There’s a Better Alternative than Striking

There’s a Better Alternative than Striking

The Editor’s Opinion Page

How can we give the fire chief a $500 raise? We just gave the city clerk $5,000.

Our thoughts this month are directed to the recent firemen’s strikes, or threat of strikes, in American cities. We are saddened by these strikes. We feel strongly that such strikes serve no useful purpose. And that even when they are settled, they still leave an atmosphere of bitterness that takes a long time to ventilate.

-A strike by firemen is a strike against public service and those who strike against public service are licked before they start. On top of this, striking firemen are whittling away at the high esteem and affection that the American public holds for the fire service.

However, there are two sides to every story. There is no valid reason in our great—and inflating—society why a fireman should be taking home less than $5000 a year. A sum that is considerably less than the national average family income. And there is also no valid reason why he should work 60 or more hours a week to get this meager sum.

But what can a fireman do when he can’t strike and at the same time sees inflation nibbling away at his already inadequate salary?

We think it is significant that the highest paid firemen in the country work in departments where there has never been even a hint of a strike.

Such departments usually have a strong public relations group adequately and skillfully manned. This group keeps the public aware of the activities of fire fighters, including their extra-curricular activities such as running a Boy Scout Troop or a team of Little Leaguers.

Such departments by pressure and publicity (often by the fire fighters local) have managed to have a compulsory arbitration board set up—a board that is compulsory for the fire fighters and city officials. Such boards have been written into law by some states.

And finally, such departments have a legislative committee that looks after fire fighters’ rights in the state and municipal legislatures.

In boiling down the above three items, we wind up with public relations, arbitration, and legislation. These are the tools available to fire fighters whose dedication to their job prohibits them from striking. And these tools work, as witness the West Coast and the Northeast. Not only do departments there have the highest salaries, but they have fringe benefits such as paid hospitalization and uniform allowances that add to their salaries.

With these tools the fire fighter can go over the heads of city officials who take advantage ot their unwillingness to strike. Go over their heads to the public and legislators who are generally more receptive to their needs.

So, we are against strikes, unequivocally. But we are also unequivocally against fire fighters being last in line at the budget hearings.

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