Letters to the Editor: Union chief- Firefighters played by rules, and deserve their contract

To the Editor:

A lot has been said about the recent arbitration decision rendered in the Boston Firefighters case. Unfortunately, the facts have been misrepresented. We would like to set the record the straight with some simple points:

• Boston firefighters have not had a raise since 2005.

• The city walked away from the bargaining table and brought Local 718 to arbitration in August 2007.

• Both parties selected the independent arbitrator (who has been appointed by five U.S. presidents to emergency panels).

• For 13 months both sides presented an exhaustive case, and were bound by a gag order, which Local 718 abided by.

• The union proved that Mayor Menino established a pattern for bargaining benefits in exchange for drug testing with similar city unions (acknowledged by the state’s independent mediator, Maryellen Shea, the independent arbitrator Dana Eischen, and the M.I.T. Professor Tom Kochan, appointed by Council President Mike Ross).

• We never opposed drug testing; we just wanted to be treated fairly.

• The city’s ability to pay the award has to be addressed by law in the arbitration; the city’s legal position as of March 24, 2010, was that it could afford the award.

• The cost of the four-year award is $46 million as evidenced by the mayor’s funding request to the City Council. Under oath, the head of administration and finance testified that the city has $48 million in the collective bargaining reserve earmarked for our contract, creating a surplus.

• Right now a junior firefighter’s base pay is $30,000 less than a city councilor, a senior firefighter’s is $14,000 less. (There is far less a likelihood of cancer, heart disease, traumatic injury, or death as a city councillor)

• The award does not give firefighters a 19 percent raise. Rather, it’s 16.5 percent; some firefighters with longevity will get more than that, same as a police officer with Quinn benefits or teachers with education incentives received more than 14 percent.

• This award also increased firefighters health insurance contribution 50 percent, saving taxpayers over $4 million retroactively.

• This award implemented a six-month wage freeze in 2010, saving taxpayers over $3 million.

• This award instituted sick leave changes saving taxpayers over $1 million.

In closing, Boston’s firefighters played by the rules, and received a fair award. If the City Council votes this award down, our families will not have had a raise from 2005 to 2013, or longer. Your firefighters deserve to be treated better than that! If you need us, we’ll be there. Please be there for us. Call the City Council and ask them to support your firefighters.

Please log onto BostonFirefightersLocal718.org to read the arbitrators decision.

Edward Kelly,
President Local 718