Firefighters face new threat: private 911 service
SAN FRANCISCO/NEW YORK — For-profit ambulance companies present American communities with an offer that’s hard to refuse these days.
They will take over 911 emergency rescue service at little or no charge to cash-short cities and counties and promise to bring down labor costs spent on public employees.
But leaders of this growing industry face an unusual business obstacle: Sooty firefighters, who are among the most potent symbols of American trustworthiness and selfless valor.
For the men and women in fire departments, this is no drill. With fewer fires to fight as building codes have improved, providing emergency medical service has become a big part of what they do.
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Firefighters face new threat: private 911 service
I think anyone that has ever read my blog knows, I am a HUGE supporter of the Police and Fire Fighters. That said, I have absolutely NO use for Labor Unions, SEIU, IBEW, UAW AFL-CIO, Teamsters, or any other Union of ANY name, brand or label.
This post is not meant to be confrontational, my intent is to spur thought, and hopefully, find some answers to the tough questions Rowlett is facing.
The upshot has been numerous clashes pitting private players against fire chiefs and the influential union, the International Association of Fire Fighters.
This is the IAFF logo, a nice logo, but a UNION logo none the less.
Unions have, in MY opinion, outlived their usefulness in today’s society. They get rich off of their members *dues* and offer little in return. Just look at Detroit. Look at what was, once upon a time, Western Electric, a facility that made phones for Bell Telephone back in the day. It became AT&T and had been represented by IBEW since it’s building.
One of their bigger plants, in Shreveport, La., was shut DOWN many years ago, the IBEW priced them out of a job.
The Unions have priced their workers OUT of a job all over, and have caused U.S. markets to move overseas.
The biggest U.S. private ambulance provider, American Medical Response, has been engaged in a particularly fierce battle with firefighter unions around Las Vegas. It’s gotten so rough that a company general manager there was recently recorded describing a plan to make the North Las Vegas union chief look like “an absolute a–hole.”
There is no way that I would say that about our Fire Chief. Mr. George Harris is a gentleman that I have had the pleasure to meet and is one that I really like. Our Fire Fighters are some hard workers too, but, our Fire Department here in Rowlett IS represented by the International Association of Fire Fighters.
The IAFF is a well intentioned group I am sure, but I have to ask, have they caused the price of Emergency Medical Service coverage to sky rocket? And thus, cost the City of Rowlett money spent that didn’t have to be?
As a Chief, I don’t know if Mr. Harris is a Union member or not. I know he will see this post and I hope he will respond in comments. Chief Harris strikes me as a straight-up, no nonsense kind of guy, and I know he is very intelligent, so, his input would be very helpful here.
I also know that the City of Rowlett is facing a budget crisis. I have to wonder, would the City be ahead of the game to out-source their Emergency Medical System to a *for hire* service like Lone Star or AMR? Would that save the City enough money to make a difference?
And while AMR president Mark Bruning called that choice of words “unacceptable” in a Reuters interview, the company notes in its regulatory filings that in many communities, its most important competitors are the local fire departments, which have expanded into emergency ambulance service “and do not wish to give up their franchises to a private competitor.”
I know that competition is good for business. I know that competition drives the price and level of service.
I want to make this very clear, I am NOT denigrating the Rowlett Fire Department, it’s Chief, or our Firefighters, not in ANY way, but I have to ask, is the IAFF/AFL-CIO a needed thing in this day and time? Could the City be saved enough money if the Rowlett FD dumped the IAFF and took a pay cut equal to what they are paying in Union dues?
Could the City be better served by contracting private EMS services? Would that facilitate the layoffs, RIFs, of some of our wonderful Fire Fighters?
The Mayor, City Manager and Council are always looking for ways to better serve the citizens of Rowlett and not cut the actual services we enjoy as they save every dollar they can, I am throwing this out for discussion, from ALL parties, City officials and citizens.
Facing stiff budget restraints and more than usual anti-tax fervor among voters, state and local governments are under pressure to turn more services over to private industry. At the same time, an aging U.S. population is expected to need more ambulance care in the coming years.
Private ambulance companies are growing at a time when public-sector unions are under broad assault, epitomized by recent moves by the state of Wisconsin to strip the collective bargaining power of public-employee unions. The controversial Wisconsin law excludes firefighter unions, but a similar measure in Ohio extends to almost all state employees.
I don’t know if ANY of this is feasible, but if concerned citizens don’t weigh in with suggestions and ideas, our Mayor and Council won’t know what we’re thinking.
I know the Council DOES listen, I hope the Mayor is listening too.