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Firefighters contribute in many ways | GUEST OPINION
Recently there have been a few letters written recognizing the efforts of the Arlington Firefighters Organization — Local No. 3728 of the International Association of Firefighters. I wanted to take a moment and expand on the concessions that have been taken for four consecutive years by the members of Local No. 3728 and recognize their efforts.
When the downturn in the economy occurred the city of Arlington began feeling those impacts in 2008, and as they began preparing the 2009 budget the firefighters were asked to take a concession to ease this impact on our department budget. We electively each gave up 48 hours of pay for a combined total of 1,296 hours. In 2010 we again gave the same concession as well as accepted a reduced health care benefit in our contractual labor agreement saving a projected $60,000.
In 2011 we agreed to allow two non-union members to work positions on emergency response units as a cost-saving measure due to a vacant position the city could not afford to fill and a long-term injury that occurred to one of our members. Expanding on the recent letter from Jan Schuette and the press release from the city of Arlington, in 2012 and 2013 we have again discussed and approved a concession to ease the budgetary process. The letters mentioned in 2012 each member of Local No. 3728 provided 84 hours of staffing uncompensated for a combined total of 2,184 hours. This equates to more time than a 40-hour-a-week employee works in a year, all uncompensated.
In 2013 we have agreed to a 6.5 percent reduction in salary which will again ease the impact to our department budget as well as partially fund a vacant position the department has had open since 2010. In short, we voluntarily voted to reduce our own salaries to avoid layoffs of two of our members and also partially fund the vacant position mentioned above. Doing this will return our daily staffing levels to their pre-2010 levels which ultimately has an impact on our safety, available manpower and effectiveness on emergency scenes. As Ms. Schuettee said “an incredible act of selflessness.” I cannot recall hearing of another labor group voluntarily reducing their salaries to avoid the least-senior members being laid off.
This is the same group who donates their own time and money to several annual events including an annual scholarship to the Dollars for Scholars program, provides breakfast at the Relay for Life donating all proceeds to the event, hosts a Fill the Boot Muscular Dystrophy event which this year raised over $9,000 and lastly coordinates and funds the annual Fire Department Santa Run Food Drive which will be held Dec. 7-16 this year (information available soon at www.santarun.net).
The Santa Run is the largest contributing annual event to the Arlington Food Bank collecting approximately 5,000 pounds of food each year. These events are coordinated and conducted on our own time as a volunteer effort as a way to give back to the community. We typically quietly conduct these events without looking for much recognition.
Though none of us necessarily wanted to take concessions which impact our earnings, we knew it was the right thing to do for each other and the community. Acts like this are what make the Arlington community a great place to live and the Arlington Fire Department a great organization to be part of. I hope you agree.
Dave Kraski is a Captain in the Arlington Fire Department and a member of IAFF Local No. 3728.