Thread: union help?

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    Default union help?

    I would like to know if anyone knows if a small paid department joining a union would help to get more people hired on. We currently have 7 paid firemen including the chief. We also currently work 12 hour shifts with just one fireman on duty at night and weekends.
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    A good person to talk to would be the treasurer Dave VanWallaghton of L-4112 in Brownstown Twp. Michigan. They became a full time department about 2 years ago and also work 12 hour shifts. I think he could give you some good insight into this. You may contact him at 734-941-8860. Good luck. By the way they are looking to go to 24 hr shifts, thus saving the township approximetly $350,000 in overtime and extra staffing because of the screwed up 12 hour shift deal they now have. The 12 hour concept is a waste of money and also a cause of fatigue when associated with overtime. Mr.VanWallaghton could explain it better than I.
    Last edited by FireLt1951; 08-25-2003 at 03:50 PM.

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    If the city/township that you cover has more than 5000 citizens on the last census, then when you affiliate with the IAFF you will be a "recognized union".

    This means that you have bargaining rights, meaning the city can't just outright tell you no. You have the ability to go to arbitration on things you feel strongly about, including staffing and pay.

    If you have less than 5000 citizens, you will not be recognized by the international, meaning aside from LODD benefits and a neat union sticker, you won't get too much power with it.

    Hope this helps, if I'm mistaken on any of this, someone please interject..

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    If the city/township that you cover has more than 5000 citizens on the last census, then when you affiliate with the IAFF you will be a "recognized union"
    I am not sure it is that simple. Spook, could you tell me the source of your information. I am looking into an issue elswhere. Thanks in advance.
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    Hmm, I actually don't have a source, I thought thats just the way it works. Perhaps it only happens like that in Ohio.. heck for all I know that might not even be the way it happens, but I know in this area, if you ask just about anyone, 5000 is the magic number to gain bargaining rights.

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    I think the key is to lay the groundwork correctly. You approach the city and begin to develope an relationship that is conducive to giving and taking. You convince the city that the purpose of becoming affiliated with the IAFF is to provide additional benefits to the firefighters that the city does not provide. Then you ask them if they would recognize you as the primary bargaining unit for the FD. If they agree then you can negotiate things such as staffing and the like. If they do not...then you are IAFF and have no power to bargain. Additionally, your Union leader needs to be strong and well versed in dealing with political entities and most importantly.....he/she MUST NOT HAVE AN AXE TO GRIND WITH THE CITY!
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    Clearly things are different all over. I know of no "magic number" of residents. My understanding is that collective bargaining laws are different state by state.

    captstanm1, if I understand you correctly, you are saying that you have no collective bargaining rights unless the employer agrees to it.

    I can't speak for Florida, but around here if that were the case, there wouldn't be many union departments.
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    Duffman.......I am certain that you have rights in most places.... Florida is a "right to work state" so if your jurisdiction does not wish to recognize you as the "primary bargaining agent" then being an IAFF local does not help you in that aspect. It does not mean in any way that you should refrain from becoming IAFF.
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    Default The Magic #

    I think the magic number you need to be a recognized local for the IAFF is 5 members. We tried to form an officers local a few years ago and were told 5 members would be need too start the local. You only need 33% of the department to force a vote for you organize and thats from the NRLB laws, population doesn't play in the equation.
    Last edited by Ltmdepas3280; 08-27-2003 at 08:47 AM.
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    Our department is going through the same issues. We were told that it takes three full time firefighters in order to start a union. We were not told anything about area population. Our department is a district, so we do not have to deal with a City. Which I think will help the process. One mention of Union around here, and people hide. I am interested in any facts about starting a union, it is in our very near future.

    Thanks fellas!

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    Hey thanks for the info, I forgot to mention we also have about 15 volunteers and I'd like to know if they can join the union if we start one.

    thanks
    "Bravery is the capacity to perform properly even when scared half to death."

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    also does anyone know of a contact person for the IAFF in the north florida area we could contact for more info.

    thanks again
    "Bravery is the capacity to perform properly even when scared half to death."

    Gen. Omar Bradley

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    Back to the original question, will a union help you get more firefighetrs on the department. In the end it comes down to one thing, can you convince whomever is in charge of the budget to hire more firefighters? Will forming a union help or hinder you in this?


