Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Inequities of the Coverage of Prov FF's

There have been many columns, editorials and letters-to-the-editor on the subject of firefighters in general, and Providence firefighters in particular since the US Conference of Mayors. These writings have been almost exclusively against the firefighters. I’ve counted at least fourteen against and only a single letter in favor of the firefighters – and that letter was written by me.

I have to voice my dissatisfaction with the number of letters or postings that ProJo has allowed to be printed or posted on their website. I know there have been many more letters sent on our behalf but they are not shown to the public. I believe there has been a conscious misrepresentation of the support of the Providence firefighters.

Most of all I have to voice my horror at the amount of misinformation and outright lies that have been printed in this paper and voiced in radio ads regarding our ongoing struggle with the mayor. When I wrote to one of their editors complaining that a quote in an editorial, “…firefighters oppose the mayor’s plan to pay a bit of their healthcare…” was inaccurate because Providence firefighters had been proposing a 15% co-pay of our healthcare costs for over three years his reply was, “…the article states that you oppose the mayor’s plan to pay a bit, not that you oppose paying a bit. There’s a difference.”

Is he kidding? Is this representative of the ProJo’s “impartial” stating of the facts? Is it any wonder that the general public sees the Providence firefighters under a less than favorable light? Under the circumstances I think it’s a credit to the professionalism Providence firefighters have shown (and continue to show) on a daily basis that all the fire stations in the city haven’t been burned to the ground.

As for the lies that Mayor Cicilline spews in his radio ads about Providence firefighters being the highest paid firefighters in the country, this is an outright lie. Providence firefighters are not even in the top three departments with regard to the highest paid firefighters in RI! The $132,000 per firefighter Cicilline claims that each Providence firefighter costs the city in salary and benefits is more like 70K to 79K per year, depending on rank and length of service. There ought to be a law that states that such lies cannot be broadcast on a public radio station. There ought to be a law that so-called large metropolitan newspapers be held accountable for printing the truth.

Providence firefighters will always be there for the citizens we serve. We only wish that they hear the facts of our dispute before they cast us as enemies of the state. Take the time to speak to a firefighter about the issues and if you still feel we’re being unreasonable and state your knowledgeable opinion we will listen. Rattling off false accusations spoon fed by politicians and editorial comments do nothing to help resolve this longstanding dispute.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Mayor Cicilline & the 1st Amendment


Who has ever heard of PVA’s in Providence. Oh, excuse me, that’s Public Viewing Areas. This is an area where people can be assured that their 1st Amendment right to free speech will be honored and protected.

These areas are where the Cicilline administration would like the citizens to gather to voice their protests. This way they can guarantee your safety – and the safety of the rest of the citizens and visitors in Providence. Imagine if protesters were actually allowed to picket on the public sidewalks in front of the RI Convention Center. Fire trucks, Rescues and Police cars would be totally unable to negotiate around the city. Traffic would be snarled, pedestrians would be confused and planes would be stacked up at the airport.

How thoughtful of Mayor Cicilline. He would never want to have it said that he wasn’t allowing the firefighters of Providence (or other concerned yet frustrated citizens) to exercise their right to free speech. That would be unconstitutional.

Doesn’t it seem just a little suspicious that there was never any talk of a plan to limit access of protesters at the Mayor’s Convention until the day before the event and immediately after the Providence firefighter’s union announced plans to picket the mayor. This so-called liberal mayor is fine with protesters exercising their right to gather and march until the target of their complaints is the mayor himself.

Constitutional protection as long as it’s convenient!

In addition to trampling on the firefighter’s rights by corralling them into designated pens away from the Convention Center, this mayor also used his authority to use taxpayer’s money to pay firefighters to stay away from the picket line. He ordered over 50 firefighters each day of the convention to walk through designated areas (away from the Convention Center of course) monitoring for biological weapons! These firefighters were ordered to work – they had no choice. They were told to wear casual clothes – no uniforms. They were paid overtime rates to do this.
Funny thing about these firefighters monitoring for biological weapons…they only monitored during the hours of the pickets! Maybe Cicilline was concerned about the safety of the firefighters who were picketing!

Mayor Cicilline clearly has no problem with abusing the powers of his office for his own selfish motives. This week his political muscles were flexed against the firefighters. Next week he will be trampling over the rights of another group who disagree with his policies. Every week, however, he betrays the taxpayers of the City of Providence. He reminds me of the spoiled little brat who owns the ball and will take it and go home unless he gets his way. How surprising!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Questions for Mayor Cicilline

Mayor David Ciclline is fond of stating that he is a watchdog for the taxpayers of Providence. He continues to watch over every dollar spent by the city and makes the necessary cuts (no savings is too small to be overlooked) to save the city money.

