Dillon, Schmidt Stand Up for Police, Firefighters, Public Safety

Lawmakers speak out against attacks on law that has worked for decades
Saturday, February 19, 2011

GRAND RAPIDS - State Representatives Brandon Dillon (D-Grand Rapids) and Roy Schmidt (D-Grand Rapids) today blasted a plan introduced by House Republicans that would take away the rights of Michigan’s police and firefighters and jeopardize the safety of communities and families across the state.

“Our dedicated firefighters and police officers put their lives on the line each and every day in order to keep West Michigan’s streets safe and they deserve our support,” Dillon said. “With the severe budget cuts proposed for revenue sharing, we must do everything we can to make sure that politics don’t get in the way of the well-being of Michigan’s communities. This devastating plan will only take much-needed police and firefighters off the streets and put the safety of our families at risk.”

The lawmakers joined local police and firefighters today at a rally in downtown Grand Rapids to stand up against House Republicans’ plan to repeal Public Act 312 of 1969. Commonly referred to as binding arbitration, P.A. 312 is an effective law that resolves labor disagreements, prevents strikes by public safety employees and makes it possible for them to keep our communities safe.

As a result of the law, there have been no strikes by police or firefighters in Michigan over traditional contract negotiations in the last four decades. While most municipalities and public safety employees work through labor disputes quickly and efficiently without having to go to arbitration, the law has also provided a fair and transparent process for all parties for the few cases each year that result in an impasse.

In light of the deep cuts to revenue sharing in the Governor’s proposed budget, Dillon and Schmidt also warned that eliminating P.A. 312 would make it even more difficult to keep the necessary police and firefighters on the street to protect Michigan’s communities. According to the Michigan Municipal League, about $4 billion has been cut from state revenue sharing statewide over the past decade, leading to more than 2,400 police officers and 1,800 firefighters losing their jobs.

“Our courageous police and firefighters risk it all to protect the people of Grand Rapids and Michigan, and they deserve better than to see political games and draconian budget cuts threaten their rights and livelihoods,” Schmidt said. “As someone who spent 16 years on the Grand Rapids City Commission, I find it insulting that politicians are trying to chip away at the rights of our police and firefighters while at the same time slashing the revenue sharing dollars that keep them on the job. I will fight this effort to repeal P.A. 312 with every ounce of energy that I have in order to protect the police and firefighters who protect us.”