Emergency workers in North Dakota are left mute and silenced to the detriment of our communities due to the state withholding collective bargaining rights for our police officers and firefighters. This leaves the safety of our communities and first responders vulnerable. Why would we want to put either at risk?
Unions in the private sector have the right to collectively bargain with their employers to ensure a safe, equitable, and respectable workplace. Don't emergency workers deserve the same?
The common misconception is that unions are only advocating for higher pay, but if you listen to union workers, in the words of Waylon Hedegaard, "It's not money, it's safety."
In the 2017 legislative session, representatives introduced House Bill 1401 which would have allowed collective bargaining for law enforcement officers and paid full-time firefighters. However, 16 out of the 26 Cass County representatives voted against the bill, and abandoned their communities and their emergency worker constituency.
Since the 1990s, the violent crime rates in Fargo have spiked nearly 400 percent and are now higher than the national average, expressing the need for emergency workers to advocate for reform in their field.
We are sacrificing the safety and security of our communities because the state silences emergency workers. Without a voice, they cannot advocate for better gear, improve workplace circumstances or for improved emergency services.
It's time for the state to recognize the rights of emergency workers to collectively bargain. It's time to let them speak.
Garrick lives in Fargo and is the Democratic candidate for state Senate in District 27.