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Palo Alto approves new firefighter contract

Original post made on Oct 18, 2011

Palo Alto's tortuous struggle with its firefighters union over a new labor deal came to an official conclusion Monday night when the City Council voted unanimously to ratify what one member called a "watershed agreement."

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, October 18, 2011, 12:49 AM

Comments (22)

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Posted by John
a resident of Stanford
on Oct 18, 2011 at 7:09 am

According to the couple of FF's I spoke to, their side was ready to make this agreement 6-9 months ago and the only thing holding it up was the power trip the City followed over binding arbitration. The City was afraid a timely resolution of the contract would hurt their position to get BA on the ballot and might impact the results of that election.


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Posted by George
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Oct 18, 2011 at 7:10 am

This 'watershed' agreement was only possible because Measure D is on the ballot.

Only a YES on Measure D will assure the fire union won't go back to its greedy and self-serving tactics when this contract expires.

The City of Palo Alto is still years away from working itself out of the financial brambles created by decades of over compensation (wages, benefits, and work rules) of city workers, especially firefighters. Nobody in industry gets 100% paid retirement including health care for an entire family for life. Palo Alto firefighters do.

YES on Measure D will help the city become more fiscally responsible, period.


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Posted by Frank
a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 18, 2011 at 7:59 am

We do not need the same amount of firefighters working at night that are working during the day.


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Posted by Gail S.
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 18, 2011 at 8:50 am

Frank you might be correct and since you have a crystal ball and can predict when, where, and how many emergencies will happen "after hours", please create a schedule of when to close which fire stations. We can start with yours.

And by the way when the city does close your closest fire station they don't plan on giving you a discount on your taxes. You'll still pay the same as the other neighborhoods with staffed stations.


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Posted by JA3+
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 18, 2011 at 9:21 am

George said:

"This 'watershed' agreement was only possible because Measure D is on the ballot.

"... The City of Palo Alto is still years away from working itself out of the financial brambles created by decades of over compensation (wages, benefits, and work rules) of city workers, especially firefighters. Nobody in industry gets 100% paid retirement including health care for an entire family for life. Palo Alto firefighters do."

+1.

George is spot-on here.


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Posted by William J.
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 18, 2011 at 9:35 am

Web Link

The Post has done a marvelous job of vilifying our firefighters. They like to throw around the inflated salaries that were driven by overtime. Overtime is exactly that, extra time worked, somebody had to work those hours unless the city hired more persons or closed fire stations.

The link above is the actual City compensation spreadsheet prior to the firefighters taking a 9% pay cut.

As you will see a Firefighter/EMT earns a base salary of $67,984 or $32 per hour working 56 hours per week. A Fire Captain/EMT earns a base salary $86,289 or $41 per hour. These numbers will be lowered by 9%.

Don't hate on the firefighters because they worked extra hours and earned a higher income. Overtime is not guaranteed and is a result of several factors. A certain amount of overtime is less exspensive than hiring additional employees.

It seems much of the sentiment is based on jealousy rather than recognizing they actually worked a tremendous number of extra hours to reach those salaries. I guess it would make a lot of people feel better if they just earned there base pay. If that is important, it can be achieved by hiring more persons or closing fire stations.


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Posted by Frank
a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 18, 2011 at 11:02 am

No Gail, I do not have a crystal ball. But the firefighters I have talked to even admit that their staffing levels could be lower at night due to less 911 calls. So what does that tell you?


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Posted by Taxpayer
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 18, 2011 at 1:56 pm

"Frank you might be correct and since you have a crystal ball and can predict when, where, and how many emergencies will happen "after hours", please create a schedule of when to close which fire stations. We can start with yours."

Why use a crystal ball? Why not use a historical reporting tool to determine staffing needs. If there is a fire every 3-4 days on average every day in PA, how many ff's are needed. Wouldn't it be easier to work with facts than trying to belittle another poster?


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Posted by TOMAS
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 18, 2011 at 2:22 pm

The question is! why Palo Alto needs some many Firefighters? Most of the time they are just sitting around. I am retired so, i have the chance to walk around the city and as a former city employee " Not Palo Alto" i noticed that we are just paying to them to sit around. Another thing that I have noticed in Palo Alto is that Palo Alto Animal Services is the only Department that I could say is doing a great job in the city. Palo Alto Mayor and City Counsel should look into those department that are doing such great job for the city.


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Posted by John
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 18, 2011 at 4:59 pm

Frank and Gail--please stop calling each other names or do it in private.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 18, 2011 at 6:27 pm

"The question is! why Palo Alto needs some many Firefighters?"

The answer is that Palo Alto doesn't need near the number of ff's that are currently collecting a huge paycheck from the city.

So the next question then is WHY does Palo Alto have so many ff's collecting a huge paycheck and retiring at 50 and collecting 90% inflation adjusting salaries for the next 35 years of their post retirement date. The reason is the financial largesse the unions contribute to politicians like Price. Price and her brethren represent the unions not the citizens of Palo Alto. It is a self funding situation. Price and her buddies raise the compensation and benefits of the union employees. The union take part of the increase and make sure Price and her buddies are re-elected. Same thing happens next election cycle. Pretty soon ff's are costing the city $225K a year. All because the rest of us sit on the sidelines and don't get involved.

To correct the problem we need to start by:
a.) voting YES on Measure D
b.) removing from office union representatives like Price
c.) getting involved and bringing back a fair balance between the risks and rewards of government employee compensation


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Posted by Gordon
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 19, 2011 at 2:53 am

It makes me proud to live in Palo Alto and see our gov't actually SOLVING problems like the out-of-control feather-bedding firefighter's union. The city must have the flexibility to balance its staffing levels, and this agreement restores that ability. I also can't wait to vote in favor of Measure D to remove this antiquated and unfair binding arbitration provision.

