This article might be of interest to some readers.
The Fire Fighter Union Movement and the Volunteer Fire Service
The career fire service in America is comprised of approximately 350,000 fire fighters. The volunteer fire service numbers over 800,000. The International Association of Fire Fighters boasts a membership of approximately 260,000 of the career fire fighters. As other sectors of the union movement dwindle to record lows, government worker’s unions are on the rise. It is important to note that the overwhelming majority of IAFF members are utilizing the union for local purposes. Most fire fighters are unaware of the larger labor movement and the problems arising from the IAFF and its affiliates violating the individual rights of fire fighters.
The IAFF takes an anti volunteer stance which is demonstrated by the fact that their constitution prohibits members from volunteering. The union leadership defends their stance by indicating their locals are autonomous. They leave the enforcement of their constitution to the individual local. The IAFF has demonstrated that they will vehemently support locals that pursue an anti volunteer stance and keep their hands off the locals that support their, “Two hatters”. Maintaining affiliation, membership, and the influx of money is more important to them than pushing their agenda on the members.
There are a number of ways that the IAFF is attempting to put pressure on fire fighters not to volunteer. The members that buy into this can file charges on members who volunteer. The fire fighter who volunteers will be forced to resign from the IAFF or quit volunteering. Another way is by passing collective bargaining contracts which state specifically that fire fighters may not volunteer in their off duty time. Collective Bargaining along with Presumptive Health Care legislation is being used to push the IAFF agenda.
Career fire fighters must understand that Civil Service and Collective Bargaining legislation at the state level usually contain a Preemptive clause. This allows contractual agreements to over ride any and all state laws, rules, and regulations. The first collective bargaining contract negotiated by my department last year circumvented State Right to Work law regarding the method used to assess sick time from members to support union activities. As a non union member I am not allowed to negotiate or vote on the contracts.
The trends and actions of the IAFF at the state and federal level show, with out a doubt, that their intention is to grow their membership, expand their control over the member’s actions, and grow the larger labor movement coffers to support politics which are often at odds with a large percentage if not the majority of the members. They are attempting to shift control of the fire service to the state and federal level through legislation concerning minimum staffing and NFPA 1710.
Fire Fighters are being put in the unfortunate position of fighting the very people who are supposed to be there to protect them. Fire Fighter’s First Amendment rights to freedom of affiliation are being violated solely for the growth and political interests of the IAFF. It’s time to stop sugar coating the situation we find ourselves in. When entities trample individual rights of Americans it leaves us no choice but to look for positive ways to influence legislation to protect our freedoms and to protect the future generations of fire fighters.
We need to start educating career fire fighters and motivate them to demand that the union actually work as the representative democracy it claims to be. We need to create lobbying teams that represent existing and future organizations that truly represent the will of volunteer and career fire fighters. These organizations must put personal liberties before the interests of the Larger Labor Movement’s aggressive strategic agenda of growing their union and control of the fire service at the expense of the members. We must protect the ability of smaller communities to determine the level of protection as it relates to the tax base. When these issues we speak of are reduced to the lowest common denominator we are left with the question of individual freedom.
I am a career fire fighter in Austin, TX. I was an IAFF member for ten years. We need to provide an avenue for career fire fighters to express their support of the volunteer fire service. Career fire fighters along with the volunteer fire service working together could create a legislative voice that would trump the will of the labor movement and protect our individual freedoms.
Most bad government has grown out of too much government.
Government big enough to supply everything you need is big enough to take everything you have ... The course of history shows that as a government grows, liberty decreases.
Timid men prefer the calm of despotism to the tempestuous sea of liberty.
They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
Here are some examples of union abuse, short quotes, and a link to read more.
Canadian Federal Law protecting volunteers blocked by IAFF
Ontario legislators rejected Bill 30, the Volunteer Firefighters Employment Protection Act, by a decisive 52-37 vote at Queen’s Park in Toronto on December 11. The result constitutes a resounding victory for Ontario’s professional fire fighters and confirms the right of IAFF affiliates to discipline members who violate the International’s Constitution.
Michigan Professional Fire Fighters Union bringing fire fighters up on charges.
