Clearwater Fire Fighters Ramp Up Battle With City

June 20, 2008 -- At the Florida Professional Firefighters (FPF) Annual State Convention in June, fire fighters called for increased support for Clearwater, FL Local 1158, as it continues its hard-fought battle against the City. Convention delegates voted to censure Clearwater Fire Chief Jamie Geer, boycott the Florida Firefighter Games because of the organizers’ intention to hold the 2009 Games in Clearwater, and to boycott the City of Clearwater financially for its unfair and illegal treatment of its fire fighters.

“The Florida Professional Firefighters has been behind Local 1158 since its fight with the City began, and we will stand behind them until justice is served,” says FPF Vice President Gary Rainey. “With the passage of these resolutions, we are taking the battle to the next level.”

The boycott of the Florida Firefighter Games, should they be held in Clearwater, could cause the City to lose $4 million. David Hogan, secretary-treasurer of Clearwater Local 1158, says, “We are at impasse with our contract. We have had to file numerous unfair labor practice claims and grievances. We have had enough.”

The convention resolutions and Local 1158’s “Save Clearwater Fire” campaign are in place to demonstrate to the City that its fire fighters are a force to be reckoned with and we will not back down until they receive fair treatment.

For the last several years, Clearwater Local 1158 has fought battle after battle with the City of Clearwater over disputes that range from wrongful terminations to unfair labor practices. Contract negotiations have now come to a halt.

Local 1158 has filed and won six unfair labor practices, five grievances and a gender discrimination claim. In addition, 26 grievances are still pending.

Local 1158 has fought much of its battle with the City in litigation until recently. Members felt it was time to inform the public of the City’s actions and repeated unfair treatment. As part of its public education campaign, Local 1158 created a “Save Clearwater Fire” web site, which gives details about the unfair labor practices and the settled grievances and asks the public to contact their elected officials and suggests other ways they can help.

“Our main goal is to let the public know that the City is unnecessarily spending thousands of taxpayer dollars in legal fees to fight the fire fighters – those entrusted with protecting the safety of Clearwater citizens,” says Local 1158 President John Lee. “Since other City employees – many of whom belong to unions – are being treated fairly, it certainly appears the fire fighters are being singled out.”

Meanwhile, contract negotiations between the City and Local 1158 came to an impasse when the City offered a zero percent raise – even though the City had budgeted a 3 percent raise for fire fighters – and demanded several changes to the contract.

“To be fair, our president took the City’s proposal to all eight of our fire stations,” says Hogan. “Not surprisingly, they all said no. They were particularly concerned about the City’s proposed changes to contract language that would severely limit our ability to file grievances.”

The next battle with the City will come when Local 1158 conducts its Fill-the-Boot drive for the Muscular Dystrophy Association August 23-24. Hundreds of Florida’s fire fighters are planning to come to Clearwater to protest Chief’s Geer’s decision to prevent fire fighters from street solicitations.