The May 11,2014 Newark Advocate headlines a Joe Williams report “Union opposes staffing shift for Newark Division of Fire”. The subtitle states “City official: Staff change a ‘win-win’”. To cut to the chase, here’s the first part of the story as printed:
“City Safety Director Bill Spurgeon is spearheading an effort to shift supervisor staffing downward in the Newark Division of Fire despite union grievances stemming from the plan. On Monday night, Spurgeon is scheduled to visit with the Newark City Council’s Personnel Committee to pitch a proposal to decrease authorized fire captains from eight to five and increase lieutenants from six to nine. He said that would improve the department’s command structure, enhance safety and save money — about $6,000 each time a captain retires and is replaced by a lieutenant. Spurgeon called the proposal a “win-win” that would trim a top-heavy command structure and expand opportunities for young firefighters to move into management. Saving money would be an “ancillary benefit,” he said.” Analysis’s raggedy old Webster’s defines “ancillary” as “1. Subordinate, subsidiary. 2. Auxiliary, assisting.” Obviously the City Safety Director’s primary concern is too many captains. His desire is one chief, and roughly two lieutenants for each captain retained. This is described as a “win-win”. Saving money would be subordinate. The priority is one of less is more.

Jacob Siegal submitted an unimaginable story for the online Daily Beast (4-21-14). It is entitled “The US Military Is a Socialist Paradise”. Do tell. “America’s military has one of the only working models of collective living and social welfare the country has ever known.” Siegal goes on to describe how all the features of socialism are found within the military. Not only that, but have become part of the military before the rest of the country attempted it. The obvious are communal living, mess facilities, uniform requirements, etc. Less obvious are single payer universal health care (way ahead of the country as a whole), retirement benefits, life insurance, education opportunities as well as assistance, subsidized purchasing power at commissaries and exchanges, and a host of available social programs. The military integrated its population well before the rest of the country, both in terms of racial as well as sexual orientation. Technologically, it likewise is not only integrating alternate energy capacities but also preparing for the current conditions of global warming (something conservatives won’t even recognize, let alone deal with). More importantly Mr. Siegal writes “The pay difference, and thus the lifestyle difference, between a junior troop and a senior general is a small fraction of the disparity that separates the salary of an average worker from that of a top CEO in the private sector.” He adds “And speaking of management and floor workers, as stratified as the military’s rank system is, it is also one of the country’s last engines of social mobility. A young enlistee from a poor background with no higher education can rise through the ranks. The military is one of the only institutions in America, maybe the only one, where the mailroom-to-boardroom scenario still happens often enough to be more than just a self-serving myth.” It is the summation that Analysis links to what is occurring in Newark today: “Upholding the contract that underwrites the service of the volunteer military requires more than just providing resources and distributing benefits. To maintain the loyalty of the foot soldiers the military brass depends on, the leadership needs to show that it can hold itself accountable. It fails often at that task but succeeds enough to be one of the few national institutions left where people take each other at their word.”

Within the Advocate article is the gist of Local 109’s beef with the city; something contractual that the city had given its word on and agreed to. Mr. Spurgeon feels that downsizing to the Walmart/McDonald corporate economic model is a “win-win” for the city AND the firefighters with the cost savings (that companies like Walmart and McDonald rely on) being only a subsidiary benefit. The disparity of being unable to rise through the ranks in exchange for loyalty and service within the Newark Fire Division is not considered. I guess that Mr. Spurgeon would not be bothered by the high employee turnover that comes with the McDonald/Walmart corporate economic model. The Safety Director would be well served to consider what Siegel writes, that to maintain loyalty and motivation “leadership needs to show that it can hold itself accountable.” Who is winning under the Safety Director’s proposal?



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