1. #1
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    Default Problems with Unionizing

    Help!! My department is in the process of unionizing. We have never been a union department before. We are currently one of the many combination departments in the midwest, that in addition to our full-time staff, supplement with contract employees and POC's. I was wondering, what are the benefits and disadvantages to be a union. It seems pretty clear that the Captains will be excluded, but the Lt.'s (myself included) may be included.

    The blueshirt firefighters went behind everyone elses back to take the vote, mostly because they were pretty sure that the Lt's would vote NO. I dont think that it would even be a legal vote if challenged.

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    Why will your captains be excluded? I thought only administrative officers were out?

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    Sorry, I guess I should have said more about our chain of command. We have a Chief Officer, one Deputy Fire Chief, and Three Captains. Six Lt.'s run the companies. I have no idea who will be excluded. When the Captain is off, one of us goes to Station One to play Shift Commander. The Captains are pretty clearly administration, it remains to be seen if we are.

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    Default THERES NOTHING TO BE AFRAID OF

    In Illinois, the municipality is allowed one rank between bargaining unit member and Chief. I am not sure how the "blueshirts" went around your back because when petitioning the labor board it is pretty explicit on who is to be included in the unit. I would hope that your members would get some insight from the AFFI if you they plan on going IAFF. There has been a tremendous increase in Departments unionizing recently in your own backyard. The Des Plaines officers formed an IAFF local,when the firefighters chose to affiliate with someone else (SEIU or the Teamsters). The biggest fear of some smaller departments is retribution for affiliating. There are laws against this. The pros are that you are able to access information and negotiate a fair contract. The con may be all the verbal "understandings" might not apply once you choose to get a contract. Listen to what the union rep has to say. Make an informed choice. In Chicago, Battalion Chiefs are union members. Wheeling tried to keep Lts. out and it when to the U.S. Supreme court. Good luck. Talk to the guys at Lincolnshire/Riverwoods who recently organized. See what they have to say.

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    Originally posted by Prevntfyr
    Sorry, I guess I should have said more about our chain of command. We have a Chief Officer, one Deputy Fire Chief, and Three Captains. Six Lt.'s run the companies. I have no idea who will be excluded. When the Captain is off, one of us goes to Station One to play Shift Commander. The Captains are pretty clearly administration, it remains to be seen if we are.
    Usually, everyone up to the Captains rank are union members, sometimes higher. In some very large unions officers have their own locals. If you go with the IAFF you have a very large constituency to work with, that for you would mean lots of other locals that are either going through the same thing, or had already experienced it. that, in itself is a great asset. I recently returned from a district conference, there were locals there as large as 500 members and as small as 10, all firefighters. This is an amazing resource to have at your disposal.

    Good luck mate, and remember, you are not alone in your struggle.

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    Default Mikey is Right

    Departments all over the area are unionizing. With the economy such as it is, more and more departments are looking to protect manpower, benefits, etc. You have choices. The teamsters and service employees union have both organized FD's. I would reccommend the IAFF however because the others are not specialized. The SEIU will organize anybody. They are currently attempting to organize strippers.

    In addition to yourselves and Lincolnshire, I hear Naperville is strongly considering organizing.
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    If you are going union....

    [size=huge]
    IAFF!
    [/size]

    The Teamsters, SEIU and NAGE have no clue when it comes to firefighter issues!

    posted by Preventfyr
    The blueshirt firefighters went behind everyone elses back to take the vote, mostly because they were pretty sure that the Lt's would vote NO. I dont think that it would even be a legal vote if challenged.
    It seem that the privates have issues with the company officers...and your FD is not the first!

    Some departments have separate locals for the command staff, that may be an option... but to get back to the beginning...

    Did anyone ask the Captains and LT.'s if they wanted to belong to the union?

    PS: my local (Local 1714, IAFF/PFFM) represents the ranks of Firefighter, Lieutenant, Captain and Deputy Chief!
    Last edited by CaptainGonzo; 12-09-2002 at 01:52 PM.
    ‎"The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
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    What Captain Gonzo says is quite true. I know a couple of Depts in my region that went with other unions, they are kicking themselves in the behind now. It makes quite a difference when the people in your union hierarchy are firefighters. They have an innate understanding of what you are going through.

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    Default

    Just quickly... everyone in my department is union except the chief. The uniformed members, including up to deputy chiefs, training captain and code enforcement officers, are IAFF and the civilian members are CSEA (Civil Service Employees Assoc.).

    I can sympathize with you on starting up a union. I was vice pres. of the local in my last job upon starting it up. Just finding the right one is the biggest headache. But in the case of a fire department I would only go with IAFF. Specialization is the key to getting the best representation. A union that doesn't regularly represent firefighters will not get you the best contracts.

    In the last job, we did have a few middle managers who did not want to be in the union, but they were brought in on a company wide vote that detailed the new working arrangements. The only ones who were not included were those who worked on commission and could not pay regular dues. If your captains are against the union, maybe they just needed to be included in the beginning informational meetings and not "snuck around on". They might be more receptive if they are actually included. I know that I would not have my job right now if it weren't for the stand up guys in my local.

    Good luck
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    Default IAFF

    Contact the IAFF they have people for this. Pind out who your distric President will be. He will get you all the proper documents you need.Goodluck on your quest to a better working envrionment
    “Just when you think something is made to be Idiot Proof. They go a head and make a better Idiot”

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    Question

    The career staff of my small combination department has thrown around the idea of unionizing. As it stands, we have no collective voice and would hope that a union could help us with that.

    However, what good are unions in "right to work states" (I think that's what they're called) where unions do not have to be recognized as a bargaining agent for contracts?

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    Default

    The proper name for those are "anti-union states" again as stated earlier, your district rep will have dealt with legal issues such as you have mentioned many times before, and will be able to answer your questions for you. Or if you feel uncomfortable going that far, approach someone from a local in your area as they would of course have been dealing with this problem for some time.

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    First I'm not Ted but he left the computer on...

    The petition will tell you who exactly is to be included in the union. If time permits another union can be added to the vote with a proper show of interest. One of the 1st questions to come to mind is if the petition includes the POC will the IAFF accept your group.

    Should you organize, (join a union)? Talk to the reps for the union, they will answer your questions as th the benifits of being organized. Ask what are mandatory subjects of bargaining, are you "at will" employees, ask for contracts of comprable departments that are organized. As your post suggests you should get all the info available to make your decision. Ask for a copy of the labor laws re: organizing for public employees.

    This I can tell you, when the time comes that you need a union it will be to late. And sooner or later the time will come. Most of you will put in 25 years, how many elections will take place during that time and how many chiefs will you work under? Do you think all of them will be good chiefs?

    Finally, A union is only as good as it's membership. Don't expect the rep to do everything. He will not be there every day to tell you if there is "wrong doing". You will need to educate yourselves as to to your rights and responsibilities including "Duty of Fair Representation".

    Just like fire fighting the more you educate yourself the better protected you will be.

    Good luck.

    Jim
    firedogg@shianet.org

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    Default Union Membership

    Cozmosis-I am also a career member of a combination department (12 career staff, 10 of them union). I am also located in a right to work state.

    What a union can do for you is directly dependent upon the laws governing public safety employees in your particular state. I would urge you to contact union reps from other department that are union-there are probably more benefits than you realize.

    In our case, the state restricts the right of public safety workers to strike. To make up for this, we have what is called the Court of Industrial Relations. This court is supposed to oversee relations and make sure things are comparable between like sized municipalities.
    Unfortunately, this often means expensive court battles.

    Without our combined voice, we would truly be up a creek!

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