Colo. Firefighters Could Gain Leverage with Proposed Bill
KREX News Room
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. A Colorado senator has proposed legislation that would give firefighters more leverage in negotiating and expressing grievances with their city officials.
About 13 years ago, Grand Junction firefighters and police joined together to fight for collective bargaining power, but failed.
Kevin Kuhlman, president of Local 2808 Grand Junction Firefighters, said, "When we did it in 2000, we were ill-prepared. People were concerned that we would strike, they were concerned that our wages would go through the roof. We're not asking for things really more than our administration is asking for."
If this new piece of legislation passes, local firefighters say they'll finally get what they've been wanting: a voice. "Having a seat at the table with wages and benefits and working conditions for us allows us to sit there and bargain with our bosses and city bosses as well," said Kuhlman.
However, the residents of Grand Junction made their voice clear when they said they didn't want collective bargaining in their city.
Duncan McArthur, Government Affairs Specialist with the Grand Junction Realtors Association and the Western Colorado Contractors Association, said, "Substantial vote against the ballot issue that was put up. The point is, should the state determine Grand Junction's course on this issue or should the city determine it? And it should be the city's determination and the people in Grand Junction."
Those opposed say the state mandate would be unfair.
"It would impact the budget. It may take away from other services the city presides. It's not that people don't want to treat the fireman fairly, I mean, they are an integral part of our community," said McArthur.
Both sides are adamant on what passage will really mean.
McArthur said, "It's not a one-size-fits-all. Various communities have different issues, plus you have special districts of fire districts themselves, you know they should be determining how they deal with this issue."
"We work longer hours, we work holidays, we work weekends, things like that. So we are a little bit of a different beast, that's why we want to have a little bit more of a voice in the things that we do," Kuhlman said.
Similar state legislation was proposed in 2009, if history repeats itself, the governor will have the last say on the matter. Governor Ritter vetoed the similar legislation, SP 09-180.
The Grand Junction Fire Chief declined to comment at this time. City officials said they are not taking a stand on the issue at this point.