As we all know, Lena Horne died this past Sunday, May 9, 2010. She was another fighter from that era (hard to conceive today) when there were very few professional opportunities open to African Americans. It was a time when black boys could dream of few options between becoming W. E. B. Du Bois, Paul Robeson, Joe Louis or the head janitor: the super-black or the black “super”. Black girls heard or read about even fewer worthy images and role models.
Even when sisters like Lena presented a dollar’s worth of talent, they were usually given a dime’s worth of opportunity. Nonetheless, she spent her whole life balancing the scales.
I am proud to say that I was present in Cambridge in June 1987 when the Radcliffe Medal was presented to her.
Let us all salute a life well lived and a job well done!
Given the complexity of the issues relating to the arbitrator’s award to the firefighters union, I have met during the last two weeks with the administration and finance director for the City and her team; with the president of Local 718 and his team; and with the president and vice president of the Vulcans, Boston’s black firefighter organization and members of the organizations.
Based on those discussions I have come to the conclusion that the contract is fair, but unaffordable. So despite its fairness, I feel compelled to vote against it. Let me explain my dilemma. I believe that within the policy and practices of collective bargaining, the 5 percent above the standard four-year 14 percent is reasonable.
From a principled standpoint, I don’t think that the City should have to pay to have public safety officers be drug tested. However, BPD officers and EMS members have received financial incentives in their contracts for accepting drug testing so I believe that the arbitrator’s 2 and 1/2 percent award in return for the firefighters’ acceptance of drug testing is fair.
Also, I also think it is reasonable for the firefighters to argue that the additional 2 and 1/2 percent cost beyond the 14 percent that results from the internal Transitional Career Award Program (TCAP) within the contract should not be viewed as part of the contract cost, since it has not been viewed that way in the past.
However, while the firefighters’ arguments are reasonable, the reality is that the 2 and 1/2 percent award for drug testing and the 2 and 1/2 percent cost that results from the TCAP will cost the City $9 million dollars in fiscal 2011, and will continue to be a financial burden during the difficult years that lie ahead. During these difficult financial times, we as government officials have to maintain financial balance. That is, we have to make sure that we are not giving increased benefits to the personnel of some departments while taking away benefits from others.
At a time when we are facing layoffs of librarians, custodians, teachers, administrators, etc., we can not afford to award a contract that costs $9 million dollars beyond the standard 14 percent for police and fire (in a four-year contract). The only answer, I believe, is for the Council to reject the arbitrator’s award and send both parties back to the table with the request to seek an agreement that limits the cost of the contract to 14 percent spread over four years (including TCAP) even if that requires taking drug testing off the table and sending a home rule petition to the legislature to legally require drug testing.
In addition to questioning the cost of this contract, I also question the absence of the public’s voice in negotiations with municipal unions in general.
I believe the City Council needs to work with the Mayor and the leadership of the larger city unions to arrange a dialogue that enables the public to have a perspective on and a voice in the negotiations.