The County & Municipal Bee

A triannual publication of Cafardi, Ferguson, Wyrick, Weis + Stotler, llc

THE CHALLENGES OF VOLUNTEER FIREFIGHTING

All Communities in Pennsylvania want to provide good firefighting services to their residents, but it is increasingly difficult to do for many different reasons. The Bee asked three local government leaders from around this great Commonwealth to talk about this important issue.

KEVIN BOOZEL

A County Commissioner in Butler County. He is an active firefighter with more than 15 years of firefighting and EMS experience, and he is the Second Vice President of the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania.

ED KNITTEL

The Senior Director for Education and Sustainability with the Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs. He has spent over 40 years in and around municipal government in Pennsylvania. Ed has worked with fire departments in many different settings and has a strong interest in helping Pennsylvania chart the right path to the future of fire service.

JOHN “HERM” SUPLIZIO

The Manager of the City of DuBois. He has been a member of the volunteer fire department there for more than 40 years. Herm was Fire Chief in the 1990’s, when the department was one of the largest volunteer departments in the country and received an ISO 1 rating, an amazing achievement for a volunteer department.

Recently the Pennsylvania Senate released a report called the SR6 Report, which was commissioned to study, among other things, the critical need for firefighting services in Pennsylvania. It pointed out that in the 1970’s there were about 300,000 volunteer firefighters in Pennsylvania. And in the early 2000’s, that number had fallen all the way to 60,000, and today there are about 38,000.

HS: At one point, we were the 16th largest volunteer fire company in the country, we would have, probably 600 members, back in the ‘90’s and now we’re way down. We maybe have 300 now, but that’s still a lot of people. So, it’s hurt us tremendously but we had so many to begin with, we’re not hurt as badly as someone else that maybe had thirty members and now only has five.

We’ve also benefitted some by being involved at the City itself by hiring volunteer firemen as City workers. That helps us out during the day time. But, we have been hit just like everyone else, and I will tell you probably the number one reason is the training. You have to be a certified firefighter, which requires something like 200 hours in training. When I joined, 40 years ago, it was like 40 hours. So, that makes a huge difference.

Obviously it is good for the members to have training, and to have the skills to be safe, but do you think the balance of training versus, the burden that it puts on new recruits has tipped too far?

HS: Yes, way too far. On our end, let’s take the 18-year-old to 26-year-old, they don’t want to be out training for 100 or 200 hours. When are they supposed to do this? They’ve got school and everything else. It’s just not like it was 40 years ago. There’s a lot more that draws their attention versus sitting in a classroom and taking fire school.

KB: The training aspect of it is a huge driver at making people not come back. It used to be when you were a firefighter, at least when I started, it was all about the older seasoned guys that would train you on the job. That experiential learning is equally as important as in-classroom learning and I think that we’ve gotten away from that.

But the entire culture has changed. I mean, look back in the ‘70s and ‘80s when I used to go as a kid to the fire service. It was a, more of a family or social club, even though there were very well-trained people that were there. So, where are our volunteers going? Well, there’s a lot of things competing. You could say there’s more stress on families, and you can say all those types of things, but the reality is, there is something that held people with the fire service in the past. It’s dwindling and I personally think it’s the social aspect of it because we’re so focused on training and so afraid of litigation.

When you take away the social aspects, the family outings and cookouts and take all that stuff away, what’s driving the volunteers to show up? If, when they are here they have to train for this many hours, fix the truck, etc., the young people say, I don’t see the value in this.

EK: I think there’s a point though, you’re absolutely right and I agree, you know, things have changed drastically in the last 60 years. In the 1950s you had one or two TV stations or channels you could watch on a given night. Everybody belonged to some club. Some church organizations, whatever the case may be. We had a much bigger social connection.

Here we are 60 years later and that social connection’s not there. We’ve seen it all across the board, whether it’s companies, schools, churches, and we’ve seen it in local government every day. The average age of an elected official today is 63 years old. What does that tell us? We don’t have folks coming into local government, we don’t have them coming into other organizations, service organizations. Again, you look at the membership with rotary clubs and organizations of that nature, and for the most part, unless they are a pure social group, meaning with their bar and restaurant, their membership is up there in terms of age. We have not been able to recruit people in any of these fields for a lot of different reasons. The social networking that we put in prior to, I’d say 1970’s, is gone. Economic conditions forced us to break away from some of those social networks and it’s not going to go back. We can’t go back to what it was in the 1950s.

