Ruling Allows Part-Time Minn. Firefighters to Unionize

Minnesota's Bureau of Mediation Services ruled this week that part-time firefighters in the city of Brooklyn Park are eligible to form labor unions.

The ruling allows the city's firefighters to vote on unionizing and could spur similar efforts in other parts of the state, Minnesota Public Radio reports.

Currently, Brooklyn Park's highest paid part-time firefighters make less than $15 an hour and receive a pension plan, but no health insurance benefits, sick time or vacation.

While firefighters were able to collect enough signatures to allow them to take a vote, the city took legal action to block their effort.

The city pointed to a 1996 precedent that barred part-time firefighters from unionizing, but the state's bureau of mediation Services rejected that argument. Brooklyn Park has chosen not to appeal the decision.

The ruling states that firefighters must work at least 14 hours a week for more than half the year to qualify for collective bargaining rights.

A vote on unionizing is expected by the city's firefighters in July.

Minnesota has the second-highest concentration of volunteer fire departments in the county, 97 percent of which rely chiefly on part-time firefighters, according to FEMA.