the Big City Fire
The photo of FireDad with the boys in the Xenia video.

This doesn’t have to be a partisan issue though most of the coverage, even the video above, strikes a partisan line. If you care about those who work to serve you, you can oppose this bill no matter your party affiliation. Don’t let your compassion and care for others be dictated by a party. Ours isn’t.

I didn’t include information in this piece about the teachers’ union, police officers or other government workers. If you care to leave a link here to other posts, articles or information for those interested in how those unions are being negatively affected by this bill, I would be grateful.

fire life Politics

Is It November Yet: Fire Issues

While our previous posts in this Is It November Yet series have been decidedly non-partisan, we’re about to get all kinds of partisan up in here. You know where the back button is and I suggest you use it now unless you’re willing to read and respectfully reply.

The International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) is endorsing Barack Obama for President. While we do not let FireDad’s union dictate our lives, I can’t say that I disagree with their support. That said, if they were backing McCain, well, let’s just say we’re happy that they’re not backing McCain. It would be impossible to do so when you begin to look at the issues that are pertinent to professional firefighters..

McCain is not working family friendly. Moreover, he is not fire family friendly. Perhaps you are not a fire family. Perhaps you don’t know any other fire families. But they’re out there. Contrary to what I wish, fire fighters are not rich. Despite saving your families and putting their lives in danger on a regular basis, the pay isn’t outstanding, outlandish or really all that great. But these men and women do what they do because it is a passion and they believe in what they do.

And when it comes down to it, only one candidate has a 100% record on the core IAFF issues. And it’s not John McCain. Barack Obama co-sponsored and voted for collective bargaining. McCain, of course, voted against the IAFF’s collective bargaining bill in 2001 and neglected to show up to even vote in 2008. Apparently we either don’t matter or don’t even register with McCain on his Important Things list.

Obama’s plan protects our employer-paid health care. McCain wants to make employer-provided health care benefits part of taxable income. You know, since we’re already making so much money in the fire service!

Obama opposes mandatory social security coverage and actually fought to protect the pension and retirement benefits of Illinois firefighters. I want someone protecting our pension. I really, really do. If mandatory coverage was approved for Social Security, firefighters’ pay would be reduced by over 6% in taxes, thus reducing pensions, benefits or pay. Really? You want to pay us less and put our pensions and benefits at risk? While these men and women are out there, putting their butts on the line for you? That’s what you think our family deserves, McCain? Maybe they just won’t respond when you dial 911. Oh wait. Yes they will. Because that’s what firefighters do. They respond where needed, no matter the pay.

There are other things, from Obama supporting firefighters (and other public employees) overtime pay to how jobs are handled. You can read about all of the issues here at Fire Fighters for Obama.

I know that not all of my readers are fire families. You’ve got your own families to worry about in this difficult time. You’re making your decision on who to vote for based on your own personal needs, wants and issues. You are weighing your own pros and cons. And I am proud of those of you who are taking the time to compare and contrast not only the Presidential candidates in this election but the important local issues on your November ballots. But, perhaps, if you could consider not just my family but those of the professional firefighters in and around your areas. Those of you who are serviced by paid departments, I ask one question: do you really want to risk less funding if it is your house that is on fire?

A note from a recent union flyer:

How you vote is a personal decision. The AFL-CIO has carefully researched both candidates and believes Barack Obama is the best choice for working families. Whatever your decision, get out and vote.

The FireFamily also supports this statement. Research. Decide. And get out to vote!

Every Tuesday through November 4, 2008, we will be discussing something political here on Stop, Drop & Blog. Our weekly series is entitled “Is It November Yet” because, well, we’re excited for change, ready for the number of posts in our Google Reader to go down and overwhelmed with the wealth of information to search through. I have no clue what we’ll be talking about next week. Hopefully it isn’t about any drama-llama replies to this post.