Something’s going on in society where the social aspect of these fire companies has suffered, but do you nevertheless see examples where communities are being successful in recruiting? What have you seen that works?

KB: I don’t know if this is everywhere. I know in my area, when I’m recruiting firefighters, I look first in my local Civic Clubs, Scouts, and School Clubs. Those are families that are teaching their children that there’s more to life than just you. I would say about half of the folks that participated in scouting came over to the fire service. That’s an example from a very small town, so I think that does work, but it’s got to be a priority of the family.

The other thing that we were able to do, and I’m talking strictly fire service and EMS, was go out in the community and we started mentoring programs. We put out basketball hoops outside the parking lot, and we made sure any time anybody as at the fire station, all the garage doors were up so that anyone could see in. We want an open system because for so long it was almost as if you had to have a family member already in the club to join. We all got in because we were led that direction, but now that leadership has dwindled and now you don’t have young people coming in, and so you have to find a way to connect with them.

The most effective thing we have done in recruitment and finding people is, either in another youth club or activities club or the elementary schools. Go to the schools, do demonstrations, talk to kids, let them wear the gear, the whole deal. And then, I always carry firefighter coins with me and it’s just basically just the fire department on one side. Bring a few kids to the front of the class and plant that coin in their hand and say, “When you’re ready, you give us a call, we’ll put you to work.” And I can tell you that that has been an effective tool because it’s planting the seed early, like in third or fourth grade.

HS: We do speak to the cub scouts and things like that, and actually have them come to the firehalls and give them tours and show them the apparatus, things like that so, we’re starting there. We try to grab them in the high school. If you can get that one person who joins, and then his brother joins and then maybe they get a couple of friends to join, that has worked for us. Maybe I have a family member that’s going to join just because they’re a family member and he brings three or four of his friends in and maybe out of the three or four, in the one company, maybe two of them stay, or something to that effect. So, we start off young and we hope when that family member joins they bring a couple of their friends in. That seems to be working on a lot smaller scale than it was 30 years ago though.

EK: I have to ask you, is that a sustainable model? I mean is that what we have, is that going to work in the next 20 years when we even get less people being able to stay in their home communities and don’t have that kind of home network relationship, is that a sustainable model for the future?

HS: No. And I don’t know that it is. That’s pushing it. It’s working right now to a point, but what happens is, the kids graduate from school, they get a job, and they move outside the area.

KB: I agree, it is not sustainable for the future.

You guys talked earlier about the burden of training for new recruits, does the regulatory environment allow for fire companies to have members who take part in the social aspects of the fire station, but do not have the full training of a firefighter?

HS: In the State of Pennsylvania, you just have to have a fire school, and you do not necessarily have to complete that to be at the fire station, but the problem is, if someone gets hurt, are we liable because they didn’t do the State training?

We have guys that don’t want to go anywhere near the inside of a fire, but they are great firetruck drivers. Well, if they’re a driver, and they want to advance themselves and become pump operators, they can’t do it unless they have the huge course of 180 hours or 200 hours. So we sit around and say why don’t we come up with our own training program, but again, what happens if somebody gets hurt, are we liable because we didn’t have them do the State program?

We just need the State to kind of lower their expectations and maybe it might be that, if I want to join the fire service, I need to take a basic 40 hours class. Now, if I want to become a full-fledged interior firefighter, well then, I need to take more classes. Something to that effect, but, that’s just my opinion.

EK: I would agree.

The State is trying to look at what incentives it can put in place to spur volunteerism. Recently, it passed Act 172, which allows some tax incentives for people who actively participate as volunteers.

KB: Well, that goes back on to the local government, that’s where the tax break is.

That’s why we told the State when they first did it, anybody could pass something like that, you put the burden right back on the municipality. So why would we even want to push that? From the State perspective it’s easy. From the local it’s just costing us money. But anything that helps the first responders, I am going for.

EK: I argued against it also, because I believe in the long run, any municipality that did that might end up having firefighters receiving such incentives considered “employees” of that municipality. No matter how you disguise it, it’s a benefit and when they go out on disability, workers comp, unemployment, I fear that in the long run, the courts and the lawyers will make it so that those firefighters are “employees,” and we’re going to be paying for that. That’s not a sustainable model either.

