This is a letter I have submitted to the editor of the Columbus Dispatch today:
In Sunday's Dispatch, America for Prosperity's Rebecca Heimlich stated: "I just don't believe that taxpayers who need the protection of these firefighters and police officers would let local jurisdictions get away with not protecting them. I just don't think they'd do it". She ignores a long history of staffing concerns at fire departments not just in Ohio but across the United States. The National Fire Protection Association standard is for four firefighters on a fire engine. In Florida, a model state for SB5 supporters, fire engines are often staffed by only two firefighters, similar levels are found in other "right-to-work" states. Because of union efforts to work with their local communities, firefighter staffing in Ohio is closer to the standard. Newark, Ohio increased their staffing on fire engines several years ago by convincing the community and local leaders to pass a Safety Levy-- but ensured the changes would stay in effect through collective bargaining. As a result, Newark Firefighters are more effective at keeping fires contained and are able to respond more quickly to their increasing number of calls and the city has maintained public safety even during tough financial times. Budget cuts in other Ohio cities such as Chillicothe, Lancaster, and Mansfield reduced their fire department's staffing and have also led to closed fire stations, creating a potentially unsafe situation for residents and firefighters. Unions standing up for safe staffing on fire engines and an adequate number of firehouses, resulting in a more effective fire department, fewer homes lost to fire, fewer citizens lost to medical emergencies and fewer firefighter injuries, is just one example of Unions working to benefit the taxpayer and the community. Would you want a hospital administrator to have sole discretion over your care in the emergency room? Or would you expect the doctor to be part of a team that works together to ensure the best service and best outcome for every patient-- including you? This is the role that public safety unions have served in Ohio for decades-- a role they will likely no longer to be able to serve in a post SB5 environment without the tool of collective bargaining. As a result, the safety of the public and of firefighters-- and the effectiveness of your local fire department-- will likely suffer.
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