February 27, 2019

Why we’re opposing ballot issue #1


On April 2, voters will decide if the Colorado Springs Fire Department is able to unionize or not under ballot issue #1, a proposal our analysis shows is costly and unnecessary.

The City of Colorado Springs takes good care of the fire department. More than 50 percent of the city budget is devoted to public safety, which is more than most cities our size. Over the last four years, the city increased the average line firefighter pay from $68,000 to $80,000, plus overtime and a generous benefits package that includes lifetime retirement pay.

Between 2016 through 2021, the city will add a total of 52 firefighters, including 44 line firefighters. The fire department, along with the police department, is well represented on all city compensation and benefits committees, with full and proven access to the mayor and city council to express concerns and discuss compensation and safety standards. Currently, the fire department has one of the highest ISO ratings possible – a measurement to benchmark how well a department is equipped to put out fires.

We are proud of the Colorado Springs Fire Department and support the city’s initiatives to take care of them.

However, passing ballot issue #1 has serious implications for our community. It will likely open the door for other city and county government employees to unionize, creating additional costs for taxpayers.

Our entrepreneurial spirit, low taxation and relatively low cost of living are driving the region’s growth and prosperity. If the firefighters’ bargaining agent and city leaders don’t agree on labor terms, a special election to resolve the dispute would be required, at the cost of $500,000 (or more) to Colorado Springs’ taxpayers.

Issue 1 also proposes amending the city charter to allow just one group of city government employees to receive special treatment, turning a historically collaborative relationship into a highly contentious negotiation between the city and an exclusive bargaining agent. The bargaining agent’s sole job is to secure more resources for one group of city employees at the expense of others. City budgets are zero-sum games: if one department receives more, it means another department – such as police, affordable housing, parks and roads and more – receive less.

We are very selective about the campaign activities we undertake and only do so on behalf of our business members. Unionization among city employees hurts business. For these reasons, we urge you to Vote No on Issue #1.