KB: In terms of State incentives, one of the things I think that needs to happen is to lower the burden of trying to do all the chicken dinners and stand out in the street with a boot and do all that. I’ll go do the training as long as it’s covered and paid for; I’ll do that; that’s not a problem. The problem I have is, when I have to give up every holiday, every waking moment that I can, go to fires, and then come back and stand with the boot and beg for money. I’ll do the work if they just put more money into the fire company.

Even that is a catch 22, though, because some of that fundraising is your social piece of the firehouse. So, I don’t know what the real answer is. It’s not all money. I think it’s part of it.

HS: My personal opinion is that the State could help us get rid of the fundraising. Municipalities need the money to run their fire department. You already have trouble getting volunteers to come in, now you’re looking for him to train, you’re looking for him to run a chicken bar-b-que, to run bingos and do all of that. It’s just not going to happen anymore. So eventually you’re going to lose them.

EK: One of the things that happens is, a lot of local governments are constantly being approached by the State to do more for the firefighters. And I understand the need, but at the same time, the reorganization of fire services is something that has to be asked and talked about. We’ve been doing it for 350 years, this method, with volunteers and on chicken bar-b-ques. Is this the way to go forward in the next 50 years or 100 years? Let’s talk about the idea of paid firefighters, professional firefighters. I personally have come to the conclusion, in the long run, for many, many of our communities, it is more effective to have fire companies that work with professional, fulltime paid firefighters.

What do places that are really rural do, I mean, if you’re talking about paid departments, surely there are some townships that are just too small to do that. What do they do?

KB: Well, I would agree to what Ed said about paid departments, but I think that you have to look at the overall burden and the cost on the local government and what the county and the State are going to pick up.

Our local fire chiefs’ association is putting together a northwest corridor of local communities where there would be two paid firefighters in the north and two paid firefighters in central and they respond to every fire in a 16-municipality zone. And it doesn’t keep the volunteers away. In fact, we’re looking at two volunteers on the same shift at each of those locations, if they can be there, and actually schedule volunteers that want to be there. It’s not 100% guaranteed but I think it’s a way to keep volunteer and paid together, and I think it’s a doable system.

So, I think there is benefit and value to looking at it and maybe looking at different models. People are bringing different ideas to the table. I think locally, we’ve always been really good at solving our own problems. We just have to have the time to do it and think about it.

EK: More than that, what we’re seeing, unfortunately is, with Pennsylvania, a large portion of the state facing declining population. There’s not going to be anybody there in some of these communities, and the jobs are leaving as well. If a guy has to drive for two hours in order to work someplace, he’s not going to be a volunteer firefighter during the day, and probably not in the evening. He might be able to do it occasionally on weekends. That’s not going to be a sustainable model either.

And we need to look at, maybe, a combination of paid and volunteer, which many of us already have, and the idea is, you know, we’re going to have to have something different than we’re used to. And here’s one of the problems: Under the Borough Code, one of the very few things we must do is provide for protective services. We have 956 boroughs out there trying to provide fire protection and in many cases they are just simply contracting with a township nearby. But that same township is going through the very same issue of lower population and higher cost.

KB: With that being said, we just had a fire company get closed by the municipality. They tried to get them to do more training and compliance. They paid for the equipment. But it was so engrained in the culture of that fire company that they were separate from that borough, that they did not concede. They didn’t connect. They weren’t as attached to the community or at least the municipality as they could have been. The municipality ended up closing their own fire company and now they pay out funds to two other local fire companies, funds formerly paid to their own fire company, so it was seen as a forced closure.

EK: Do you think there will there be more of that?

Right, is the separate organization of volunteer fire companies from the municipality sometimes – and that history of separateness, an additional hurdle?

KB: Absolutely. I think they’re going to see a lot more of that. Here’s the problem: All of our fire companies are clicky. We don’t have a system where we’re all really together. We’ll provide our personal service only in our own fire company but, if we had a system in play where I use my I.D. card and I can click into any system and it can come up and tell you all the things I am qualified to do, that would be helpful. If we were truly a system, I would be able to walk into any fire company, and help provide service with them. I think we have to think differently.

EK: And, we also have a problem between transparency with the fire companies and local governments and the public, and there needs to be a better system so that all three can see and understand what’s going on with each other. Some local governments are terrible at transparency but what I’ve found is that fire companies are even worse. You ask them for records on financial information so that we can justify adding more money, and it’s a battle. It’s very difficult to get to a count of what money they have. Many times they don’t want it to share the information.

