With a vote less than a week away, city firefighters still won’t tell residents why they want to join a union.
The question was asked to Local 3133 Vice President Sam Purcell several times last night, but the only answer that was given was security.
Councilmen Bob Bond and Terrie Stanley asked why the firemen are seeking a union.
“Why do the city of Richmond Firefighters want to join the union?” Bond asked. “It seems like the termination process would be similar. There’s not going to be a salary increase. There’s not going to be any reduction in manpower. If everyone’s happy with everything that’s going the way it is, why do they want to join a fire union?”
Purcell said the union has a copy of the city’s budget and isn’t looking to break the bank. Furthermore, he said firemen were happy with benefits and saw no changes there as well.
Councilwoman Terrie Stanley told Purcell that she doesn’t think now is the time to be addressing the issue.
“We’ve got all these problems and there are people who do not have jobs,” Stanley said. “People cannot afford to go to the grocery store. The firemen have a job. They’re lucky they have a job. They have good benefits. They have a great deal.
“My problem is, why would you want a union when you have a job and you have the benefits and other people are struggling so hard?” she said. “I just feel that this is somewhat trivial to what really the big picture is of what’s going on in Richmond.
“I don’t know why you would want a union unless you want more money, more benefits and security on their jobs,” she added.
Purcell said job security was the main reason they were petitioned in December.
“Don’t we all want security at our jobs?” Stanley responded. “This is a different world we’re living in. We have to think about where the next dime is coming from.”
Other questions were asked, such as what would the union do if the city decides to terminate an employee?
“If that employee went through the whole process and the process being what current city council and fire department policies are on disciplinary procedures are followed, there’s nothing we can do,” Purcell said. “We are professionals. We want to maintain our image that we have and we’re not going to represent somebody or step out on a limb for somebody that had every opportunity to fix the problem.”
Purcell told the council that he believes many have a misconception about the union. He said he sees that education is needed in most communities, but in his opinion Richmond needs it more than any other place he’s dealt with.
“I’m sorry the trade unions and other unions have given you that impression of the big bully,” he said.
Purcell was asked what the union would do if the city was forced to make cuts because of revenues. Councilman Roger Kepple said the city’s population has declined by 3 percent in the last couple of years. Purcell said the union would analyze the city’s budget and make suggestions and would make sure that job cuts were across the board in every city department.
Resident Kathy Garner asked the council to think about what they are doing.
“Do we really want an outside body micromanaging the city’s business?” she asked. “You need to ask yourself that question.”
The union will hold a vote on Monday.