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Travis Rowley: Hose the Firefighters

Saturday, December 07, 2013

 

“In all, there were no more than a dozen management-level employees in the top 40…The rest are rank-and-file city employees whose overtime, longevity, or detail pay boosted their overall compensation. Most are firefighters.” – GoLocalProv.com


If you are among the shocked, then you are part of the problem.

And a mandatory prison sentence should be required for anyone who decides to degrade this conversation to an emotional level – away from a mathematical one – by asking this writer, “When was the last time you volunteered to run into a burning building?!”

On the very same day that GoLocalProv discovered that “the 40 highest paid city employees…collectively earned $6.3 million in pay and benefits in fiscal year 2013,” and that one Providence firefighter collected a total of $218,145, the Projo’s Mark Patinkin summarized a Channel 12 story that highlighted a retired North Providence firefighter named Stephen Campbell, who peculiarly began his firefighting career at the age of 52. Conveniently hired when his friend – Secretary of State Ralph Mollis (D) – was the mayor, this former “baker and mattress salesman” now collects a “tax-free disability pension” worth “$39,000 a year,” which is “almost 70 percent of his base salary.” Due to another “contract provision” regarding disabled retirees, however, Campbell takes home an additional $5,500 of taxpayer money each year – bringing him up to “full take-home earnings.”

Now consider the fact that, under another “contract clause,” Campbell’s pension reaches a lieutenant’s level because – on “one” occasion – he served as “an acting lieutenant because the real one was absent” that day.

Oh, now add another 3% annual COLA to the entire package.

Plagued with “injuries,” Campbell only managed to actually work five years out of a ten-year career – “during which he got full pay.” Patinkin calculates that “if [Campbell] lives to 80, he’ll get almost $1.5 million on the taxpayers. That’s for five years at the office.”

Incredible stuff.

But hardly surprising.

Almost three years ago, Channel 12 discovered that the “five most lucrative pensions in city government all go to former fire department officials, all of whom retired in the early 1990s, when eight out of 10 of the department's workers were retiring for disabilities.”

When it was also revealed that “of the 438 firefighter pensions being paid right now…258 of them are for on-the-job injuries” – and when Mayor Angel Taveras was considering a tax increase to balance the city budget – I penned a column that advised the Mayor to “Balance the Budget On the Backs of Jerks and Thieves.”

After all, in addition to the abuse, according to a 2007 Providence Journal report, “Nearly every other state in the nation pays less per resident to run its fire departments,” and “on a per capita basis, payrolls alone here outstrip the total cost of operating entire departments in most other states.”

In 2013, it’s nice to see that Providence has gained some real ground on this financial front.


Outlaw Collective Bargaining

Observed in historical perspective, the only logical course of action for Rhode Islanders to take is to dismiss all the politicians, including Providence’s upcoming mayoral candidates, who are expressing dismay, concern, and promises to look into the situation regarding municipalities’ greatest expense – that is, the salaries, benefits, and pensions of the unionized government class.

The taxpayers need to understand the situation for what it is – legalized corruption that can’t be cured until government unions are outlawed.

Government-union contracts are destined to be drafted in a world of fantasy, and will never be confined to private sector reality. Not only is organized labor steered by a twisted ideology of collectivism, but the necessary incentives just don’t exist. And the unions now have legal leverage over the taxpayers.

Top union leaders and liberal icons used to agree. In 1959 the Executive Council of the AFL-CIO offered this advice: "In terms of accepted collective bargaining procedures, government workers have no right beyond the authority to petition Congress – a right available to every citizen." And in 1955 former president of the AFL-CIO George Meany said, “It is impossible to bargain collectively with the government.”

Yet, in 1966 Rhode Island Democrats decided to do just that, pitting elected representatives against the taxpayers by affording collective bargaining rights to the government workforce.

No politician can save a system that wasn’t designed to be saved. This is how it’s supposed to work.

More details on the true history, nature, and wealth-redistributive purpose of government unions can be found here.

No Escape

Of course, the last person Rhode Islanders should listen to is the president of the firefighter union, Paul Doughty. Doughty’s current spin on the issue is that we should actually feel sympathy for Providence firefighters making well over $150,000 per year, arguing that “a delay in a decision to hire new firefighters” has forced active personnel into overtime salary – and also into upper-income brackets.

“Most workers enjoy overtime. Over the last couple of years, however, it has been excessive,” Doughty said. “It isn’t always a good way to live.”

