Congress may turn up heat on volunteer firemen
By JAMES SHERK
THE HERITAGE FOUNDATION
You probably haven’t heard that Congress is about to shut down many of America’s volunteer fire departments. A little-known bill advancing through Congress would do just that.
Nearly 26,000 volunteer fire departments protect tens of millions of Americans and their homes from fires. Almost three out of every four firefighters in the United States are volunteers, and smaller towns and cities call on them for protection.
These volunteer departments are usually anchored by a core of professional career firefighters. Often they work in another city and volunteer to protect their neighbors in their off-duty hours. Volunteer firefighters risk their lives and sacrifice their time for their communities. Who would want to shut them down?
The International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), that’s who. The IAFF represents career firefighters. Volunteers who give their time and efforts to their communities allow many communities to do without full-time career fire departments. This means fewer jobs for career firefighters, and fewer dues-paying members in the union that represents them. So the IAFF does everything in its power to stop ‘‘two-hatters’’ from volunteering.
The IAFF constitution prohibits its members from belonging to a volunteer fire department. In the words of IAFF President Harold Schaitberger, the decision to volunteer is a personal choice, but ‘‘that personal choice is one that can have serious consequences under our Constitution.’’ Union members who disobey face steep union fines that the courts will enforce. In some cities, the IAFF negotiates, on its members’ behalf, contracts stating that they will lose their job if they volunteer in their off-duty hours.
The union’s effort to ban volunteering is an assault on our civic fabric. Doctors who provide free care to the poor, lawyers who work pro bono for the disadvantaged, and firefighters who volunteer for their communities make America a better country.
Without career firefighters willing to give their time, many volunteer fire departments would have to close. Look at Connecticut. The IAFF negotiated ‘‘no-volunteering’’ clauses in the contracts of every major city there. Now many of the state’s volunteer fire departments are having difficulty finding enough volunteers to protect their communities. Some cities have had to raise taxes significantly to hire career firefighters - exactly what the IAFF intended.
Enter the Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act, which would make it significantly easier for the IAFF to shut down volunteer fire departments. The bill, which passed the House and is before the Senate, has nothing to do with employer-employee cooperation. This bill requires every state and local government to collectively bargain with their police officers and firefighters, and to negotiate virtually every term and condition of employment. Those states that have decided collective bargaining doesn’t meet their needs would have to do so anyway.
If this bill passes and forces every local government to collectively bargain with its firefighters, the IAFF’s membership rolls will swell and the union will have enhanced powers to negotiate away the freedom of its members to volunteer. Many career firefighters who want to serve their community will lose the ability to do so, unless they want to lose their jobs.
Recognizing that concerns for volunteer firefighters could sink the bill, its supporters added a provision specifying that private sector collective bargaining agreements cannot prevent workers from volunteering. Since virtually every firefighter works for the government and not in the private sector, this actually does nothing to protect volunteer firefighters. But it sounds good.
Instead of adding meaningless provisions that do nothing to defend firefighters’ right to volunteer, Congress should let local communities decide if collective bargaining is right for them. Many communities have decided that it is. But others have not. Congress should not make it easier for the IAFF to punish firefighters for volunteering to protect their neighbors.
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10-15-2007, 01:50 PM #1
Congress may turn up heat on volunteer firemen
10-15-2007, 02:01 PM #2
- Join Date
- Nov 2006
- N. Ridgeville, Ohio
Why would our illustrious Union be doing this? Has anyone heard about this before now? I did a search for "IAFF volunteer", this article has been published all over the place. How can the Union tell us what we can or cannot do on our time off. A lot of these areas only have volunteer and will never be Union departments. If it were not for the Union members that volunteer at a lot of these stations, they would not have people with the training needed. Most of us that are full time and volunteer do the training at the vollie house to pass on the knowledge we have gained from experience and the ability to go to extra classes.Jason Brooks
IAFF Local 2388
10-15-2007, 02:18 PM #3
Disturbing is the first word that comes to mind here. But..before I comment further. I need to read more on this topic.'Adversus incendia excubias nocturnas vigilesque commentus est"
10-15-2007, 02:25 PM #4
The IAFF has had rules prohibiting its members from belonging to competing organizations for decades and has made it eminently clear that volunteer fire departments are considered competing organizations. The IAFF can't prevent anyone from volunteering if they choose to; people just can't legitimately belong to both the IAFF and to a volunteer fire department. Simple."Nemo Plus Voluptatis Quam Nos Habant"
The Code is more what you'd call "guidelines" than actual rules.
10-15-2007, 02:29 PM #5
Thank you for clearing up that bit about the IAFF and their position on the career volunteer issue.
10-15-2007, 02:43 PM #6
- Join Date
- Oct 2007
Read section 8 (a) 5
From the way I read it section 8 (a) 5 says that prohibiting "two hatting" is not allowed. This was changed from the house version of the bill hr 980. So the bill will not hurt the volunteer fire service.
Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act of 2007 (Introduced in Senate)
SEC. 8. CONSTRUCTION AND COMPLIANCE.
(a) Construction- Nothing in this Act shall be construed--
(1) to preempt or limit the remedies, rights, and procedures of any law of any State or political subdivision of any State or jurisdiction that provides greater or comparable rights and responsibilities than the rights and responsibilities described in section 4(b);
(2) to prevent a State from enforcing a right-to-work law that prohibits employers and labor organizations from negotiating provisions in a labor agreement that require union membership or payment of union fees as a condition of employment;
(3) to preempt or limit any State law in effect on the date of enactment of this Act that provides for the rights and responsibilities described in section 4(b) solely because such State law permits an employee to appear on the employee's own behalf with respect to the employee's employment relations with the public safety agency involved;
(4) to preempt or limit any State law in effect on the date of enactment of this Act that provides for the rights and responsibilities described in section 4(b) solely because such State law excludes from its coverage employees of a State militia or national guard;
(5) to permit parties in States subject to the regulations and procedures described in section 5 to negotiate provisions that would prohibit an employee from engaging in part-time employment or volunteer activities during off-duty hours;
(6) to prohibit a State from exempting from coverage under this Act a political subdivision of the State that has a population of less than 5,000 or that employs less than 25 full-time employees; or
(7) to preempt or limit the laws or ordinances of any State or political subdivision of a State that provide for the rights and responsibilities described in section 4(b) solely because such law does not require bargaining with respect to pension, retirement, or health benefits.
10-15-2007, 02:48 PM #7
10-15-2007, 02:49 PM #8
The article was written by someone from the Heritage Foundation. They don't want career firefighters to have the fundamental right to negotiate wages, benefits and work rules. It has nothing to do with volunteers.IAFF-IACOJ PROUD
10-15-2007, 02:50 PM #9
- Join Date
- Oct 2007
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Melissa Wagoner (Kennedy)
October 2, 2007 (202) 224-2633
STATEMENT OF SENATOR EDWARD M. KENNEDY ON THE PUBLIC
SAFETY EMPLOYER- EMPLOYEE COOPERATION ACT
WASHINGTON, DC- Today, Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Chairman of the Health,
Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, released the following statement on the
introduction of the Public Safety Employer- Employee Cooperation Act.
This bipartisan legislation will ensure that the men and women on the front lines of our
effort to keep America safe -- our firefighters, police officers, and emergency medical
personnel -- will have the voice they need to remain safe at work and protect our
communities. It's a matter of basic fairness that will ensure that these first responders can
continue their essential work and maintain strong working partnerships with the
communities they serve.
(As Prepared for Delivery)
It is a privilege to join Senator Gregg today in reintroducing the Public Safety
Employer-Employee Cooperation Act, to guarantee that all firefighters, police officers,
emergency medical personnel, and other first responders across the country have
fundamental collective bargaining rights. The issue is one of basic respect for this
valuable workforce, and I urge all of my colleagues to support this bipartisan bill.
The first responders of our state and local governments are on the frontlines of the
effort to keep America safe. They perform difficult, exhausting work, day and night, to
preserve and protect our communities. In this post-9/11 era, they have an indispensible
role in homeland security as well. It is vital to our national interest to ensure that these
essential public services are carried out as effectively as possible.
Strong partnerships between first responders and the cities and states they serve
are vital to public safety. Studies show that cooperation between public safety employers
and employees improves the quality of services communities receive and reduces worker
fatalities. These strong, cooperative partnerships are built on bargaining relationships.
Every New York City firefighter, emergency medical technician, and police officer who
responded to the disaster at the World Trade Center on 9/11 was a union member under a
collective bargaining agreement, and those agreements strengthened their ability to
respond in that time of crisis.
Unfortunately, many first responders across the country do not have basic
workplace protections. 29 states and the District of Columbia guarantee all public safety
workers the right to bargain collectively, but 21 states deny some or all of their public
safety workers this fundamental right.
Our nation’s first responders have earned the right to be treated with respect. The
Cooperation Act will ensure that they receive that respect, and will benefit from the same
protections enjoyed by many other workers across the country. The bill gives public
safety officers the right to bargain over wages, hours, and working conditions, and
ensures that these rights are enforceable in state court. It also provides an efficient and
effective means to resolve disputes in labor-management conflicts.
The Cooperation Act accomplishes these important goals in reasonable, moderate
ways. States that already have collective bargaining in place for public safety workers
are not affected by the bill. States that do not currently provide these protections may
establish their own collective bargaining systems, or ask the assistance of the Federal
Labor Relations Authority in doing so. This approach respects existing state laws, and
gives each state full authority to decide how it will comply with the basic standards.
