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Firefighters Unions Holding Taxpayers Hostage in Nevada

Leonard Gilroy
July 3, 2009, 12:33pm

Our friends over at the Nevada Policy Research Institute are ruffling some firefighter union feathers in that state by daring to suggest that taxpayers may be being held hostage by fat and bloated contracts and union demands for ever-increasing pay. Per the Las Vegas Sun (emphasis mine):

There's no question that firefighters work hard, and the summer heat doesn't make anything easier. But when they cash their checks, they get paid quite well -- some more than $200,000 a year, much of that in overtime.

One local think tank says that's simply too much and the union won't talk about it. The same union that wants to keep raises when everyone else in the state is taking pay cuts.

The Nevada Policy Research Institute, a libertarian research group, compiled salaries for county workers and found firefighters rank at nearly all the top spots. The department routinely used high overtime and remote pay in places like Laughlin as sorts of incentives to keep veterans happy.

NPRI's fiscal analyst Geoff Lawrence finds this ongoing squabble over pay increases frustrating. He is bothered that both the police and public employee unions deferred pay raises. Meanwhile, the firefighters union plays tough, holding on despite the county and state's economic downturn.

"I think taxpayers are really getting the shaft here. They're getting ripped off and exploited by the firefighters union, which is basically holding an essential service hostage from them unless they pay more and more every year to get that service," he said.

The Clark County Fire Department still says they're not hiring right now. The easiest way to reduce overtime is to hire more personnel. Taxpayers are left with little choice in the matter. Massive contract negotiations are slow-moving affairs and firefighting is a monopoly.

Unfortunately this scenario repeats itself over and over across the country.

Look—teachers, police and firefighters do noble work. No one disputes that. But that should not immunize them from the same budget cuts, pay restrictions, etc. that other government employees experience, and it should not prevent policymakers and taxpayers from standing up and calling a spade a spade when taxpayers are being bilked like this.


Leonard Gilroy is Director of Government Reform


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