I bet the two Cadillacs help to ease the pain.

It shouldn’t go without notice that the only reason these poor (in spirit, of course) firefighters are compelled to take advantage of exorbitant overtime pay is due to the fact that politicians signed contracts in previous years that established the generous pay structures and “minimum staffing” standards that are causing the current financial strain.

By listening to Doughty one might start to think that hiring more firefighters, thereby constraining overtime opportunity, has proven to be a budget-cutting exercise. But municipalities always have to consider all the long-term costs of adding unionized employees – e.g. Pensions, Healthcare, OPEBs (Other Post-Employment Benefits).

Not to mention all the “Stephen Campbells” out there!

City Internal Auditor Matthew Clarkin notes that “while 52 firefighters were added to the department in August – and the addition immediately decreased the number of callback hours issued – ‘budget savings to callback has not been realized through the first quarter of the fiscal year.’ ”


Escape

Injecting union dynamics into the already-inefficient government playground was always a surefire way to end up living in a society marked by corruption, malfeasance, high taxes, saddening levels of poverty, and a dismal business climate.

It only took a few decades for the fiscal decay to metastasize here in Rhode Island.

Today, second only to Detroit, Providence has one of the highest business property tax rates in the country. The City has “more than one in three children…liv[ing] in poverty.” And the per capita annual income is $21,628.

Rhode Islanders who have decided to settle or relocate within Providence’s surrounding suburbs are still forced by Statehouse Democrats to continue subsidizing all of the urban decrepitude via the State’s tax-and-spend structure (read: wealth redistribution).

The only escape is to leave the state, or outlaw government unions.

 

Travis Rowley (TravisRowley.com) is the author of The RI Republican: An Indictment of The Rhode Island Left.


Related Slideshow:
The Best of Travis Rowley

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In the event of a victory by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney several weeks ago, I had prepared myself to draft a column intended to quell the anticipated jubilation of the political Right nationwide – my primary point being that, despite such a Republican triumph, America’s enduring crisis would have been that Barack Obama was practically guaranteed 47 percent of the popular vote simply by being the endorsed Democratic candidate (Obama ultimately secured 51 percent).

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Travis Rowley: Republicans Told You So

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While Anthony Gemma’s highly anticipated press conference was certainly compelling, it remains unclear whether or not it will be enough to sink Congressman David Cicilline’s re-election hopes. At the very least, however, it seems Gemma is in possession of convincing evidence of large-scale voter fraud that would incriminate high-level officers within Cicilline’s inner circle.

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January 5, 2013

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Travis Rowley: Lessons From Boston's Post-Bombing Lockdown

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Travis Rowley: A Letter To An Undocumented Student

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Regarding the Board of Governors for Higher Education, I had the chance to attend its meeting on Monday night, and also the chance to observe the body of teenage students – some illegal aliens, and some devoted friends – that you were a part of.

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Travis Rowley: Rhode Islanders, Pay Your Own Damn Taxes

March 10, 2012

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Travis Rowley: Outlaw Government Unions

April 7, 2012

Offering collective bargaining privileges to Rhode Island’s public employees was always an imprudent idea. And they should be rescinded immediately.

This is a simple conclusion to reach when one considers the nature and purpose of a union. That is, when a group of workers view themselves as having collective leverage over their employer, and find it in their best interest to threaten him with a work stoppage unless their demands are met – most commonly, a greater share of company profits.

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Comments:

Jonathan Bainsworth

Another moronic Tea Party rant focusing on the average middle class Joe while the top 1% continue to exploit the heck out of the rigged system called Wall Street. Mr. Rowley has no trouble going after working class pensions because he too stupid to understand Credit Default swaps, derivatives and other complex financials tools used to bilk the public out of every last cent it has. The Walton family has a collective wealth equal to the bottom 40% of the country and 95% of all economic gains made since CEO and business man George W Bush crashed the economy have gone to the top 1%. If you want to know where the fault lies just follow the money. Idiots like Mr. Rowley only serve to facilitate their own demise. They are the equal of chickens voting for Colonel Sanders. Meanwhile, the yachts sail off into the sunset.

Odd Job

These looting unions who continue to laugh at the rest of us will get their butts handed to them, hopefully sooner than later.

Chris O.

Notice Jonathan Bainsworth has nothing to say about anything Rowley just wrote. A whole class of unionized government employees are ripping off the public, and all Bainsworth can say is: WALL STREET! THE RICH!! GEORGE BUSH!!

