Forced Unionization Would Handcuff Firefighting Efforts

The passage of H.R. 980, a bill that would would override state laws and make Big Labor bosses monopoly bargaining agents for local and state police, firefighters, county paramedics, and other public safety officers across America, has a bizarre side-effect — it would ultimately subject tens of thousands of firefighters to harsh new penalties, up to and including termination, for volunteering to put out fires in case of emergencies. No where are the negative consequences of the bill more apparent than in California where hundreds of professional firefighters volunteered on their own time to put out raging brushfires that destroyed hundreds of homes last month.

Writing in the North County Times, Sunana Batra, who lives in Encinitas, California, notes that passage of H.R. 980 by the U.S. Senate:

. . . would mandate unionization of EMTs, firefighters and policemen across America. States and localities who choose not to recognize public sector unions would face a federal override, with Washington setting labor rules. There’s a provision in the bill that opens the door for punishing professional firefighters from “volunteering” with “rival” units. A volunteer unit could be a “rival” to the city or county (unionized) unit.

Two weeks ago, Palomar Mountain was saved by 24 members of the Palomar Mountain Volunteer Fire Department who forced back the flames, preventing most of the mountain’s 300 homes from being lost to the Poomacha fire. They would be considered a “rival” unit to the Escondido Fire Department under the current version of HR 980.

The volunteer fire service is one of the most valuable resources a community can have, according to emergency service personnel. It is those men and women who go into harm’s way to save the lives and properties of countless people each year. According to the National Fire Protection Association, 72 percent of U.S. firefighters are volunteers. Most communities with less than 25,000 residents are protected by volunteer fire departments, anchored by a core of professional firefighters who volunteer during their free time.

Discouraging a highly skilled group of professionals who care about their communities, and have the talent to prevent a vast damage in any way from volunteering their expertise, because it may jeopardize their job, is simply repulsive to this taxpayer.

Columnist Doug Bandow writes that:

Congress should keep its hands off of local labor relations. Cities, counties, and states should be able to organize their emergency services departments as they see fit. Equally important, Washington should leave individual firefighters alone. What is more American than professionals going ahead and volunteering some of their time to save their fellow Americans? That’s something we should encourage, not discourage