America’s public safety workers are prepared to put their lives on the line for their
community each and every day. They deserve a voice at the table in the life-and-death
decisions about their work. It’s essential for their safety, the safety of our communities,
and the safety of our entire nation. It’s a matter of basic fairness for these courageous
men and women to have the same rights that have long benefited so many other
Americans. I urge Congress to act quickly to provide these fundamental protections.
10-15-2007, 02:52 PM #10
The article is nothing more than some anti-union crap that is used to deter the passing of the Employee-Employeer Cooperation Act. I am a member of the IAFF, I work in the south were getting collective bargaining is nothing more than some far off pipe dream. This is the best chance some of us have in getting collective bargaining and ensuring that we get fair treatment and safe working conditions.
10-15-2007, 03:08 PM #11These volunteer departments are usually anchored by a core of professional career firefighters.
Oh, and the rest of the article is a joke as well."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?
10-15-2007, 03:49 PM #12
Full speed ahead.
The Heritage Foundation is a right wing think tank that is opposed to anything supported by a union.
They are no different than the National Right To Work lobby.Politics is like driving. To go forward select "D", to go backward select "R."
10-15-2007, 03:54 PM #13
I guess this bodes well for the bill if they have to resort to this kind of misinformation.Steve Gallagher
"I don't apologize for anything. When I make a mistake, I take the blame and go on from there." - Woody Hayes
10-15-2007, 04:14 PM #14
10-15-2007, 04:15 PM #15
10-15-2007, 04:22 PM #16
- Join Date
- Dec 1998
- Maryland (but always a Long Islander first)
October 11, 2007
NVFC Comments on Article on Collective Bargaining Legislation
Recently, an article by James Sherk of the Heritage Foundation about the Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act (H.R. 980) has been published in a number of newspapers across the country. The stated goal of H.R. 980 is, "To provide collective bargaining rights for public safety officers employed by States or their political subdivisions."
The article cites a provision in H.R. 980 that was designed to protect the right of a career firefighter to volunteer during off-duty hours. Specifically, the provision bars collective bargaining agreements subject to the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) from prohibiting employees from volunteering during off-duty hours. The article accurately states that this provision would not protect the vast majority of career firefighters. This is because NLRA applies to nongovernmental employees, while most career firefighters are employed by municipal or county units of government.
The NVFC has worked diligently with Senate staff to develop language that would provide protection to career firefighters who volunteer during off-duty hours. On October 1, the Senate version of the Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act (S. 2123) was introduced and included language in Section 8(a)(5) that states that collective bargaining agreements struck in states affected by the bill cannot include provisions prohibiting employees from volunteering during off-duty hours.
The NVFC does not have a position on S. 2123 but is supportive of the language in Section 8(a)(5) protecting volunteer firefighters. The NVFC never established a position on H.R. 980 but would oppose enactment of legislation expanding collective bargaining rights to career firefighters without also protecting the right of those same firefighters to volunteer during off-duty hours should they choose to do so."When I was young, my ambition was to be one of the people who made a difference in this world. My hope is to leave the world a little better for my having been there."
-- Jim Henson (1936 - 1990)
10-15-2007, 04:46 PM #17
I think the article exagerates the impact just a tad....
I'm sure in areas where paid departments are more prevelant, the impact would be greater, but in my area we have very few paid fire departments.I am now a past chief and the views, opinions, and comments are mine and mine alone. I do not speak for any department or in any official capacity. Although, they would be smart to listen to me.
"The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it's still on the list."
"When tempted to fight fire with fire, remember that the Fire Department usually uses water."
10-15-2007, 06:27 PM #18
- Join Date
- Jan 2006
My Fire Department is 100% volunteer. 40 members, and none of us are employed at any of the career departments around. We also do more training, have a better response time, and better equipment than the department to the north of our district. I believe that one of the biggest reasons we have some of the nicest trucks and some of the best equipment is because we are Volunteers. We have a good size budget that we can spend on equipment, training, and a new station. We don't have to take any money out of your budget to pay career guys. The people on our department all have a non-ff career, if they want to be a career firefighter, they apply at one of our neighboring districts.
(If I'm starting to sound like Kentland, then please somebody shoot me )"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." -- Benjamin Franklin
10-15-2007, 06:49 PM #19
Sounds like the original article is certainly skewed to rally the volunteers and volunteer supporters against the bill. I don't know if the amendment came after this article or not, but it looks like a non-issue right now.
Aside from that issue, it sounds like a good initiative.
Never argue with an Idiot. They drag you down to their level, and then beat you with experience!
10-15-2007, 08:03 PM #20
The whole story is BS.
These are the same people who would love to eliminate OSHA, NIOSH and the EPA because they feel that they are too restrictive to business. They would love to see career firefighters lose their jobs becuase we, too are a "burden" on them.
You volunteers should also watch out, as they advocate Corporate owned for profit FD's..."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
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