FL: Do unions invoke memory of 9/11 to stave off reforms?

By Yaël Ossowski | Florida Watchdog

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — After the horrific events of Sept. 11, 2001, much attention and dedication was given to the professionals who rushed to save victims in the burning towers.

Firefighters, police officers and emergency personnel were duly recognized across the nation as the “heroic first responders,” receiving renewed support from community and political leaders who vowed to continue funding their benefit and retirement packages.

Fast forward just a few years later and many communities are struggling to wither the worst effects of a severe economic crisis, drying up municipal revenue and resources that need drastic restructuring.

And as towns and cities sit down with public-sector unions to renegotiate generous benefit packages nationwide, at least one former Florida lawmaker believes many first responders are using the tragedy of 9/11 to push against any significant cuts.

“No one knows better than I what sacrifices firefighters make,” said former state Rep. Janet Long, D-Seminole, running for the Pinellas County Commission, whose husband is a 34-year veteran of the Seminole Fire Department.

“In the world we live in, with the economy we are in, it’s appropriate to look at everything and have everything on the table when we’re talking about tax dollars,” Long told Florida Watchdog.

On Sept. 10, she told the Tampa Bay Times that firefighters have “taken advantage of 9/11” and had “capitalized on it and the emotion” to stave off cuts to generous pension plans.

“Public safety workers are not always in sync with the organizations that represent them. It’s the union bosses that cause these discussions to go unanswered,” Long told Florida Watchdog.

“Local governments have been lobbied into making multimillion promises that they just cannot keep. We cannot keep on doing, because it is just an unsustainable path.

Read more: Florida Watchdog

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