Are the nature of calls for service changing, and do we also need to rethink the way we are applying our equipment and other resources to those calls?

EK: Well, we’re out here in Harrisburg, my office is here in Harrisburg, across the river in Camp Hill where I was manager for many years, it’s an urban setting and we get a couple house calls a year, no doubt about it. I’d be willing to bet that 80% of the calls are automobile accidents and the fire companies are responding with everything but the horse and buggy for that accident scene. Ladder trucks, rescue trucks and around here, you can barely put a bicycle down some of the streets when they’re backed up. We can’t put that equipment on those streets yet we still kind of do it. That’s not going to work.

KB: We do have a lot more automobile accidents than we did, you know, 30 years ago also and we’re running to all those calls. The training on that is a little bit different. I think one of the things that really surprises me is how much the vehicles have changed and you know, yeah, they’re safer, but then they’ve got airbags in them and you have to watch where you cut. Some of them are hybrid vehicles and you have to watch you don’t electrocute yourself cutting the battery off. A lot of our guys don’t know that unless they’ve been through necessary trainings, and I would say less than 10% have done that.

Although we run more vehicle calls than structure fires as well. The reality is everyone wants to be a fireman, and then we started pushing more for that, but, you have to understand, I come from a fire company. We’ve had a lot of, a lot of vehicle accidents and I’ll show up with an engine and a rescue because number one, I don’t have enough firemen to protect us, and so often times you’re using that vehicle as protection from oncoming traffic while you’re working.

EK: And that’s a part of the issue, you know, maybe we need, professional, but, a different paid profession doing those type of activities.

KB: One of the things that I’m most proud of is working with a team in Butler County for critical and stress management because we’ve recently seen a lot of fatigue from our fire and EMS services. So, that’s kind of the rule and then I brought it to CCAP, and it’s unique because in Pennsylvania we’re looking at, you know, the most local level of government being responsible for providing emergency services, and in my area at least, and I think across the state that’s a huge struggle and we’ll need to talk about that. And that’s one of the reasons why I’m trying to raise it and we have it now as a priority at the County Commissioner’s Association to look at emergency services being provided throughout our state and how it’s being provided, who’s taking responsibility, who’s funding. We’re struggling with EMS equally, if not, you know, worse position than fire, which is hard to believe, so the County Commissioner’s Association is going to look at emergency services, but their focus right now is on EMS.

Gentlemen, thank you for your time and your expertise on these matters. Any final comments for our readers to consider?

HS: I think the training requirements need to be revisited so that we can get good quality people that maybe aren’t interior firefighters, but instead will just help get the truck, be a pump operator, pull hose, things like that. That would be my one suggestion for help from the State. That and some way to lessen the burden on fundraising so we are not losing people because they can’t spend all their time doing fundraising.

KB: Basically, I agree. I think my motto is, “You fund it – we’ll fight it.” We’re about 90% volunteer, and I think that’s higher than it really should be. I think you’re going to have a hybrid system built in the future, but it will be a very thoughtful hybrid system. I think that rather than municipal or individual fire companies, I do believe they have to get under an umbrella and the struggle with that is, the municipal law and that has to be revisited with regard to fire service. Maybe fire service needs to go under a county system, not that I’m advocating for another burden on the county commissioners.

We may also need a way of identifying firefighters with different levels of training at a fire scene. If I’m in the command of a fire, I’m sending people that are present and ready to go. If they’re dawning gear, I’m using them. I have no way of knowing who has what training by just looking at a crew of 8, 9, or 10 people standing there from all different departments. We need the departments to get on the same page in our county. Even our regular fire companies within five miles of each other don’t do it the same way, and that’s a huge problem. I think there’s got to be some understanding on the individual municipalities that we’re going to work together, truly work together, under a single level playing field.

EK: And, I agree with almost all of that, and again I come back to the relationship between the local governments and the fire companies, that there needs to be a much better working relationship, and I will also add the point of that I think the State legislature needs to step up to the plate a little more honestly, in a sense that we just finally got them to approve the 2015 building code across the state. Back in 2008, they did away with the sprinkler systems. I believe all new buildings should be sprinklered. Whether it’s residential or commercial, whatever. That will help us going forward. Those are things that will not be a help for buildings that are 200 years old, but at least we go forward, reduce even more of those fires and other accidents, but not doing their job of supporting us, not taking a look at changing the law, if that’s what you’re talking about, is going to hurt us in the long run and put more burden on local government and we have got to be more realistic about the whole process.



