Police, fire unions disappointed with Rep. Wamp

Police, fire unions disappointed with Rep. Wamp

April 17th, 2010 by Todd South in Politics Local

Local police and fire union leaders say they are "disheartened" by U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp's decision to pull his support of a resolution that would strengthen their ability to negotiate.

"To just blindside us with this stuff, to me that's not being a good steward," said Jeff Eldridge, president of the Chattanooga Firefighters Association, Local 820 of the International Association of Firefighters.

Rep. Wamp, R-Tenn., co-sponsored the bill in March 2009 along with more than 200 other representatives but removed his name from the list Tuesday.

The congressman's office responded with a news release issued that day, a portion of which read that after reviewing the resolution he determined that it "simply went too far without fully addressing this real issue affecting these men and women."

The "real issue" Rep. Wamp referred to is covered in an act he introduced the same day dubbed the "First Responder Protection Act."

That act would require employers to pay for judgments against first responders if such events arise during their official duties.

There is no mention of collective bargaining in the new act proposed by Rep. Wamp. And the congressman's office declined further comment to clarify where he stands on collective bargaining for public safety workers.

"(The First Responder Protection Act) completely has nothing to do with collective bargaining," Mr. Eldridge said. He said he understands first responders are covered from such litigation through employers insurance already, and if they perform life-saving acts off duty then Good Samaritan laws protect them, also.

Phil Grubb, a Chattanooga Police Department detective and president of the local chapter of the International Brotherhood of Police Officers, said collective bargaining would give public safety workers more stability.

"It will allow us to sit down at the table and negotiate a contract with the city on pay and benefits rather than fighting every year with the mayor," he said.

Rep. Wamp is running for governor in Tennessee.

Mr. Eldridge said the unions are waiting for the results of the primary elections in the governor's race before deciding whom to support, but Rep. Wamp's recent decision could play a factor.

"I think that's something we have to look at from a local level and a state level," he said of the upcoming election.