Voters on Tuesday soundly defeated a request by Colorado Springs firefighters to initiate formal union negotiations and contracts with the city.
The Gazette’s editorial board opposed the proposal, but we are not dancing in the end zone. We are torn like Eli Manning’s parents when son Peyton trounced son Eli again.
We value both major players in the union conflict: Mayor John Suthers and Colorado Springs firefighters who belong to Local 5.
Suthers warned against union bargaining, explaining it would impose a nonelected third party in important personnel decisions. He showed the community how he and other elected officials negotiate directly with firefighters, in good faith, to establish fair and competitive benefits and conditions. He warned that unionizing one department would lead to unionizing them all, distancing elected officials from personnel policies.
Union members who supported the ballot measure told The Gazette they were satisfied with their compensation. They had no major concerns, and mostly pegged their desire for union negotiations on the desire for a sense of long-term stability.
Colorado Springs has among the best big city fire departments in the country, as rated by insurance metrics and other standard data. Ditto for our police department. We have top-level first responders because politicians consistently run on promises to improve public safety. Voters consistently elect those whom they most trust to deliver on that promise. As seen 10 years ago, they have granted stability to firefighters during the depths of economic recession.
Suthers has added police and firefighters at a record pace during the past four years, and plans to add more. Voters rewarded him with a landslide re-election victory, in which he more than sextupled the votes of the second-place finisher in a field of four.
The union proposal went down by more than a two-to-one margin because voters trust Suthers and members of the City Council to continue making public safety their highest priority. Doing so entails ensuring fair and competitive compensation, along with safe working conditions and modern equipment.
In the wake of voting down the union proposal, voters should continue encouraging politicians to take good care of those who protect our property and lives.
Taxpayers and public servants should continue showing firefighters and other city employees they do not need union leaders to do their bidding in Colorado Springs. Let’s make this the city in which first responders most desire to work, live and play.