Collective bargaining bill under fire from GJ city

City of Grand Junction officials are speaking out against proposed state Senate bill that would expand collective bargaining rights for firefighters.

Senate Bill 13-025 would give firefighters the right to organize, form, join or assist an employee organization; negotiate collectively or express a grievance through representatives of their choice; be represented by exclusive representation without discrimination; and engage in other activity for collective bargaining, mutual aid or protection.

In response to the bill, Grand Junction Mayor Bill Pitts sent a letter to the state senators, arguing that collective bargaining can create friction between employees and employers.

Here is his complete letter:

Dear Senators,

Thank you in advance for your careful consideration of Senate Bill 13-025 in the Business, Labor and Technology Committee. We very much appreciate the opportunity to share our position on the Bill, and the negative impacts this legislation would have on our organization and community.

The City of Grand Junction is acutely aware of the importance and value of our firefighters, and continually strives to provide these employees with competitive salaries and benefit packages, state-of- the-art equipment and the best possible working conditions. We have worked diligently to keep public safety positions whole and in fact, public safety was the only division to not experience a reduction in training budgets during the recession. Collective bargaining does not always lead to increased cooperation between employees and employers and can in fact create friction and distraction from the overall goal of ensuring the public’s safety. Pitting employees and employers against each other at the bargaining table can divert attention from the most important mission of public safety agencies: protecting the public with the highest quality service possible.

Senate Bill 13-025 creates an establishment of rights that far surpasses what is normally provided for in collective bargaining statutes and ordinances. The manner in which Senate Bill 13-025 formats bargaining would put our City and our taxpayers at an unfair advantage. Although there is a strike prohibition in the bill, the legislation does not create or allow for punitive action for engaging in a strike. The public safety of our citizens could be held hostage by failed negotiations. This legislation is an unfunded mandate on local governments and would severely damage our ability as locally elected officials to quickly, adequately and responsibly determine the needs of our employees and the community that we serve.

Finally, the citizens of the City of Grand Junction have already spoken on this issue. A special election was held on February 1, 2000 to determine whether the City’s Charter should be amended to facilitate a collective bargaining agreement for police and fire employees. The
question failed by a strong majority: 7245 against to 3233 in favor. The mandate of this legislation is contrary to the vote of our citizens and has the potential to severely deteriorate our public’s trust in the fire department and disrespect the voice of our citizens. Labor decisions must be made locally, by the people who are most affected by the nature and extent of such agreements.

For these reasons, we respectfully request a “no” vote on Senate Bill 13-025 in the Business, Labor and Technology Committee.

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