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Questioning the Political Priorities of the Firefighters Union

As another summer of wildfires approaches, it is in the interest of every Californian to understand that California’s firefighters’ union, the California Professional Firefighters, is one of the most politically powerful unions in the state. This union has the power to help solve the growing problem of wildfires in California, but to more effectively do so they will have to make some tough and selfless political choices.

As it is, California’s firefighters’ union is a partisan political machine that is not standing up to environmental activists that, for decades, have undermined responsible forest management. At the same time, California’s firefighters receive union negotiated pay and benefits that have exempted them from – to use a term favored by the leftists their union aligns with – the “lived experience” of most Californians.

These problems are related. If firefighters received compensation based more on market rates instead of those rates their unions “negotiated” with politicians the unions helped elect, there would be more money to hire more firefighters. There would also be more money left over to spend on programs to prevent wildfires, instead the money running out every year after spending billions to extinguish wildfires.

Before going further, it is important to establish two things: First, to criticize the agenda of public sector unions does not constitute criticism of all unions, in all circumstances. Second, to question whether current pay scales for California’s firefighters are affordable or appropriate in no way diminishes the respect and appreciation we have for their […] Read More

Firefighters Union Backs Prop. 15 Instead of Forestry Reform

Thousands of firefighters continue to battle blazes across California. In Orange County, two firefighters are in critical condition after suffering major injuries battling the Silverado Fire. Every year around this time, firefighters risk their lives, and some of them lose their lives, protecting the rest of us from these catastrophic fires.

Deep respect for what firefighters do, however, cannot excuse us of our obligation to criticize the political agenda of the firefighters union. Moreover, it is likely that if the firefighter union leadership redirected their political priorities, it would save lives and property. It would free up firefighting resources, allowing them to be concentrated in remaining trouble spots.

In this fraught political season, California’s firefighters union has decided to endorse Prop. 15, the controversial “split roll” ballot initiative. If enacted, Prop. 15 will require business properties to be reassessed at market rates. If passed, the increased tax revenue is estimated at between $6.5 billion and $11.5 billion per year.

It isn’t necessary to debate the pros and cons of Prop. 15 here. Nor is it necessary to recap why it is the mission of every public sector union in California to increase taxes, despite the fact that Californians already pay the highest overall taxes in the United States.

Most everyone agrees that if you are a victim of a fire, or are injured or killed fighting a fire, no amount of monetary compensation is adequate. But that perspective, which reasonable people acknowledge, has a corollary: […] Read More