On a related matter, there are still many IAFF members that continue to violate the IAFF Constitution and By-Laws by serving as members of volunteer or paid on call departments. If questioned about it, most of them try to rationalize that their situation is unique and that somehow the rules don’t apply to them. No matter what excuse or explanation may be offered by these individuals, there are NO exceptions!! If you know of someone doing this, ask him or her to stop. If they refuse, then it is imperative that someone files charges against them. Any member in good standing can do so. Call the MPFFU office if you need assistance.
Hartford Union Contract Prohibiting Volunteering
WASHINGTON, DC (July 1, 2003) -- On behalf of volunteer firefighters across the country, I condemn in the strongest possible terms the new contract between the city of Hartford, Connecticut and the Hartford Fire Fighters Association forbidding full-time firefighters to serve as volunteers in their home communities. It is amazing that in a time when there is a revived push led by President Bush for volunteerism across the country, the city of Hartford and the local union have the gall to try to tell firefighters they cannot serve their local communities during off-duty hours.
National Volunteer Fire Council Report for HR4107 Hearings
The House version also includes important volunteer non-discrimination language prohibiting a fire department that receives grant funds from discriminating against, or prohibiting its members from engaging in volunteer activities in another jurisdiction during off-duty hours. This clause, similar to the language that was included in the SAFER Bill passed in Congress last year, begins to address the growing concern we have about an individual's right to volunteer. Cities such as Hartford, West Hartford, East Hartford, Waterbury, Fairfield, New Britain, Connecticut, West Allis, Wisconsin and Ft. Wayne, Indiana currently prohibit their firefighters from volunteering.
Federal Hearings on HR4107 Fire Fighter Assistance Grants
This is a must see site. Read Kevin O’Conner’s whole testimony. This describes the Union stance on Collective Bargaining and Volunteer Discrimination.
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Thread: Volunteering and the Union
06-09-2005, 08:46 AM #1
- Join Date
- Jun 2004
Volunteering and the Union
06-09-2005, 09:45 AM #2
You talk a lot about a FF's "rights" to volunteer. Shouldn't an organization have the "right" to make rules for it's members? I'm not in the NFL nor the NHL, why would/should I question how they run their leagues? I'm not in the IAFF, why would/should I question how they run their union?"This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?
06-09-2005, 09:59 AM #3
- Join Date
- Jul 2002
sounds to me like you are on a fishing trip
06-09-2005, 10:12 AM #4
I understand what you are saying, but I bet you start a bickering firestorm on here. But, I am with you.
I am in IAFF local 1784 (Memphis). I use to volunteer in Mississippi, I have since quit volunteering anywhere due mostly to time restraints. (I ama single father with 2 kids....talk about busy!!)
Anyway, at one time my union VP caught wind of my volunteer situation and felt compelled to tell me that it was against union policy for me to volunteer anywhere!
Now a little background info. I had recently pulled a union BBQ trailer to Nashville and spent several days there and back in Memphis participation in union sponsored Memphis in May BBQ events.
So, I replied that he was absolutely correct and asked for compensation for the volunteer time I had recently provided to the union. His response, "Wait a minute. What do you mean?"
Hipocracy at its best. The conversation basically ended with me stating that if the union was worried about what I did in my own time, while in this case another state, they could stop deducting my union dues from my paycheck. That never happened and I volunteered for several more years without incident.
The biggest problem I see with the fire service in general, both paid and volunteer, is that very few individuals agree on what the issues are. Paid guys can't agree with volunteers, volunteers can't agree with paid guys, and most fire service leaders can't agree with each other. Ask 10 influential fire service leaders what is needed most in the fire service and you will likely get 10 different answers, because people are only worried about their local needs!
Everyone needs to pay a little more attention to what everyone needs. We are all playing the same game. We are all supposed to be on the same team.
Last edited by MemphisE34a; 06-09-2005 at 12:26 PM.RK
Management is making sure things are done right. Leadership is doing the right thing. The fire service needs alot more leaders and a lot less managers.
"Everyone goes home" is the mantra for the pussification of the modern, American fire service.
