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Minuteman News Center - Himes Talks Pensions, Unions; Congressman Meets with Firefighters

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By Meg Learson Grosso

When Congressman Jim Himes sat around the kitchen table at Fairfield's Firehouse on Reef Road recently, the topic turned to one that's been hot politically, both here and across the nation, namely, unions and union pensions.

In the worst recession since the 1930s, there is a financial squeeze on federal, state, and local governments, because there is less tax revenue, Himes said, adding that in the nation's capital, he is seeing a "vilification" of public employees.

"I'm not saying what I see in DC is happening here in Fairfield, but I see it in great detail in the much more politicized environment of Washington," he said.

"The Republican party in particular is saying you need to fire public employees. What they're not telling you is this is teachers, school nurses, firefighters," said Himes adding, "Wisconsin is ground zero for this. That is the rallying cry in the political arena on the other side."

While the private sector has gained jobs every month for the last 26 months, the public sector has lost jobs every single month and that, Himes said, has affected employment.

"The economic mess we're in today is the result of a banking sector that is poorly regulated, of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and the housing bubble. It's not the fault of firefighters, policemen or teachers," Himes said.

"And yet we have pension problems and sometimes they blame the unions for that … well, guess what? There was always somebody else on the other side of the negotiation. And it was a negotiation," he added.

Fire Lieutenant Bill Tuttle, trustee of Fire Fighters local 1426, had some strong opinions of his own, saying that no one had a problem with firefighters' pensions before the stock market collapsed, but now Tea Party Republicans are blaming the victims, the firefighters, police officers, and teachers who have pensions.

Tuttle wished the blamers would go after those who got "big bonuses" after they ran AIG and Bank of American into the ground.

"And it's frustrating. It's a constant barrage, and becomes an accepted fact (that) "Pensions have to change,'" said Tuttle.

"I'm not saying what I see in DC is happening here in Fairfield, but I see it in great detail in the much more politicized environment of Washington," he said.

"The Republican party in particular is saying you need to fire public employees. What they're not telling you is this is teachers, school nurses, firefighters," said Himes adding, "Wisconsin is ground zero for this. That is the rallying cry in the political arena on the other side."

While the private sector has gained jobs every month for the last 26 months, the public sector has lost jobs every single month and that, Himes said, has affected employment.

"The economic mess we're in today is the result of a banking sector that is poorly regulated, of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and the housing bubble. It's not the fault of firefighters, policemen or teachers," Himes said.

"And yet we have pension problems and sometimes they blame the unions for that … well, guess what? There was always somebody else on the other side of the negotiation. And it was a negotiation," he added.

Fire Lieutenant Bill Tuttle, trustee of Fire Fighters local 1426, had some strong opinions of his own, saying that no one had a problem with firefighters' pensions before the stock market collapsed, but now Tea Party Republicans are blaming the victims, the firefighters, police officers, and teachers who have pensions.

Tuttle wished the blamers would go after those who got "big bonuses" after they ran AIG and Bank of American into the ground.

"And it's frustrating. It's a constant barrage, and becomes an accepted fact (that) "Pensions have to change,'" said Tuttle.


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