Nothing Egregious About This Picket Line
I guess I’m to the left of Bob Kerr on this one. I agreed with him in 2007 (and thought he wrote the best single item on the subject) when he wrote that the Providence Firefighter’s Local 799 threat to picket a statewide disaster drill, which could have shut down the drill, was wrong. I was glad when the union altered its plans and opted for an informational rally instead.
But the circumstances are different this time, for at least two reasons…
- A statewide disaster drill is fundamentally different from a mayor’s conference. Stuff happens at a large-scale drill that cannot be simulated anywhere else. Had the drill not gone on, there’s no guarantee that an adequate replacement could have been put together anytime soon after and the opportunity for coordinated training and learning would have been lost.
A mayor’s conference is no disaster drill. The main activity at a conference is talking and (hopefully) listening. While there is value in getting public officials to talk to one another face-to-face, they will have plenty of other chances to communicate with one another on issues they believe are important. Or, if you prefer a more colloquial expression of this idea, politicians will be able to find other opportunities to talk.
- Whatever I may think of the principle of union members respecting one another’s picket lines, the fact is they do, and it was unfair of union leadership to potentially disrupt the drill by forcing firefighters to choose between their professional responsibilities and their union.
However, Vice-President of the United States of America is not a union job. Vice-President Biden’s decision not to attend the conference is a purely political one and it is ludicrous to assert that people should self-curtail their rights of free expression and assembly, because the VP of the US needs to be protected from having to make political decisions.