Comments made are my own. They do not represent the official position or opinion of the Fire Department or the City for which I am employed. In fact, they are normally exactly the opposite.
06-09-2005, 11:21 AM #5
- Join Date
- Jul 1999
- Rural Wisconsin, Retired from the burbs of Milwaukee
Bravo...that was a great post. I agree with you 100 percent. Not only about what you do in your off time being your business, but also in regards to the lack of a single voice to speak for our needs as a united fire service. I stated in another post about the fact that both the paid and volunteer services having some similar needs. Things like needing more training, better equipment, to include modern fire apparatus, and more staffing. I know staffing is a unique issue because of the pay status of career and volunteer firefighters, but both suffer from inadequate staffing in may places.
If we would stop the territorial bickering, the who is better bickering, and the fractional bickering, for even a few moments we could see how strong we all could be if we worked together. But I guess it is better to believe you are right and struggle than admit maybe things could be better if we shut up and listened to what the other people in the fire service had to say.
What day is this? Am I a scab or a mercenary today?
06-09-2005, 11:29 AM #6
this is my own opinion and i have had it for a while...i believe the reason the IAFF (and i am NOT a member)has issues with its members Volunteering is twofold.....1. if the powers that be see some members doing it for free elsewhere why not here?....2. If the member is injured or killed at the vollie job, what happens to the benefits? and we are out a trained firefighter.(last i knew, at least in Ohio, Vollies LODD benefits were a lot less than the Paid, i could be wrong). a little background about me....i was a full time dispatcher(civilian) with a Combo Dept. in Ohio several of the Union guys Vollied at area depts. the union did not like it but tolerated it due to the mutual aid contracts their reasoning being at least some one with some training(no slam!!)would be onscene, the volly dept. in the area i used to live are for the most part very competant, some could use improvement but the manpower and interest is not there. as i said this is just my opinion and im sure someone will have issues with it but then everyone is entitled to their own opinions i dont get bent if some one doesnt like what i say just leave my family out of it!!!!!Any commander who fails to exceed his authority is not of much use to his subordinates. - Arleigh Burke
06-09-2005, 01:39 PM #7
- Join Date
- May 2005
I don't find it that compliated. I think the sole reason for the IAFF being against volunteers is simple. GREED. They believe they have the answer. If you don't volunteer then they will have to hire career FFs. I was told several years ago by our Priz that I was not acting in my brother FF's best interest, that I should stop volunteering. He stated if they wanted fire coverage they should hire paid (I personally hate the term paid) FFs. Since the area I was volunteering was where I lived and where most of my family lived I was set back at this suggestion. The area boarders the city. I asked him if the union was activily trying to bring my area into the city. He stated NO. I promptly told him that if he was so concerned he should advocate bring it in the city. He ignored my statement and said that I could be removed from the union if I did not resign from the volunteer service. I informed him if it is a choice between my families safety and the union just tell me and at the next meeting I would stand up present my letter and resign my membership from the union. I just completed my 25th year as a union member. Needless to say he did not ask for my letter.
I try to abide by my oath. But I personally believe this steps over the line. I could see the union's position if they wanted to stop volunteering in a area that had a career presence, but that is not the case. They want all voluteering to stop. Even in bubbaville that has a annual budget of $30k/yr. and barrows a goat to keep the grass around the station down.
All thing considered the union does more good than harm, but like the brothers on this forum who keep the volunteer vs career wound picked open sometimes their alligator mouth over loads the hummingbird butt. All unions are voted in by it's members. Volunteers have no place in the union hall. And like wise, the union need to stay out of places it is not invited(i.e. the volunteer depts). Those who say the IAFF should welcome the volunteer element get pass it. It ain't going to happen. It's the nature of the beast. Ironicly the volunteers have embraced the career fire fighter, although reluntantly.
HEY but there is good news.
I did save a bunch of money on my car insurance. Smile it's a joke
06-09-2005, 02:04 PM #8
You join the IAFF local, you abide by the rules set forth by the local... plain and simple.
Some locals turn the blind eye to those members who volunteer in other communities, others enforce it.
Some cities now have clauses in their contract with the local that state you will not be a volunteer firefighter in your off duty time.
