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I wasn’t surprised to see the county council object, via the Los Alamos Monitor, to our position (Los Alamos Firefighters’ Assoc. - IAFF Local #3279; “Union”) regarding our current conflict. What I was surprised to see was our own Fire Chief, Douglas Tucker, stating that ‘[Los Alamos County] deal[s] in facts and [the Union] deal(s) in emotions.” This couldn’t be farther from the truth.
That our own fire chief could be so bold to state for the record the status of our motivations while he negotiates against us – his own firefighters - just adds more evidence to the case I’m about to present. Please understand that, traditionally, a fire chief (union or non-union) will negotiate with his firefighters or will remain in a neutral position. Why? Because it poses a huge conflict of interest, and as you’ve seen first hand, leads us down the road of misinformation and misrepresentation.
We have extensive documented history and data that proves we are not treated fairly when it comes to both recognition and compensation. We also had a third-party unbiased federal arbitrator, that we both – Los Alamos County and the union agreed upon, choose which side had a better offer during past negotiations, and he found in favor of the Union’s offer (for a copy please see www.iaff3279.com).
Now the county council (with the exception of council member Vincent Chiravalle) states that this federal arbitrator’s (also known as a “Fact Finder”) decision doesn’t hold water because it’s not based on any “analysis”? The Fact Finder heard a whole day of testimony and reviewed two volumes of documents submitted by both the county and the union. He then considered the case for five months. The county council simply cannot accept that an independent Fact Finder did not find its position reasonable. I wonder if the union would have lost before the Fact Finder if the county council would have then rejected the Fact Finder’s decision. I think not.
In the end, Sunday’s article only proves to me that the system as is stands is broken. That we are not being fairly represented in the current management structure via our fire chief and that the information being fed to the council is, at best, poor about the true status of our firefighters. This Fact-Finder’s report must be adopted because it will heal many of the legal fractures we run against and will make the process of getting work done smoother. The county council needs to consider sitting down the firefighters’ union executive officers and really taking an open approach to working with its firefighters rather than handing down unexplained edicts and dismissive actions in hopes that all of this will go away.
The system is broken. Fix it.
Cari Mace, secretary
IAFF Local #3279