Some of the headlines in various local rags and websites over the past couple of weeks cast such a golden glow on San Jose’s firefighters union, it was as if Local 230 president Randy Sekany had written them himself: “San Jose Firefighters Quickly Quell Two Blazes.” “Firefighters Respond to Three Blazes in Less Than Two Hours.” “San Jose Firefighters to Expose Fatal Flaws in City’s ‘Dynamic Deployment’ Scheme.”
Coming as they did while the union was locking horns with the city over pay cuts and layoffs, the puff pieces no doubt pleased Sekany and his troops. But on Friday, every news source in town seemed to spin that story in the city’s favor: “San Jose Firefighters Reject City’s Concession Proposal.”
There was no other way to play it: the utterly admirable fire guys seemed to have suddenly and selfishly turned on their own. Mayor Chuck Reed, pointing out that the SJFD’s budget had doubled in a decade, had fired 49 firefighters and put it on the union to come up with the money to hire them back.
Nora Campos immediately sent out a press availability notice (surprising no one) to voice her “disapproval” of Reed’s move “and the dangerous impact these cuts will have.” The union members then voted by a ginormous margin (88 percent!) to throw their laid-off comrades under the firetruck rather than accept the 9 percent cut in pay and bennies that most city workers and executives have accepted.
Perhaps they were galled that their public-safety rivals, er, colleagues at the SJPD got off with a 5.25 percent pay cut. Sekany, who had helpfully circulated a memo in June showing how the city is wasting money on fluff such as hybrid vehicles and office furniture, on Tuesday held a press event of his own to unveil “newly discovered audiotape that details what the City Administration actually knew prior to recommending to the City Council to eliminate five fire companies.”
Apparently Sekany’s strategy calls for sticking to his position that, despite a crippling budget deficit, the city has the money and must give it to the firefighters or children will die. The fight appears headed for arbitration.