If so, please ask David these questions.

Why did you spend $25K on a manpower study to justify your staffing cuts in the Providence Fire Department over 2 years ago but not release it yet? Your stance claims that cutting FF staffing will not affect public safety and this study was meant to prove your claim. If it proved that staffing could be cut, I’m sure you would have released it long ago. This is a public record paid for by the taxpayers of Providence yet you refuse to release it even after Local 799 has processed a claim with the courts.

Why is it that you could have gotten over 2 years worth of co-share concessions (that could have saved the city millions) from the firefighters but refused to take the offer?

Why is it that after the city received the benefit of increasing the co-pays for RX’s and Dr’s visits for Providence firefighters and their families by an arbitrator it took over a year and a half for you to begin collecting these payments? This cost the city millions of dollars because these payments were paid directly by the city. This oversight(?) was only discovered when the city asked for a bid for city healthcare management by United Health. United Health discovered this costly mistake.

Why is it that over 58 firefighters were paid overtime to walk around the city in plainclothes the entire time that Local 799’s picket was marching. The stated reason was that they were guarding against and monitoring for a possible biological attack. Was this an attempt to keep these 58 members off the picket line? If not why did you not have them continually monitor after the pickets were done for the day? How much did this cost the taxpayer?

Why was there extra police (more than ever before for a convention or rally in Providence) on duty at the same time the pickets were going on? How much did this cost the taxpayers?

Providence Mayor's Conference Picketing

Providence firefighters are planning to picket at the upcoming Mayor’s Conference. This is a fact. Providence firefighters have been without a negotiated contract for the entire 7 ½ years David Cicilline has been the Mayor of Providence. Fact. Mayor Cicilline has been aware of Local 799’s plans to picket at his conference for over a year. Fact. The mayor has refused to sit with the leadership of the union at any time during this entire year. Also a fact.

Unfortunately this is where the facts end concerning the so-called information that is being quoted by many who are in the public eye. These individuals and institutions are expected to speak the truth in order to uphold their obligation to the public. This has not been the case regarding this issue.

Providence Journal’s editorial page states that “…Providence’s firefighters oppose the mayor’s plan to have them pay a bit of their health care costs…”. This is untrue. All of Local 799’s contract proposals over the past few years have included a proposal which includes health care co-shares. This fact is also printed in their own newspaper on a different page!

It has been widely reported that Providence firefighters are unwilling to discuss changes to staffing and pension issues. Not so. The fact is that the union and the city differ on the specific changes to be made, but this is what “negotiations” are supposed to be about.

John DePetro blatantly spews misinformation regarding Providence firefighter’s contract and working conditions on his morning radio show on a daily basis. Just this morning he repeatedly stated that Providence firefighters were offering a 1% - 2% co-share of health coverage in retirement. Not true. The real percentage offered by Local 799 was approximately 12%.

Cicilline has attempted to claim that Providence firefighters are the highest compensated firefighters in the country. False. In fact, Providence firefighters are not even the highest compensated firefighters in the state.

Cicilline has claimed that his proposals regarding staffing concessions will not affect the safety of the citizens of Providence. The fact is that he proposes to take 9 firefighters per shift off the trucks, allowing all fire apparatus in the city to fall below the NFPA standard – for a start. How can that not have an effect on public safety?

Cicilline portrays Providence firefighters as “holding the citizens of Providence hostage” and of being “extortionists”. How absurd. In fact Providence firefighters have a history of offering one-time pay freezes and a one-time giveback of a vacation week due to the City’s poor financial status – and that was before he took office when it wasn’t the norm for employees to do so.

Firefighters can’t be expected to make any one-time concessions at the present time because they’re currently working on an arbitrated contract which is over 4 years behind already.

Providence firefighters are ready and willing to be part of the solution to our present situation. We only wish (and would expect) to be held accountable for our proposals; for the facts. We can’t defend ourselves against intentional(?) misinformation and lies being spread about us. I can’t tell you how many times over the past few days that strangers and acquaintances have told me how unreasonable my union is being on this issue only to completely change their opinion after I present them with the real facts.

This is all we are expecting – let us be judged on the facts.