Steve LeClair, president of IAFF Local 385, organized a protest at the Stothert campaign’s rally with Gov. Scott Walker. In an email to Local 385 members, LeClair claimed the mayor “has . . . repealed our minimum staffing, kicked us off the streets for MDA, and issued layoff notices for 19 . . . members.” These allegations are lies.
Minimum Staffing— During contract negotiations with Local 385 in 2015, the union’s own negotiating team agreed to a provision in the contract that mandates that all fire apparatus are fully staffed at the start of every work day. However, when firefighters call in sick or for other reasons cannot work their shift, we can adjust. The contract allows for two, just two, of the 48 frontline apparatus in service every day, to be operated with three instead of four firefighters, just for that one shift.
The union negotiators agreed to this, and the members approved the contract. In fact, union president Steve LeClair, who agreed to this practice and negotiated the contract told the Omaha World Herald, “The 2015 agreement maintains the exemplary quality of emergency services that Omahans have come to expect from their emergency service providers.”
Now, he’s the same union president organizing the protest. Mr. LeClair, what’s changed?
MDA Solicitations— Mayor Stothert never forced the firefighters union to stop collecting donations for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. The city law department and the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission both said firefighters could volunteer on their own time, but could not solicit donations while on duty, while being paid by the taxpayers. Eight years ago, the city council’s public safety committee asked to change city ordinance to comply with state law and the council unanimously approved that change.
Layoff Notices— Not a single Omaha firefighter has been laid off during the Stothert administration. Former Chief Bernie Kanger issued layoff notices to prevent the fire department budget from being millions overspent, as had been so common during previous administrations. After successful negotiations with the union, the fire department’s budget was brought under control and Mayor Stothert rescinded the layoffs.
The bigger question is this: Why is Local 385 so adamant about electing Mayor Stothert’s opponent? The answer is probably that they view Mr. Mello as their ticket to a new contract that would bring back many of their desired benefits such as retirement at an earlier age and pension spiking. Their changes would cost the taxpayers millions of dollars. We cannot let them take Omaha backwards.