House Dems Stand Up for Police, Firefighters, Community's Safety

Detroit-area legislators speak out against attacks on law that has worked for decades
Saturday, February 19, 2011

DEARBORN - Detroit-area State Representatives 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.

“We have a fair and transparent system in place that has worked for more than 40 years, both for the employees and the employers,” said State Representative George T. Darany (D-Dearborn), who hosted a rally with fellow lawmakers and local police and firefighters today outside Dearborn City Hall. “This process lets police and firefighters focus on what they are trained to do and what they want to do - keep our families, our property and our neighborhoods safe. Repealing this law will create unnecessary obstacles for the men and women who put their lives on the line to protect us.”

The rally was held 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.

“Police and firefighters have kept up their end of the bargain when it comes to binding arbitration, even though they have been on the losing end more often than not,” said State Representative Bob Constan (D-Dearborn Heights). “It’s only right that the state preserves this arrangement, which keeps contract negotiations in the background instead of in the way. Keeping our families and communities safe must be a top priority for us as a state.”

As a result of the law, there have been no strikes by police or firefighters in Michigan over traditional contract negotiations in the past four decades.(1) 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 process for all parties for the few cases each year that result in an impasse.(2)

“Our police and firefighters are essential to making Detroit’s neighborhoods safe for our residents, our visitors and the job providers we need in order to revitalize our city,” said State Representative Fred Durhal Jr. (D-Detroit). “No one, including our first responders, wants to go back to the old days of the ‘blue flu’ and strikes that endangered our community. P.A. 312 has kept that from being necessary for more than four decades. Getting rid of this law will take police and firefighters off the streets and move our community backwards, not forwards.”

In light of the deep cuts to revenue sharing in the Governor’s proposed budget, House Democrats also warned that eliminating P.A. 312 would make it even more difficult to keep the necessary police and firefighters on the job 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.

“You would think that professionals who risk their lives to protect us would receive respect and support from all of their elected officials,” said State Representative Harvey Santana (D-Detroit). “Instead, Republican leaders want to make it harder for police and firefighters to simply do their jobs. It’s our communities that suffer when our loved ones are hurt or in danger and no one is there to answer the call for help. That is what some legislators don’t seem to understand.”

State Representative Alberta Tinsley-Talabi (D-Detroit) agreed, saying:

“Between state funding cuts and now a move to take away their right to stand up for themselves, what we are seeing is a full-out attack on our police and firefighters. It is uncalled for, and I won’t stand for it. These folks stand up for us day after day, and we have to give them the tools they need to do their jobs, including proper recourse to negotiate a fair wage to support themselves and their families.”

(1) Police Officers Association of Michigan

(2) Michigan Fraternal Order of Police/Michigan Professional Firefighters Union