Liberals are so lame.

Shut up, Bainsworth. That was pathetic.

lupe fiasco

LMAO! This coming from the son of a trooper who paid ZERO into a fat pension he receives from the taxpayers.

Chris O.

lupe fiasco .... another brilliant comment. Can SOMEONE try and actually defend these thieving firemen?? Or at least argue against Rowley's stance on GOVERNMENT unions?

It doesn't seem so thus far.

Jeremy Soninjer

The abuses of public unions, or the argument against their existence (as believed by George Meany himself), cannot be expressed if a family member of yours happens to have been a member of a public union.

Welcome to the logic of LUPE FIASCO!!! A perfect example of how liberals are trained to argue. Thanks, LUPE!!

Phil Paulson

Let's outlaw unions because there are some bad provisions in some of the contracts and some people have taken advantage of that. I fell down some stairs once. Maybe we should outlaw stairs, or even outlaw second floors or basements. Any uneven surface should be completely outlawed.

Stephen DeNinno

Hey Travis, he WORKED 3235 extra hours in the busiest Rescues in New England, Worked was not handed. If you want to talk about safety and whether he should have been allowed to work those hours is one thing. If you think he should have worked 3235 extra hours for free? You are a lunatic!

James Berling

Travis, of course outlawing public sector unions is exactly what we should do. But how do we do it? The General Assembly has its boots on the throats of the taxpayers. They’re all Democrats and they’ve all been bribed by the Union bosses.

The GA isn’t going to do anything. And since the low information voters vote straight Democrat in this state there won’t be any opposing point of views anytime soon.

Let me answer my own question.

We could overturn the General Assembly by one or more of the following tactics:

1
Petition the FBI to investigate the corruption between the Unions and the RI General Assembly. Could the RICO Act apply here?

2
A Constitutional Convention in RI. Surely our current Constitution in not working. The General Assembly has all the power. The Governor is very weak. Let’s try weakening the GA.

3
Bring Voter Initiative to RI. If RI had Voter Initiative like Massachusetts, California and many other states do we would have a fighting chance of breaking the stranglehold the GA has on democracy in this state. Could we get Voter Initiative itself as a proposition on the ballot?

4
Make RI a Right to Work State. If we had Voter Initiative Right to Work could be a ballot question. I bet it would pass with voters but it isn’t going to pass the GA. They’ve been paid too much to keep it from coming up.

How do we crack this nut? What is the first step?

I keep wishing a leader would emerge to lead us out of this mess. I’d follow. I’d fight the good fight. And I bet there are others out there too.

Kendall Svengalis

Travis is spot on, again. Jonathan Bainsworth is just another one of those shills for public employee union excess that drains the public treasury while blaming the 1% to hide their crimes.

Rhode Island voters had better get wise to the false narrative that the Democrat Party is the party of the workingman. It has long been the party or government and the self-serving public employtee unions. They get away with it because too many voters continue to operate i=on this basis of this antiquated paradigm, while government workers laugh all the way to the bank at their expense. It's no wonder FDR and George Meany opposed unionization of public employee unions because they knew that they would eventually find ways to drain the public treasury. Ironically, some of the worst excesses are in the public safety sector, including firefighters.

As others have already said, RI needs Right to Work because no one should be forced to join ANY organization against their will, and certainly not as a condition of employment.
It is on the basis of this corruption that unions exact forced union dues and spend them on candates many of their members oppose. Numerous public opinion polls have revealed that the vast majority of union members oppose this practice, and for good reason. Say, that sounds just like the Democrat Party and the way it uses our tax dollars to buy the votes of the clueless. It's no wonder the two are in unholy alliance.

Redd Ratt

I would be interested to see how many people that go to work each day as fishermen, heavy construction workers, carpenters, and roofers have injuries that would get them a disability pension if they were firefighters. They work because they have to feed their families. Municipal workers that are considered disabled should be able to fill in at other jobs for the cities. Drive a garbage truck, city hall, dispatch, whatever. We need to construct positive changes that work for our employees and the taxpayers.