Some union members complain about having to follow the local's rules, but have no complaint when it comes to the Local negotiating for wages and benefits and are at the forefront complaining to their shift rep when things don't go their way.
Nail 200 has tried to stir up a crapstorm in the past on this issue. Brother's agree to disagree and let's not get splattered!"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."
Lt. Ray McCormack, FDNY
06-09-2005, 03:47 PM #9
- Join Date
- Jul 2002
Well said Gonzo. Seconded
06-09-2005, 06:08 PM #10
I understand the IAFF's view on vollunteers, but I dont agree with it. What they dont want to admit is some areas will NEVER be able to afford paid services. I dont see a problem with a paid member of a big city department who lives in a small town in the country volunteering. But, if thats the Locals rule, then so be it. Either follow it or dont join the union.
For what its worth, we cant volunteer but its a department policy not the Locals.Fire Marshal/Safety Officer
"No his mind is not for rent, to any god or government"
Success is when skill meets opportunity
Failure is when fantasy meets reality
06-09-2005, 06:47 PM #11
We've had a few problems with this over the years. Here's why I support the IAFF position.
We were in the contract negotiations. Our bargaining committee was arguing that we were underpaid as well as understaffed for our community-2 man rigs. The administration's position was
1)the community next to us was paid on call, and 5 of our members were volunteering there. That showed that we were not overworked, or underpaid, since those guys could afford to work for peanuts on their off days instead of getting a "well paying" second job.
2)maybe they don't need us, since everyone loves firefighting so much they would do it for free anyway.
3)the neighboring communities response times were as good as ours, with part paids-because our off duty guys were covering all the daytime calls.
4)that neighboring community's chief argued that he didn't need full timers, because he was getting them for nothing 20 days a month.
All this, and more, forced the Union to crack down. Unfortunately, it also affected guys who volunteered out in the boondocks where there will never be full time FFs. I don't want to say that banning volunteering was the deciding factor, it had more to do with a change of political leadership, but it did take away many of the arguments we were faced with. Eventually, the other community hired some full timers. We finally got a living wage and sufficient manning.
06-09-2005, 08:28 PM #12
Another one trying to stir up the crap!!The comments made by me are my opinions only. They DO NOT reflect the opinions of my employer(s). If you have an issue with something I may say, take it up with me, either by posting in the forums, emailing me through my profile, or PMing me through my profile.
We are all adults so there is no need to act like a child........
06-09-2005, 10:47 PM #13
Originally posted by Dave1983
- Join Date
- Oct 2002
What they dont want to admit is some areas will NEVER be able to afford paid services.
Lastly, and it has been said here before, the fact that there are many volunteer or combination jurisdictions in places that should function primarily with paid staff does detrimentally impact the ability of local's to obtain fair pay and benefits for their members, but more importantly, it prevents many of them from negotiating SAFE staffing clauses.
06-09-2005, 11:50 PM #14
- Join Date
- Oct 2002
- Seacoast NH
This crap kills me, it's like your left foot kicking the right, cause it turns the wrong way. How many times are we and I mean WE going to kick this very dead horse. Last time I checked in this area of the country WE all went to the same classes, had the same instructres, and all worked just as hard at fires. The full time depts. hired the guys off the state list who were the best able to serve! If they were already trained by a volly dept, great thats less $$$$ they have to spend. We always wonder why this bitching and moaning keeps going on is because we let it! We are all in the same boat and worry about the same things. The guys who are ment to be on full time depts, thats great. If you are happy to serve your community as a volly thats great too. Serve to the best of your ability and keep those who serve under you safe every call.
06-10-2005, 12:34 AM #15
- Join Date
- Jun 2004
Not here to get things stirred up
I'm posting the article because I think it is an important issue.
I know it's a pain in the *** to keep beating this horse. Unfortunately it's not dead yet.
The reason this issue keeps coming up is because the IAFF continues to fight hard against Career Fire Fighters ability to volunteer. Just look at the first example given with a link in the article. That's right off the IAFF web site.
I understand the arguments for controlling Fire Fighters ability to volunteer in their off duty hours.