Resident also makes a good point about Gail Price. She needs to go!

I certainly respect the hard work performed by PA safety workers, but the other employees (especially the teachers) work very hard too. The firefighter's union is wrong in demanding special treatment.


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Posted by Sylvia
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 19, 2011 at 7:06 am

Less firefighters and more police officers. Let's not become a San Jose.


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Posted by Ben G.
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Oct 19, 2011 at 9:26 am

Wow, reading most of the hater comments is amazing.

It's funny how quickly residences forget about the flood that engulfed one quarter the city, Loma Preitta earthquake, Arastradero fire of 1984, or the countless number of people that are still walking around on the planet because of fire departments quick response and minimum staffing that saved their lives.

The one thing that I know for certain is that every citizen, at one time or another in their life-time, will need the services of the same men and women that they bash so brazenly in their blog.

I hope they remember, in their time of need, how much support they gave the fire department and when the fire fighters arrive please tell them you can get by without them.


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Posted by danos
a resident of another community
on Oct 19, 2011 at 9:40 am

"Less firefighters and more police officers."

I second this sentiment. No one will notice if the city has fewer firefighters. We will most definitely notice if fewer police officers are out on the street.


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Posted by Nora
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 19, 2011 at 10:53 am

I think that there are other Departments in the city that needs more support from our Mayor.Like Tomas wrote Animal Services, Police, Teachers and many more.It always looked to me that the Fire Department controls the city money balance,the Mayor and city counsel.


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Posted by Gil
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 19, 2011 at 11:39 am

We need change that is for sure!Some department needs more money, some is using too much money. I don't know much about Animal Services or Police, especially how they are doing money wise, but like others are writting maybe the city should look into those departments that are doing good work around the city. I respect our firefighters, but enough is enough and they have to understand that other city departments have to be heard too.


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Posted by Common Sense
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Oct 19, 2011 at 9:26 pm

"Less firefighters and more police officers."

I totally agree. Ever notice how every second story in these local papers has to do with the police in some fashion? They are clearly busier with more "news"-worthy events. Dont expect all of them to stick around when the city cuts their salaries though.


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Posted by Debbie
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 20, 2011 at 7:16 am

Fire and police need to also give up their $2,000/a year dollar computer money just as SEIU had too. And if the city is so bad off why is there 5 libraries and most of them under construction improvement. Where is that money comming from? Give me a break! Also get rid of overload of managers and their yarly bonus and computer money! The city has money


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Posted by HERO
a resident of another community
on Oct 20, 2011 at 7:28 am

Ben G. - thank you for taking on the "haters". It is so disappointing when the boys and I read their disheartening posts. What are they thinking when they dare to suggest that our salaries be trimmed in order to ensure that roads are paved, parks are kept open, and libraries are staffed. Unlike wise folks like you, they do not realize that we are brave, amazing, and strong. They should be demanding that our salaries be increased to $250K, and we should have a minimum staffing or 50 of us sleeping away every night. So what if class sizes in Palo Alto go up to 50 students per teacher. You can tell every one that you are from Palo Alto and you have the most amazing union employees in the state.

Unfortunately Ben G., we may lose this one. Despite the money we have contributed and the hard work of Comrades Price and Shepherd, the "haters" appear to have the momentum. But do not fear. Most of the silly "haters" will go back to their mundane lives of earning a living, helping their kids with school, coaching the youth teams, trying to pay the bills. Then we will be back and we will be counting on you to help us. Boss Spitaleri and his troops are already planning new strategies to ramp up our compensation and reduce our work.

Keep up the good work Ben G. We need folks like you to maintain our lifestyle!


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Posted by Matt
a resident of another community
on Oct 21, 2011 at 3:11 pm

Reading some of these comments about greedy firefighters and their unions is laughable. Since when do you consider someone who has taken an oath to risk their lives for complete strangers in communities, such as Palo Alto, that they can't afford to live in, greedy? These are men and women who at an increased risk for cancer and exposed to constant health risks (such as blood borne and airborne toxins)when responding to so many emergency medical calls. Not to mention the emotional and physical stress that is put on their bodies during intense trainings, physiologically disturbing calls, and getting woken up for an emergency call that creates a burst of adrenaline during the night on shift for a 20 year career. These are just some of the risks and hazards that firefighters encounter.

As for down staffing engines or browning out stations, you couldn't think of a worse idea. This is when people die. Fire stations are not built in random places, they are built in strategic locations so that no citizen is more than a certain amount of time away from help. Such emergencies as heart attacks, where an AED and Firefighter/EMTs arriving in minutes mean the difference. Or a fire that needs to be attacked quickly so that it doesn't spread and kill those that are trapped inside. Baltimore, Detroit, small towns in Massachusetts such as Lowell, and many others, have all browned out stations only have people burn in house fires blocks away from a closed fire station.

I won't even touch the fact that this bad economic situation that cities and towns are in are being taken out on these "greedy" firefighters. As a professional fireman in a nearby town, I didn't take this job for the pay, as I can't even afford to live in the bay area, I took this job to help and serve those in the community. Myself and my brother firefighters work extremely hard everyday, training, studying and preparing for the next call. I also know that any of us, and I am sure those firemen in Palo Alto, are preppared to give their lives for a stranger during a fire. It truly hurts to read about "greedy" firefighters, this couldn't be anywhere further from the truth.




Have people forgotten why it is that firefighters are respected to begin with? It is because they


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Posted by JC Meoff
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 26, 2011 at 9:55 am

The City of Palo Alto's race to the bottom continues....


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