Unionized Emergency Response Agencies – Featherbedding vs. Saving Lives?

Unionized Emergency Response Agencies – Featherbedding vs. Saving Lives?

I’ve been advocating for 2 man fire/emergency response teams since the tragic 2003 San Diego “Cedar” brush fire, when I first became interested in firefighting operational reforms. It’s simple — two 2-man teams properly stationed apart in one fire station’s “district” = shorter response times than one 4-man team.

Because over 80% of the calls are for health emergencies, a quicker response time can be critical. Lives are saved.  Of that, there can be no doubt – and no one argues otherwise.

It’s great to see this idea finally gaining traction a decade later. But today this common sense reform is being blocked – held hostage by our San Diego Fire Department (SDFD) labor union that demands more 4 man fire stations before it will allow the 2 man response setup to be implemented.  The problem we face today is labor union featherbedding — a time-honored goal for ANY union.

The SDFD union’s (like all unions) #1 priority is employing as many union members as possible — more “boots on the ground” (but only highly paid union boots). For firefighter union bosses, public safety is important, but constitutes a secondary consideration. Building and manning more 4 man fire stations is the top priority for our fire department union.

When push comes to shove, apparently SD FD union president Frank De Clercq is quite willing to let a few more San Diegans die each year rather than have the firefighters improve their response times with 2 man crews.  When this happens, mark my words – De Clercq will blame the deaths on the taxpayers for not paying for more 4 man fire stations (actually 13 man/person fire stations, when you consider the 24/7 manning requirement).

Sadly, no union has greater pull in city hall than our beloved firefighters — and no union cares less about our city. Indeed, most “city” firefighters and their families don’t even live in the city of San Diego — many don’t even live in San Diego COUNTY.

AN ASIDE:  Too many of our firefighters are commuting from great distances — causing critical delays when everyone is called in to respond to brush fire threats.  In my Scripps Ranch neighborhood, most of the 300+ homes lost in 2003 were burned in large part because of this multi-HOUR delay an manning the reserve fire engines — a scandal the press has never covered.

Yet the coveted firefighter candidate endorsement carries enormous weight in city politics. Our “public servant” unions rule!

Richard Rider is the chairman of San Diego Tax Fighters, a grassroots pro-taxpayer group. Rider successfully sued the county of San Diego (Rider vs. County of San Diego) to force a rollback of an illegal 1/2-cent jails sales tax, a precedent that saved California taxpayers over 14 billion dollars, including $3.5 billion for San Diego taxpayers. He has written ballot arguments against dozens of county and state tax increase initiatives and in 2009 was named the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association’s “California Tax Fighter of the Year.”

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