Stephen DeNinno

Redd, I think you would be suprised on how many "private sector" workers are on disability. Workers comp, then settlements, then either a free education, or SS disibility. Firefighers cannot sue the city or the building owner if injured. Even if that building owner burned down the building himself. If you want to go to that system, well let's do it. Disabilities were a big problem in the 80's and early 90's. But no more. I am willing to bet only 1-2% retirements now are disability. But the past always comes back to haunt you. Why doesn't Travis talk about NOW. Those one dozen huge pensions were a rape on the system, and hurt me and other firefighters more than anything. You never hear about the old guy making 18K a year, because that doesn't make good headlines. Look at NOW not 20 years ago.

Malachi Constant

The Pope believes in collective bargaining...are you anti-catholic?

Redd Ratt

Malachi-Yes

Kendall Svengalis

There's nothing wrong with collective bargaining, just forced unionization. Just as in a free society, anyone can join any organization they chooe, including a labor union, they should not be compelled to join any organzation, including a labor union. It is FORCED unionization that leads to a host of bad consequences. The unions' goals should never trump the freedom of association. There's a reason why union membership in the private sector has dropped precipitously in the last 50 years--most private sector workers want nothing to do with unions. In the public sector, of course, they have an often captive audience, which is why the only growth in union membership is taking place there. The problem is that, unlike private sector unions, which at least have an interest in the economic health of the compeny for which they work, and must be sensitive to market forces, private sector workers have a vested in interest in growing government at the taxpayers expense because bigger government means more forced workers, more forced dues, more and higher salaries for union operatives, and more money with which to buy off voters come election time. So, naturally the Democrat Party and labor unions have a synergy based on their collective desire to employ coercion to advance their goals.

Art West

If this column does make clear the incestuous relationship between RI governments and public section unions and the inbred corruption that they spawn, then nothing will.

How to break up this relationship? All his options have merit, but James Berling's option for Voter Initiative may have the best chance for success.

Rob Cote

There is also another issue that is not being talked about. As we all know the vast majority of firefighters have other jobs. take for example the Warwick Firefighter who bids on state construction work and just recently completed the rehab of the URI clock tower and Green Hall. What happens when he gets a "sore back" from working at his other job? The answer is that he goes out on disability and we pay for it. In particular, when we look into this individual we find out that he has no workers comp insurance and that he hires other firefighters as sub contractors. Because he does not carry the insurances that all other contractors are obligated to do, he underbids the other contractors by 40%. All of this is public information that can be found on the dept. of labor web sites.

Stephen DeNinno

Rob, you cannot bid on state or municipal contracts without workers comp insurance. Prove what you are saying. Because I know for a fact, without a certificate of insurance, liability and workers comp. It goes in the circular file. Those are state laws. If you know of someone that is breaking state law, by either working or being allowed to work without proper insurance. Then call the police. Or Jim Hummel, or Taricani, ot Tim white. Just don't write about it on Go local Prov. I know if I knew of someone I would call. Many municipalities also have ordinances that say someone on city payroll cannot bid on city jobs. Prove your allegations.

Rob Cote

Stephen, I have performed extensive research on this issue and have found several examples of what I have stated in the previous post. Go to the Contractors Registration Board http://www.crb.state.ri.us/licensedetail.php?link=16971&type=Resid

and look up contractor ID# 16971. You will find that there is no liability insurance and that the contractor claims that he has no employees.

Furthermore, you can contact the DLT and do a free background check on any contractor to find out if they have comp, and if they have current liability insurance. I have performed all of these checks. Believe me, it happens all the time. You have a firefighter that also owns a sub s corp or a sole proprietorship and gets around the comp and insurance issue by acting as a CM and subbing out the work to other guys who are doing the same. It is happening in every city of the state.

Rob Cote

Stephen, also , when you are done doing what I have said go to RI div. of purchasing. Here is a link to one of the awards to the FF bid # 7458031
https://www.purchasing.ri.gov/RIVIP/quotes/7458031.pdf

Here is the main link http://www.purchasing.ri.gov/Default.aspx

Here is another bid awarded to the FF Bid # 7457934 here is the link

https://www.purchasing.ri.gov/RIVIP/quotes/7457934.pdf

Enough said

Stephen DeNinno

Then I would call an investigative reporter. I believe it is against the law.

Rob Cote

It is against the law but good luck getting coverage. Since Rhode Island is such a target rich community for conducting fraud investigations etc.. all of the investigators can pic and choose. I see it happen on a regular basis as I have been involved in numerous municipal investigations.

Art West

Thank you, Rob Cote!

GoLocalProv, how about an investigation? Seems that Rob has already done all the nitty-gritty.




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