I’m not a big fan of public sector unions. I generally think they should be abolished for all government agencies, including the police and fire departments. At the same governments must treat their employees fairly.
The problem is in New Orleans that the firefighters are not being treated fairly by the Landrieu administration. They have been locked in lawsuits with the city over everything from back overtime pay to the pension fund. Despite the fact the economy of the city of New Orleans is booming, according to Mitch Landrieu, the city can’t find the money to pay the firefighters what they’re owed.
In May, a Civil District Court judge ordered the city of New Orleans to pay $30 million into the pension fund for the firefighters. The Landrieu administration has refused to make the payment. The was despite the fact the judge ordered the payment to be made.
Not only does the Landrieu administration not want to fund the firefighters’ pensions, they don’t even want to pay the firefighters period. In 2014, a judge ordered the Landrieu administration to pay $75 million in back wages to firefighters. The Landrieu administration once again refused to pay up. The firefighters were forced to take the city back to court in June to get their money. Here’s what New Orleans Deputy Mayor Andy Kopplin said at the time:
“The firefighters are saying we should cut in line in front of everybody is to get paid now, and at that level of spending, that threatens city services, where it’s street repairs, parks and recreation, or public safety,” said Andy Kopplin, New Orleans First Deputy Mayor and Chief Administrative Officer.
Which brings us to the latest chapter in this farce. The Landrieu administration is offering the firefighters a settlement. According to the Times-Picayune, the “settlement” is $42.25 million, which is a quarter of the money the firefighters are owed. The money would be payable over 30 years and the city would raise property taxes 3 mills to fund it.
Here’s the details of it.
The $42.25 million price tag amounts to about a quarter of the $168 million the firefighters’ union claim is owed to its members and their pension plan.
Louis Robein, who represents the firefighters and the pension board, said he was “perplexed” by the proposal, which the administration gave his clients no prior warning was to be presented to the City Council. He said it was unclear whether the motion was meant to be a serious request to the council, or merely a starting point for a renewal of the talks that have taken place in private off and on for the last several weeks but recently stalled.
The Landrieu administration described the proposal a “reasonable, commonsense approach” to resolving the standoff that would see the firefighters receive some payment while preserving city services. “We hope the firefighters’ union will seriously consider it,” a Landrieu spokesman said in a statement.
[…]The plan calls for steep cuts in pension benefits and a dramatic overhaul of the rules for the board of trustees, a seven-member body largely controlled by the firefighters.
In return, firefighters would get a lump sum of $7 million in 2016, triggered by the approval of the millage, followed by an $8 million lump sum in 2017. Thereafter, the millage would pay fund annual payments of $2.5 million to the firefighters over the next 11 years. Firefighters would get an immediate payment of $2.75 million, though it would come at the expense a payment the administration had previously pledged to the the pension fund.
That would bring to $28.75 million in payments due to the pension to be stretched out over the next 30 years, amortized through the city’s normal contributions to the fund.
The firefighters should reject this “settlement.” Not only should the reject the settlement, they should strike. It is clear that the Landrieu administration is not interested in living up to any agreement they make with them.
It’s amazing that economy of New Orleans is supposedly booming. However, the city doesn’t have money to pay first responders. The city also doesn’t have money to fight crime. Any driver in New Orleans can tell you the money isn’t going to the streets. You have to boil the water before you can drink it, so it’s not going there. But there’s plenty of money to knock down Confederate monuments all over the city.
Where the hell is all of this money going? Is it being used to pay clockwatching bureaucrats at the Department of Redundancy Department? I would be very curious to see what the books of the City of New Orleans look like right now.
In the meantime, the New Orleans Fire Department should walk off the job. Perhaps the equally mistreated New Orleans Police Department should join them.