by Olivia Sandbothe | September 15, 2015
When our nation faces a tragedy, we depend on first responders and other public service workers to stand strong and help us through. We saw it 14 years ago, when our nation was attacked on Sept. 11, 2001. And we count on these same workers to be there for us and our communities as we face the future.
But some extremist politicians and corporate special interests are backing a Supreme Court case that would make it more challenging for public safety workers to speak up for one another and fight for the quality public services their communities rely on. Later this year, the Supreme Court is set to hear a case called Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. This corporate-backed lawsuit aims to make it more difficult for all public service workers to stand together through strong unions.
On the anniversary of 9/11, AFSCME first responders around the country spoke up about how Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association could threaten the ability of firefighters, EMTs, paramedics and sworn law enforcement and corrections officers to band together to negotiate for better safety equipment, training and other tools that promote public safety and shorten emergency response times.
“If the Court rules against unions, public safety standards across America will be weakened,” Vincent Variale, FDNY medic and president of AFSCME Local 3621, wrote in an editorial last week. “Police, firefighters, EMS, and first responders won’t be able to push for life-saving equipment and shorter response times, and social workers won’t be able to push for better nurse-to-patient ratios.”
In New Mexico, several hundred workers gathered for AFSCME’s Public Safety Congress and urged the Supreme Court to decide in favor of strong unions when it hears the Friedrichs case. “Many of the safety measures, training mechanisms and equipment employed by corrections officers every day are a direct result of COs asking for it at the bargaining table,” said Sgt. John C. Hillyard, a corrections officer from Stillwater, Minnesota.
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