Thank You, Erin Blackman!
Much of the criticism (and all of the hatemail) related to my op-ed regarding Lt. Michael Morse and unionization in RI has only served to exacerbate my reservations. Namely, when I say “unionization,” they hear “firefighters.” When I say, “I’ve concluded that public-sector unionization is among the villains in Rhode Island,” they hear, “you get paid too much.”
The bottom line is that, every time I’ve made a complaint about public-sector unions, even if my target is, say, the National Education Association, the firefighters step forward as poster children for the union cause. Consider the picture associated with Charles Bakst’s latest column. Or better yet, consider the comment section to this post in which Michael links to my op-ed:
The worry I have is, don’t they feel all you out there that provide this valuable service are deserving of every penny you earn? It angers me when people begin to look at the rescuers and search for ways to help the community money pot by asking the rescuers to sacrifice for the common good, because sacrifice they do already (you do).
The problem is that, as long as there’s a unified union front, it’s impossible to assess firefighters distinctly from the rest. As long as public safety officers stand shoulder to shoulder with social workers under the union banner, they force reformists to battle them in order to battle the unions.
And into this wrangle, in which the sides have worn veritable trenches beneath their feet as they’ve stood their immovable ground, comes Erin Blackman, who is currently working on a documentary about the Providence Fire Department, writing to the above-linked post on Michael’s blog:
… unions would not be an issue if the friggin’ cities and the state would quit paying ridiculous salaries to file clerks, data entry clerks and janitors and start paying firefighters, cops and correctional officers for keeping us safe every day.
You’ll note that one rarely hears the office-chair jockeys in the public sector stepping forward to defend the necessity of union practices. Indeed, it seems increasingly that, as public school teachers tumble through the boundaries of reasonable action that they’ve been pushing for years, the emergency workers are slipping toward the spotlight to be the Face of the Union.
Yeah, it gets our hackles up when union business begins to overlap with the business of protecting citizens. But it would serve both the public and the emergency workers for such actions to be seen as distinguishable from the rest of the rotten mess in this state.