Branson Firefighters Unionize
Last week, Branson firefighters voted 17-7 in favor of unionizing. After the State Board of Mediation finalizes the results, the union is expected to begin negotiating with the city in the hopes of winning an agreement that will set fire department policies, such as compensation and work rules. This may be good news for the 17 firefighters who chose the union to act as their representative, but how this affects the people of Branson remains to be seen.
The city of Branson has a choice in how it will conduct negotiations with the firefighters union: It can keep the citizens of Branson in the dark and meet with the union in closed-door sessions, or it can open the doors to its collective bargaining sessions and allow citizens and the media access to these meetings.
Open meetings like this are important because taxpayers and people who depend on city services need to be informed about what their government is doing. The transparency of open meetings leads to accountability. However, when the public is kept from meetings between government officials and government unions, government often acts in a way to benefit itself to the detriment of the taxpayer.
If Branson decides to hold collective bargaining sessions in open meetings, it will be in good company. Both the Monarch Fire Protection District and Columbia Public Schools already hold open collective bargaining sessions with their employees.
To put it simply: Branson citizens have a right to know how their city and fire department operate and where their tax money is being spent. When the city of Branson and the firefighters union begin negotiating a labor agreement, the city should keep the doors open. This will help ensure that citizens of Branson are well served by their newly unionized fire department.