Richard "Rick" Cailler, president of Lewiston, Maine Local 785 serves as today's guest blogger.
Fire Fighters are not the enemy, but some elected leaders will have you think we are the root of all evil.
They are finding it easy to blame us and other public employees for all that’s wrong today.
They are blaming us for the broken economy and pension system.
With their powerful megaphones, legislators throughout the country are grabbing the public’s attention and sweeping the media into a frenzy, all while creating too many misperceptions about public employees -- who we are, what we stand for and what we believe.
As a union president and fire fighter who stands on the frontlines each day, I can tell you it is not my ambition to live like some “fat cat” off the taxpayer’s money.
I do what I do not to get rich. While the job is rewarding, it also offers security for my family – security that is quickly evaporating in what is a well-orchestrated attack on public sector workers. All too often these well-planned attacks are financed by large corporations looking to lay a beat down on union workers with the ultimate goal of reducing labor costs -- resulting in a larger corporate bottom lines.
I love the work that I do each day and care deeply about helping those who may need a hand in good and bad times.
I know the majority of my colleagues feel the same.
So I am shocked at the demonization of fire fighters and other public employees, especially by the elected officials that I’ve supported and thought would do right by me and the others who helped put them in office.
These are candidates who spoke of the need for substantive change -- change to protect those who wanted to work, aid those who needed it, a hand up and an end to the handout!
I’ve been a fire fighter for 24 years and I’ve never known a worst time to say I am a public employee.
I even tell my 14-year-old son to avoid working in the public sector because we have become the enemy.
My beliefs are conservative. I supported Governor Paul LePage and other Republican candidates in Maine because I knew that this state needed changes concerning its finances and other reforms to help control its debt.
I wish now that I could take back my vote. Instead of being the voice of change, we have become his enemy.
Governor LePage and members of the state legislature are repeating the same terrible policies that led us down the wrong path regarding the financial viability of the state pension system. They are now jeopardizing the future of public workers who have met their obligation to their retirement plan from their very first until their very last day of public service without fail. Now lawmakers want to change the rules, turn their backs and walk away from their obligations, all in the name of fiscal prudence!
I’m disheartened by the political attacks from both sides of the aisle. As a conservative Republican, I am greatly disappointed by the attacks and mischaracterizations coming from the right, and see the same story playing out all across the United States.
It’s troubling and I wonder why anyone would want to begin a career as a new fire fighter.
If we continue to go down this path, the public sector will not attract the next generation of workers or the quality of public employees that now staff emergency services, police, fire and EMS, and people will suffer.
And where will that lead us?