Camden’s Union Shoulda?

Like many of you this morning, I received an email from The Secret List regarding, among other things, an article written by Eric Lamar and posted over at my buddy Firegeezerís site earlier this month.† In it, Lamar points to union leadership and the role it may need to take in these tragic economic times facing local governments nationwide.

He specifically points to the role the union played over in Camden, New Jersey, where a massive layoff hit both the fire and police departments like a ton of bricks.

Much of what I offer here will make more sense if you read Lamarís article here.† It is worth your time.

Lamar frequently uses the analogy of the lifeboat and a sinking ship, particularly fitting for his argument.† And although much of what he offers is thought-provoking, I think he stops short of looking at the entire timeline of what is happening to the fire service by city leaders eager to pass the buck on the blame.

How did we get here?

To take the lifeboat analogy a bit further, the Great Titanic did not have as many lifeboats as was required to ensure the safety of the passengers (citizens/taxpayers of Camden) and crew (Camden’s public service employees), yet the decision was made to proceed full steam ahead.

And just like Mike Williams, a rig technician and survivor on the Deep Water Horizon, later recounted, when the oil rig he was on inevitably exploded, he had jumped from a sure death (the flaming oil rig) into a sure death (the flaming sea).

While I feel badly for those who lost their jobs this month, I wonder how those, still employed but left behind. will fare suddenly tasked with doing more of the job with less of the resources.

God help them.

So maybe we ought to be looking a little further back than the decision the union and its firefighters faced this month, and see what could have- nay- SHOULD HAVE been done before it got to this point in Camden.† I’m referring to the city leaders who certainly share a portion, if not the majority, of creating the flaming sea upon which the exploding oil rig continued working.

Camden Mayor Miton Milan

Milton Milan, Camden's third mayor to see prison

Why aren’t we also looking into the possibility/probability that poor management by corrupt and jailed city leaders created this problem?† Wasn’t it inevitable that lifeboats would be needed? So now, should we allow our city leaders get off scot-free without a similar inspection as to their guilt?

How convenient these days, when unions and pensions are under the microscope, to go back only far enough as a reaction to the inevitable point Camden found itself in- and say that the Unions should have made a better decision on the question:

Stay on the sinking ship and certainly die, or jump into the frigid waters and hope for a spot on an overcrowded lifeboat?

Stay stoked!



  • Dave LeBlanc says:

    Because it is an easy target to hit, brother. I think that many citizens feel, especially those that blame the unions for all the problems, that Unions have free reign over the municipalities and are able to get whatever they want, just by asking.

    Negotiations is a two way street. Very few Unions, if any, have the upper hand. In fact most usually bargain from a position of weakness. Public employees trade higher wages and benefits for security and a pension. Except now those are under attack, with many people not realizing the concessions that were made along the way.

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John Mitchell

Firefighter/Paramedic and a Lieutenant in suburban Chicago

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