It's my stance that as Americans, Individual Freedom trumps controlling pay, jobs, and labor movement growth.
It's not going to kill the fire service either way you go with this issue.
I think Americans should make individual freedom a premium.
Unfortunately this battle will continue until we pass federal legislation protecting the right to volunteer, define the boundaries of Collective Bargaining, and challenge the ability of City Government to control off duty activities.
If we are all truly brothers, the breech of freedoms in one state or city is a concern for all.
This is not about petty rivalry.
This is about individual freedom.
This is about communities having the freedom to move threw the process of growing their fire departments to suit the needs of their tax payers.
This is about individual community’s ability to have the freedom to determine the level of service that their tax payers are willing to fund.
There are core differences in opinion about freedom and control of labor.
It's a huge issue to the fire fighters affected. It won't go away until City Government and the Labor Movement stop restricting the freedom of fire fighters to volunteer.
What is the freedom of your "BROTHER" worth to you?
06-10-2005, 06:41 AM #16
Call the SPCA...Nail is trying to get another horse to kill so he can beat it some more!"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."
Lt. Ray McCormack, FDNY
06-10-2005, 08:37 AM #17
- Join Date
- Jun 2002
- Glenn Dale Md, Heart of the P.G. County Fire Belt....
Gonzo, Burying the Horse before it smells too bad is important, but be sure you dig a hole that will ensure that weruj1 can't find and exhume it 5 years from now.........Never use Force! Get a Bigger Hammer.
In memory of
Chief Earle W. Woods, 1912 - 1997
Asst. Chief John R. Woods Sr. 1937 - 2006
IACOJ Budget Analyst
I Refuse to be a Spectator. If I come to the Game, I'm Playing.
06-10-2005, 09:37 AM #18
- Join Date
- Apr 2004
- Bossier Parrish, Louisiana
I realize this is probably a dead horse but I just have to respond to IAFF760's comments ....
What exactly is a jurisdiction that would and should have paid staff 24/7? Last I knew there were no determaning factors that governed if a community SHOULD have paid staff? What would you, as an IAFF member base they SHOULD have on ? Population? Location? ....
I guess I wonder if a community of 25,000 should have paid staff using your criteria? What if that community has a volunteer department or departments that have an ISO rating equal better to full-time or primarily full-time departments in the same county?
I guess this is the thing that irks me about this whole argument. The fact that the IAFF and some of it's members look at a community and say that they SHOULD have 24/7 paid staffing ... and heaven's knows what thier judgement is based on.
In some areas large communties function perfectly well with volunteer staffing because of the tradition of volunteering or quality of the department, but yet the union feels that the community SHOULD be covered by paid folks.
OK. enough on that.
06-10-2005, 06:06 PM #19
- Join Date
- May 2005
That is how unions are
Construction unions dont want you doing sidework, they frown on that big time.
Its kinda sad that unions are about brotherhood, but being a firefighter should supersede the union brotherhood, but I guess the career guys dont want it.
06-10-2005, 10:20 PM #20
Memphis I think it is interesting how you relate being a volunteer firefighter to volunteering your time to assist your Local in fire prevention etc. Somehow I think that you have twisted this around and have lost touch with reality. I am a Union member IAFF #1132 and we have Scab's. To each his own. But I am not going to back up a fellow member if they are being attacked about volunteering. I do not volunteer, although I used to before becoming a paid Union Firefighter.
As far as Nail goes I think it is interesting that you put so much time into detailing the IAFF's business. You speak of a Paid/Volunteer Organization. You have several options.
1. Join the IAFF and get the them to support Volunteer initiatives. NOT going to happen.
2. Get the organization that supports the initiatives of the volunteers across the nation to support Paid Career Firefighters. ALSO NOT going to happen.
3. Start your own organization to benefit your group of people and have your own initiatives.
4. Join an organization that you want and agree to disagree to certain terms.
Maybe soon we will see a tag/signature that reads:
Proud member of the National Association of Fence Sitting Two Hat Firefighters.
Jurisdiction Of Brothers of the Two Hat Idea Enjoying Fire Fighters:
Maybe someone else can help me out with a better name.
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