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TEN QUESTIONS WITH ARBITRATOR ROBERT A. CREO, ESQ.

1. How did you become an arbitrator?

Answer: I was about 1 year out of law school working as an in-house counsel in a corporation when I attended a labor arbitration hearing as an observer. Charles Mullins, now deceased, was a prominent and distinguished arbitrator based in Pittsburgh. He arrived at 10 am in a fine suit, was given great deference, told a few lame jokes (everybody laughed), was done at noon, and was paid for the full day. I thought, this is the gig for me.

When I decided after two years to go out on my own, I contacted Mr. Mullins for advice and a few months later he referred me to another arbitrator, Samuel Krimsly, who was looking for assistance. I became his apprentice from September 1979 to his death in March of 1981. I heard my first case on my own in 1980.

2. What are you looking for from the employer when you are asked to hear a discipline grievance? Is it different if the discipline is a discharge?

Answer: The key question I ask myself is if I owned the company, or was the manager, or if the employee worked on my staff, what would I do. Would I want that employee to continue to work for me? Is the employee able to be rehabilitated and perform at an even higher level upon reinstatement?

The key difference in a discharge and other discipline is in the mitigation analysis. More attention is paid to the longevity of an employee, disparate treatment, and the impact on the workplace of reinstatement than it would be in a case involving written reprimands or a few days of suspension without pay. The analysis of what happened and if it was a disciplinary infraction should be the same.

3. If you find that employee misconduct occurred as alleged by the employer, what is the arbitrator’s role in evaluation whether the discipline selected by the employer is too severe?

Answer: The just cause standard is applied in a manner that recognizes the severity of the misconduct balanced against the prior work history of the employee. The other key factor is what discipline has been meted out for similar misconduct in the past. This is referred to as disparate treatment, or in lay terms, discrimination among similarly situated members of the bargaining unit.

Generally, my first step is to take the macro view of the entire history of misconduct. This overview allows me to eliminate what I consider to be outliers, or easy answers. For example, if there is something that is akin to a “three strikes and your out” policy that progressive so that the fourth infraction amounts to discharge, I examine the entire record of misconduct. If these comprise three minor unrelated incidents over a relatively long period of time, the discipline may be reduced. Negligent behavior may be viewed in a kinder light than intentional actions. If an employee is willfully ignoring or violating a clear policy to prove a point or because of a bad attitude, that weighs heavily into the evaluation.

If an employee engages in one serious action that erodes the safety of the workplace, that may be viewed more harshly and result in no mitigation of discipline.

Employees with long term good records and good performance are often deserving of a final chance which in a termination case often involves a conditional reinstatement with no back pay. This is a common arbitral remedy. Although it may frustrate both the employer and unions in a specific case, arbitrators may find that discharge was too severe but are reluctant to award back pay since it will appear as a punishment to the employer and a windfall to an employee who is being paid for not working. There is a concern that it sends a bad message to the good employees who do their job competently on a daily basis without causing trouble.

4. What are the types of things you would consider as mitigating factors in a discipline case?

5. Do you sometimes find yourself mediating disputes rather than just deciding them, and if so, do you think this is a positive or negative method of resolving matters?

Answer: In the past I mediated cases, usually following the presentation of the party with the burden of proof. I have not done so on my own initiative for the past two decades or so. My philosophy is that the parties are mature and know their interests and stakes. There are many reasons beyond the specific merits of a case affecting the decision to arbitrate. They do not need me to inform them that a hundred dollars in overtime pay is not economically worth the fight since it should be clear that the parties are focused on principles and not principal. It may also be a test case where they have privately agreed to resolve a host of grievances or practice disputes based upon the arbitrator ruling.

I inform the parties in my confirmation letter to conclude all settlement negotiations by noon the day before the hearing since I frown upon delaying the hearing for settlement negotiations. Of course, I am likely to serve as a facilitator of settlement if both parties find that helpful or delay the start if they are close to a resolution. I understand that sometimes the dynamics change when all are present onsite and someone extends an olive branch.

6. Assuming an employer wants to make a case for monetary concessions in interest arbitration, what information would you need to see presented to justify those?

