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Collective Bargaining in Firefighter Staffing Levels?

Collective Bargaining in Firefighter Staffing Levels?

Photo: Newsradio WTAX

How many firefighters should be on duty at a given time? A bill the state firefighters’ union is backing would make that question subject to collective bargaining and, if necessary, arbitration.

The union and lawmakers who support the bill paint it as a safety issue for fire crews and for the public, though a Rockford alderman testified against the bill when it came to an Illinois House committee, saying the city can’t afford the labor.

“We turned out the lights on our citizens,” said Venita Hervey. “We turned off about 3,000 street lights, including outside my house, which is in one of the high crime areas of the city.”

The sponsor of the bill, State Rep. Rita Mayfield (D-Waukegan), called Hervey’s statements disingenuous: “You have to turn off lights, and it’s the firefighters’ fault? The fact that you’re drawing a salary – is that the firefighters’ fault?”

Hervey said many firefighters don’t even live in Rockford and thus do not bear the tax burden the financial condition creates.

Another lawmaker, State Rep. David Leitch (R-Peoria), said the bill amounts to the state interfering in local affairs, effectively increasing local property taxes with a Yes vote.

H.B. 5485 has passed the House Labor and Commerce Committee.

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