The signing of the Boston firefighters’ contract is not the beginning of the end.
It is, as Sir Winston Churchill once said, the end of the beginning.
Negotiating downward the 19% pay raise in order to assuage an angry public and a reticent but nervous Boston City Council, has galvanized the belief that every union needs to negotiate downward their upcoming contracts.
The upward, and sometime steep rise in wage requests must be reconnected to the conditions in the economy.
The same way private citizens and businesses cut back in order to maintain solvency and or profitability, municipal unions of all kinds need to do the same.
The city’s police and teachers should receive the same level of pay, pension and benefits as firefighters. That’s how it would be in a perfect world.
At least this time around the Boston City Council in its President Michael Ross showed some spine as opposed to the almost total absence of spine shown when negotiating with firefighters in the past.
However, there appears to be a lack of common sense in all of the negotiations taking place between the cities and towns and their unions.
The past is prologue but that understanding does not seem to have permeated in a meaningful way.
Until we have come out of the depths of this troubling recession and out of the economic funk we are in because so much wealth has been lost and so many communities are being forced to make dramatic cuts because the money is not there to maintain services, unions and all of us are forced to tighten our belts.
It is the simplest of realities in a capitalist society.
We cannot spend what we do not have.
Borrowing our way out of the mess has been made impossible by banks unwilling to lend money.
Contract negotiators, arbitrators, union chiefs and elected public officials all need to be on the same page at contract time.
Everyone must be made to understand what is at stake.