Union Local 1889 should heed assistant chief’s advice

By MIKE ANTHONY

It’s no secret that on several occasions we’ve urged Local 1889 of the International Association of Fire Fighters to start working with the Mehlville Fire Protection District’s Board of Directors.

Like or dislike the current members of the Board of Directors, they were duly elected by the voters of south county. We believe they are doing an excellent job of representing the wishes of south county residents.

We vehemently disagree with those who contend the board has displayed an unwillingness to negotiate with Local 1889. To the contrary, we believe union leaders are the ones who have failed to negotiate with the board and in doing so have failed to properly represent their membership.

Before the board voted in March 2006 to change the district’s pension plan to a defined-contribution plan from a defined-benefit plan, Chairman Aaron Hilmer urged Pension Committee members to suggest alternatives to the 8- to 11-percent contribution rates being proposed, but Pension Committee member Dan Rosenthal told the board the union wanted nothing to change.

Sorry, but that’s not negotiating. At that time, two reform candidates — Mr. Hilmer and Treasurer Bonnie Stegman — comprised a majority of the three-member board. Given that, logic would dictate the plan would be changed. Wouldn’t you try to negotiate the best possible deal?

Even so, union members did pretty well as the board said the district would contribute a percentage of an employee’s total compensation to the defined-contribution plan based on years of service. Employees with less than 15 years of service would receive 8 percent; 15 to 19 years, 9 percent; 20 to 24 years, 10 percent; and 25 or more years, 11 percent. As we’ve said before, good luck in trying to find a private-sector pension plan offering those percentages.

And for the second time this year, the Board of Directors has issued a benefit-package proposal to union employees in an effort to settle litigation involving the district’s pension plan.

Union employees voted unanimously in February to reject that proposal, which also was a pretty sweet deal.

The board’s latest proposal, in our opinion, is an even sweeter deal. We urge the rank-and-file members of Local 1889 to accept this proposal and work together with the board. Perhaps Assistant Chief Steve Mossotti put it best when he wrote that he thinks “… this is the best package that employees will see in the near future … “