    In any business deal (and yes this is one) the first thing you need to do is put yourself into the shoes of whomever you want to negotiate with. Look at it from their point of view. Do you think forming a union will make them more or less receptive to your ideas? Having dealt with unions in the past,(not the IAFF, but other unions) as what could be loosley called (managment) I can tell you that whenever the union was brought up or stepped in, all walls were immediately thrown up. Something I may have been willing to work on with a group I suddenly became a horses *** on if they sent the request through the union rep when they could have simply asked. Why? Because I hated dealing with the union, and the union always approached things in a much pushier fashion, and that rarely goes over well.

    As far as your volunteers, do a yahoo search for the terms "IAFF Volunteer" and I think your questions will be answered on that issue. About the only thing the union may do for your volunteers is possibly drive a wedge between them and your paid guys.

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    The IAFF isn't an organizational magic wand; it is, however, the best resource for those of us for whom this is our primary job. The IAFF will support you by providing statistical, political and legal advice which many small departments would find hard to assemble by themselves.
    Management will not be happy usually; municipal governments like it much better when they call all the shots. If everyone was a man/ woman of his/her word and we could sit down and iron out differences and reach objectives collectively that would be fine. Unfortunately in most places that's not the way it works anymore.
    Also, it will be a lot easier if you affiliate before the relationship in your department becomes contentious....after that unionization will most likely be seen as a threat and any discussion will be that much harder.
    The most important aspect of being in the union is you are never alone; help is there if you need it and not just from local resources. If manning is your major issue the IAFF will provide you with information on how to go about improving your situation...good luck.

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    Well said radioguy

    Can a union solve the budget problems of your city? Would a union inprove relations between FD and council/taxpayers? Would a union increase overhead cost for the council/taxpayers or reduce overhead cost?

    If you objective is to improve fire service operations and fire protection for the citizens who contribute their hard earned $ to the cause identify the problem, develop likely courses of action, and select/recommend the most likely approach.

    When do most calls occur? 8-5 week days (when you are currently fully manned) or evenings? Does a blanced combination of full time/vol better serve requirements? Seems pretty difficult to me to make a case that on weekends need fewer paid than on Wed morning.

    If a very strong case can be make that you need more paid, where are YOU going to get the $ from. Given economic conditions of the last couple of years, unlikely your city has $ sitting around looking for a home. You going to raise property or other taxes? Take the $ from the park, police, equipment budgets? Current paid take a pay cut so can hire a couple of new guys (now as a mayor you make that offer and I'm going to be impressed by how serious you are). If YOU can't find the $ to pay for YOUR problem how is a anyone else going to (or a union boy)? So what is plan B going to be to improve fire service operations and fire protection for the citizens? Improve operations of vol? their training? Purchase additional equipment that leverages available manpower? Start adding up the cost of a paid department and it is outrageously expensive. Make pumper price trivial.

    Say you want an additional full time 4man crew with a new pumper. 16 men @ $50000+/yr (fully burdened cost) = $800,000/yr = $8,000,000 for 10 years. VS a new $200000 pumper with a 10 year life (annualized at $20000/yr). Perhaps a new pumper with garage/station and an additional crew of vol. (at $40000/yr) would accomplish more in providing protection and lowering your community's ISO rating at a much lower annual cost?

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    Thumbs up IAFF

    To be an IAFF affiliate you need to have at least THREE active members. THE most important part of a small paid force joining the IAFF(in my opinion) is the fact you have 250,000 people out there instead of just you and your co workers. Firefighters in States that do not have collective bargaining rights are at a distinct disadvantage. However, I believe these firefighters need the Union even more because of this. And yes, the IAFF and your State Associations CAN help you gather political/public support for improving your department through the resources they can provide you. Political savvy and good PR are key to improving your situation. There has been retribution against Union Officers since the very begining of the IAFF. The Union does a very good job of defending these officers no matter the size of the Local through the Guardian Policy. Recently in Illinois, the Chief and Mayor of a town that recently organized went after 2 of the principal officers. The AFFI (our State Association) IMMEDIATELY went to the defense of these men who were merely being hounded on trumped-up charges due to the fact they were exercising their rights.

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