Archive for March 25th, 2015

Pension reforms exempt police and fire

Excerpts from an article from the on public sector pensions:

In recent weeks, Gov. Bruce Rauner of Illinois has traveled the state promoting his proposal for more than $2 billion in cuts to pensions for public employees. All public employees, that is, except police officers and firefighters.

“Those who put their lives on the line in service to our state deserve to be treated differently,” Mr. Rauner said in his February budget address to the state legislature.

By announcing the exemption, Mr. Rauner was following the lead of other Republican governors in the Midwest who have imposed unwelcome changes on state and local employees in the name of saving money and improving services.

In 2011, Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin introduced a bill that would roll back collective bargaining rights for government workers and require them to contribute more toward their own pensions and health coverage. He excluded police officers and firefighters from the legislation, known as Act 10, which he signed the following month.

In 2012, Gov. Rick Snyder of Michigan signed a right-to-work bill, eliminating the requirement that private and public sector workers contribute dues to the unions that represent them, whether or not they are members. The bill included a “carve-out” for police officers and firefighters, which Mr. Snyder supported.

All these exemptions and carve-outs have a popular appeal. Who, after all, would deny the heroism of police officers and firefighters? The hitch, labor experts contend, is that the exemptions lack any substantive merit.

While no one would dismiss the risks that police officers and firefighters face daily, they are not the only public employees whose work is dangerous. Statistically, at least, there are far more dangerous public sector jobs.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, on-the-job fatalities occur at a significantly higher rate for “refuse and recyclable material collectors” — sanitation workers — than for police officers. The same is true for power line installers and truck drivers. And fatality rates for these workers exceed those for firefighters by a considerable margin, though firefighters have serious health complications like cancer at relatively high rates in retirement.

But even granting that police officers and firefighters have a special claim on the public’s conscience, it is not clear why the most effective way to honor that claim is through more generous pensions. It might make far more sense to rein in their pensions while raising their salaries, said David Lewin, a professor of management at the University of California, Los Angeles.

For one thing, police officers and firefighters can retire with full pensions at younger ages than other state employees (beginning at age 50 in Illinois, often younger in other states). That means they frequently spend many more years drawing their pension benefits, even while receiving full-time salaries in the private sector. This drives up long-term costs for municipalities and states. The early retirement policies also deplete police and fire departments of critical employees at precisely the time when they are most valuable.

But few politicians are challenging these longstanding privileges or asking police officers and firefighters to sacrifice along with other public employees.

In Wisconsin, for example, Mr. Walker and other Republicans argued that it was important to insulate police officers and firefighters because the state relies on them during emergencies and cannot afford unrest in their ranks. In Michigan, Mr. Snyder worried that extending right-to-work provisions to police officers and firefighters would hurt their cohesion.

That argument is hard to square, however, with statements by Republican legislators and governors like Mr. Snyder that their proposals would be a boon to employees — one that police officers and firefighters should presumably want to share in, not something they should want to avoid.

Similarly, Mr. Grothman said that the real purpose of Act 10 was “to improve the quality of education and other government services.” But if policing and firefighting are the most critical services local governments provide, the public would presumably be even more eager to improve them, not less.

James Macy, a labor lawyer who has represented dozens of municipalities in Wisconsin, said that smaller towns would be well served by pooling their police departments into larger units. He says he believes municipalities could improve the productivity of their fire departments by rethinking the traditional schedule of 24 hours on, followed by one or more days off. But the existing arrangements are difficult to alter under the status quo. In the case of firefighter schedules, Mr. Macy said, “the only way to change that is through bargaining.  And firefighters like that, they protect that,” he said.

Some backers of right-to-work laws and curbs on collective bargaining for public employees say they should be applied without exception.

A spokesman for Daniel Knodl, a Republican state legislator in Wisconsin, said: “Representative Knodl’s position on the Act 10 provisions is that all public employees should be subject to the same provisions. This should include police and firefighters.”

Co-opting public safety employees divides and weakens labor unions, according to Harold Schaitberger, general president of the International Association of Fire Fighters.

Police officers and firefighters, Professor Bruno pointed out, are also much more likely than other public employees to be white and male — precisely the demographics from which Republicans draw their electoral strength.

“People are happy to see us come to their door,” Mr. Schaitberger said. “That gives us a face, a voice, an ability to not only push a narrative, but to advance an agenda.”

Where the Dangers Are

Logging workers had the highest likelihood of being killed on the job in 2013. Police officers and firefighters fell somewhere in the middle, in terms of job fatalities.

Number of work-related fatalities per 100,000 workers, 2013


Logging workers                                                     91.3

Aircraft pilots and flight engineers                     50.6

Refuse and recyclable material collectors         33.0

Truck transportation                                             24.0

Electrical powerline installers and repairers    21.5

Construction laborers                                            17.7

Taxi drivers and chauffeurs                                 15.7

Grounds maintenance workers                           12.6

Waste management and remediation               10.7

Police and sheriff’s patrol officers                     10.6

Athletes, coaches, umpires and related              8.9

Firefighters                                                               8.2

Electricians                                                               8.1

Carpenters                                                                6.2

Automotive repair and maintenance                  4.8

Janitors and building cleaners                             2.2

Educational services                                               0.8

Finance and insurance                                           0.3


Working fire in Chicago, 3/23/15

A reader found this video labeled Fire Chicago 2200 W Grand 3/23/2015 West Town. The video shows a fireman on the roof getting knocked in the head by the tip of the aerial ladder at the 2:00 mark.

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Orland Fire District apparatus updates

This from Kevin Griffin:

I stopped by Orland on Saturday (3/21/15) and got pictures of the new engine, newer ambulance 4, and

truck 4 renumbered with a black stripe added


2013 ford/ 2008 road rescue box

Orland FPD apparatus

Kevin Griffin photo

2014 pierce impel

Orland FPD fire apparatus

Kevin Griffin photo

Orland FPD fire apparatus

Kevin Griffin photo

2014 pierce impel

Orland FPD fire apparatus

Kevin Griffin photo

Orland FPD fire apparatus

Kevin Griffin photo

Orland FPD fire apparatus

Kevin Griffin photo

Orland FPD fire apparatus

Kevin Griffin photo

fire engine bumper

Kevin Griffin photo

Orland FPD fire apparatus

Kevin Griffin photo

2004 pierce lance

Orland FPD fire apparatus

Kevin Griffin photo

Orland FPD fire apparatus

Kevin Griffin photo

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