Answer: Being perceived as going backwards and taking away benefits is difficult. The employer has to show an inability to pay or other objective signs of financial distress. How it treats other non-unit employees is a critical factor. Have there been comparable cuts made on a unilateral basis where the employer has discretion over budget and personnel matters. If it is a public sector employee, what is the tax base and history of tax rates and increases.

If it is a public sector employer, have the boards and supervisors been elected on pledges to hold to reduce the compensation of employees represented by unions as a philosophical or political matter rather than a matter of prudence. The key assessment is it good governance versus advancing a political agenda.

Obviously, give-backs from comparable bargaining units might be persuasive, particularly if it is not wages and you can show a trend, such as reduction/elimination of post early retirement or increased in contributions for health benefits or for public safety employees. Arbitrators generally do not like tiers where newer employees have reduced lifetime compensation or benefits, so a future merger or other leveling mechanism over time may be more persuasive.

7. Do you see a difference in the presentation of cases when employers are represented by counsel who regularly do labor arbitration, and if so, what is the difference?

Answer: My observation is that the more experienced the advocate the more efficient the hearing process. Less experienced advocates or litigators follow maxims and models better suited for the courtroom where there are juries and an appeal process. We arbitrators do not need you to:

  1. tell them what you are going to tell them
  2. tell them
  3. tell them what you told them

We are not lay jurors. We usually get it by the end of the opening statements.

We also do not need an advocate who is unable to adjust to shorten direct examination about things that are not disputed and are already into evidence. Too many advocates ask every prepared question of each witness where corroboration is unnecessary.

8. Can you talk a little bit about what you want to hear in the employer’s presentation in an interest arbitration case?

9. What do you think is the biggest challenge facing public employers in Pennsylvania when it comes to interest arbitration?

Answer: The public safety department is usually the biggest portion of the budget and strains the resources for every class of municipality. There are far too many police departments with a handful of employees and working chiefs. The trend of consolidation or contracting out policing to another neighboring municipality or transferring it to the state police will likely continue. Consolidation is a good thing since adjacent departments often respond or back each other up anyway.

Act 111 is here to stay so employers should consider big picture options to provide vital community protection services. More officers on the streets in response to the drug overdoses and violence which can arise in any community is good, but expensive. Public safety employees put their lives on the line and deal with the complex interpersonal relationships and situations. People demand safety, and services, in their communities.

For the counties, it may be difficult to pay professionals such as social workers, health care providers, correctional officers, and other public servants at a fair market value level commensurate with their education and qualifications. Starting salaries tend to stagnate over time especially when there are more young graduates willing to take jobs for experience. Finding how to enhance compensation at the entry levels is a tricky issue for arbitrators faced with the limited resources presented in an interest arbitration.

10. AUDIENCE SUBMITTED QUESTION: Local governments are given guidance that says they should have a sizeable reserve fund on-hand, sufficient to fund all operations for a period of several months. But often in interest arbitration, the Unions focus on any extra money we have to argue that we have the “ability to pay” for large raises. What is the best way for the employer to counter this argument?

Answer: My own experience is that arbitrators are sophisticated enough to understand the concept of reserves. I think the key factors are what raises other non-unit employees have received, what do the contracts look like for other bargaining units, and what is the market for the job with other public employers. Reserve fund balances have never been a major factor in my decision making because an interest arbitration case should be about a variety of factors, and not just whether the employer has money to spend.

A convincing case must be made based upon a detailed, and accurate portrayal of the resources of the public employer. This includes comparisons to adjacent communities. But there certainly can be other factors at play. At board meetings, elected officials discuss financial and other challenges to justify their decisions. This same information can be effective in interest arbitration. Perhaps include this as evidence in the presentation.

Certainly, there is also more at play than just wages alone. Many people prefer public sector employment for the public service aspects, the longevity, and the health and retirement benefits, which may not be as secure in the private sector which is moving towards a “gig” economy with short term assignments without retirement and other benefits.

Of course, if one does not keep pace on wages with neighboring communities, the risk is always that talented employees will take jobs with a wealthier neighbor, for example, unless the culture, environment, morale of the workplace is sufficiently strong to keep them employed.

To have your questions for a labor arbitrator considered for the Audience Submitted Question in a future edition of The County and Municipal Bee, email them to thebee@cfwws.com.

Editors: Stephanie Fera and Christopher Gabriel

Artwork and Design by: Bobbi Conrad and Justin Baloh