New Law Gives Firefighters Enhanced Labor Rights
KREX News Room
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. On Wednesday, Governor Hickenlooper signed several bills into law, including one that will give professional firefighters enhanced labor rights. This has sparked controversy in Grand Junction. Over a decade ago citizens voted against collective bargaining for firefighters and police officers.
However, now firefighters throughout Colorado are celebrating their new seat at the table. After years of pushing for increased labor rights, the moment finally arrived.
Kevin Kuhlman, president of the Grand Junction Local Firefighters 2808, said, "This is a huge day for firefighters not just in Grand Junction but it's for firefighters statewide. This is a law that helps safety for firefighters and hopefully it's going to change a lot of things not just locally here but across the state."
Representatives from fire departments, including Grand Junction, traveled to Denver for the historical day.
"It gives us collective bargaining rights, to sit down and bargain with our employer and administration, from everything from benefits to safety to wages to equipment, everything that is included within our department," said Kuhlman.
However, when the bill was moving through the legislature, Grand Junction's City Council opposed it.
City council member at-large, Jim Doody, said, "It kind of takes away our home-rule authority. Back in 2000 the voters had voted down collective bargaining."
Doody says the fire department is one of his favorite departments to work with, however, the new law could be problematic, "For me, making decisions on Main Street is what America's all about. We don't need it to be made on Capitol Hill."
The fire department and the city agree, they have a great working relationship, and hope it continues.
I think with the fire department, we have been listening to them. They've been getting updated equipment, state-of-the-art equipment and facilities. I really enjoy working with them," Doody said.
"We're not going to be going out and just looking for increased wages and less work hours. We can't strike anyways by law. I want people in the public to realize we're here for the community, and let us give a good faith effort at collective bargaining because this can work for the city and the firefighters as well," Kuhlman said.
Officials say Governor Hickenlooper had expressed intentions to veto the bill originally, however, changes were made. Among them, a fire department can only utilize the collective bargaining rights if there are 25 paid firefighters.