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Guest MINDSETTER™ Paul Valletta: Everyone Loves a Dead Firefighter

Tuesday, April 19, 2016


"Someone has to do something while we're all still alive," says Valletta.

Last year at this time, two bills were introduced in the Rhode Island General Assembly dealing with fire fighter work schedules. Providence Mayor Elorza and Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare took a Supreme Court decision in another fire case and applied it to the Providence Fire Fighters, the big difference was the Providence Fire Fighters were, and still are, under a collective bargaining agreement. 

This opinion is not about the legal ramifications. This opinion is about the unethical and immoral path it appears some elected Providence officials have chosen to go down. During state house hearings regarding the two fire fighters bills, myself and Providence Fire Fighter Union President Paul Doughty testified that the shift schedules being proposed by Mayor Elorza and Commissioner Pare were dangerous to both fire fighters and the public we serve. Our testimony was based on 60 years of fire fighting experience between the two of us and the studies that prove an absolute correlation between overworked and exhausted fire fighters being injured more. 

At the time, Paul and I testified that the shift change being proposed (Providence is the only fire department in the country working this schedule) would absolutely lead to Providence Fire Fighters being injured and "rolling the dice with our lives." We were accused of playing the firefighter “injury and death card." Governor Raimondo’s stance to veto the bills eventually led to both bills not passing. Lt. Governor McKee also led a press conference of municipal leaders to derail the bills. This opinion isn't even about how the bills died. 

Leaders Knew It Would Come to This

This is about Mayor Elorza and Commissioner Pare now admitting, in a grant application written by the Providence Deputy Safety Commissioner recently, that they knew a year ago, prior to implementation of the shift change that this shift would create “exhausted, overworked fire fighters” thus leading to fire fighter injuries and a potential for something even worse."  

We know the injuries among our brothers and sisters in Providence are up just as was predicted a year ago and it's just by the grace of God we didn't all have to attend a fire fighter’s funeral a couple of weeks ago. At one point when talking about the increase in fire fighter injuries in Providence, Commissioner Pare said the increased injuries were in retaliation for the shift change, insinuating that some of the injuries really were not injuries at all and just a protest to the shift change. What an insult from someone with over 25 years of service in public safety.  

Mayor Elorza and Commissioner Pare have now admitted that the schedule they have put their fire fighters in makes a dangerous job much more dangerous. They agree now with what we have said for a year, and yet the dangerous shift still continue. This is not about salary, benefits or who's right about the contract. We will fight that in the proper forum. We have a dangerous, catastrophic situation in our largest city that needs to end now. 

I mentioned the Governor and Lt. Governor as playing a role in the legislation not passing. I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt that if they knew how dangerous these shifts were, they would not have taken the action they did. They chose at the time to believe Mayor Elorza when he lied in testimony before the House and the Senate Finance Committees and not believe President Doughty and myself. 

Madam Governor and Lt. Governor McKee, you now know by the City's own words and the injuries sustained in the last year by Providence Fire Fighters that we were telling the truth. You don't have to like us, but you can not knowingly put us in harms way like Mayor Elorza and Commissioner Pare continue to do.  Someone has to do something while we're all still alive.

Paul Valletta has served a Cranston firefighter and as a lobbyist for the Rhode Island State Asociation of Firefighters 


Related Slideshow: Providence Firefighter Tweets

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Paul Doughty responds to a post by Elorza on another subject, to steer the fight back to the firefighters.

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A photo meme that was orginated by firefighters in social media, before being used on signs during a recent firefighter rally at City Hall.

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The fighfighters take to Twitter to convey their positions on a number of issues. 

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Local 799's Derek Silva tweets a cartoon "fantasty" Tweet with Elorza. 

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Elorza's post recognizing fire chief Cunha's service gets minimal interaction.

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On May 21, when Elorza announced the platoon shift, he tweeted instead about a volunteer event he attended -- and not of the firefighter decision.

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Other press coverage of Elorza is often commented on by Doughty on Twitter.

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Doughty uses Twitter to show the contrast of a prior Elorza statement, versus his current position. 

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A pro-union tweet garners significant Twitter interaction.

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Doughty takes to social media to tell firefighter supporters than any threats against the Mayor would not be tolerated.

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Doughty often comments on other actions by Mayor Elorza in an effort to bolster the firefighters' position.

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Doughty takes immediate social action after the Mayor weighs on about the recent court decision. 

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Media coverage on the fight is often retweeted by Doughty -- something which Elorza does not do with firefighters. 

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A pro-union post retweeted by Doughty; the firefighters often engage other unions' support.


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