Middletown, Ohio, located half way between Cincinnati and Dayton has been in a contract dispute with the local members of the International Association of Firefighters Local 336 for some time. The city had 76 full time firefighters but due to the union’s rejection of the latest contract offer, they now only have 65 full time firefighters and four other vacant positions will not be filled, meaning a total loss of 15 jobs.
Last November, Middletown officials drafted a new austere budget plan to help them operate without a deficit. Part of that plan included cutting the 11 jobs from the fire department and four more jobs through attrition. At an annual cost of around $100,000 per firefighter, the new plan would save the city nearly $1.5 million.
In July of this year, 11 members of the Middletown fire department received their notices that as of August 6 they would no longer have a job. However, once the notices were sent, contract negotiations resumed and the layoffs were delayed.
City Manager Doug Adkins announced that the city and union had come to tentative agreement on a two year contract that would save all 15 jobs. That was August 19, so the layoffs were moved back to 7pm Saturday, August 31. The union was supposed to vote on the new contract but failed to do so at first. Then a last minute vote was taken and the union members voted 44-25 to reject the offer. Their no vote meant that 11 of their ranks would lose their jobs and as of this past Saturday night they did.
So what was the problem with the contract? According to Greg Justice, the union representative:
“Middletown Firefighters didn’t like many of the features drawn up by the city that left thousands of residents without safe and adequate Fire and EMS protection and thereby couldn’t adopt the city’s plan.”
So let me get this straight. The union felt that the new contract to keep all 15 jobs was not providing adequate service to many residents, so they voted it down, thus eliminating 14% of their department and the closing of one fire station. It sounds to me like the residents will get less protection and service with fewer firefighters and the loss of vital fire station than they would have had if they had voted to accept the contract.
Does this make sense to you? It doesn’t to me. That’s like telling a doctor to go ahead and cut off your leg even though he can save it. I bet 11 of the 25 votes cast for the contract were the 11 fire fighters who lost their jobs, leaving most of their comrades abandoning them.
Cases like this seem counter-productive and are another reason why I hate unions.