By Jennifer Gomori, MAFF Editor

Stockbridge Paid-on-Call (POC) Fire Fighters were tired of being ignored by their Employer when they asked for paid training, safety improvements and fair working conditions, so they unionized, joining Michigan Association of Fire Fighters (MAFF) in September.

Safety is among the top concerns for the fire fighters, some of whom are lacking the proper certified gear and equipment to do their jobs. The condition of the fire department is also a safety issue. The 16-member unit, which is part of the Stockbridge Area Emergency Services Authority (S.A.E.S.A.), has already seen some movement by their Employer.

“We’ve got black mold growing in the fire station that they haven’t done anything about,” said a POC S.A.E.S.A. fire fighter, who preferred to remain anonymous. “I walked around eight months with holes in my uniform. One guy didn’t have gloves for four months. Safety is a big thing and the equal treatment.”

“I just got my bunker pants back from being fixed when they found out a Union was starting,” the S.A.E.S.A. fire fighter said. “They had to have that patched in order to be NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) compliant. They didn’t want the Union to come in, that’s the reason they fixed them.”

By Jennifer Gomori, MAFF Editor

Port Huron Township Fire Fighters were starting to wonder why they were paying a union dues to represent them when they had to write their own contract and pay additional fees for grievance representation. Previously represented by the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) for well over a decade, the full-time staff voted in March to join MAFF.

“From what they indicated to me they didn’t feel properly represented and they did not get a lot of support from their prior group,” said MAFF Labor Relations Specialist Jerald James. “They wrote their own contract and negotiated their own contract. They were essentially on their own for all intents and purposes.”

“I’ve never heard of (a situation like) that before,” James said. “Maybe because it’s such a small group, that’s the only thing I can surmise as to why they didn’t get more representation.”

By Jennifer Gomori, MAFF Editor

With possibly the lowest pay in the state and negative changes in staffing anticipated, Clay Township Fire Fighters decided it was time to be represented by a union. Their concerns, ranging from wages and overtime to scheduling of shifts, caused the group to vote in January to join MAFF.

“There’s a multitude of issues they were having that prompted them to say they needed union representation,” said Jerald James, MAFF Labor Relations Specialist. “They were not organized before. This is their first union.”

“We went with MAFF because they also represent part-time employees and the IAFF (International Association of Fire Fighters) doesn’t do that because they don’t really want any part-time Fire Fighters, they want only full time,” said Mike Olderman, local union representative. “We just have been treated horrible by the township and they would not negotiate. It doesn’t matter if you’re a paramedic with 20 years experience or a basic Fire Fighter, you get paid the same hourly rate. It’s just so unfair. We’re hoping to negotiate a fair contract.”

The primarily paid-on-call (POC) department has seven full-time Fire Fighters, which have been paid for through a Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response (SAFER) Grant. However, that grant is expected to run out in October. “We’re kind of wrangling over that right now,” James said regarding contract negotiations. “According to the Employer, it doesn’t sound like they’ll be able to financially sustain the full-timers. They’ve already had their (grant) extensions. They won’t be able to get another SAFER Grant. They just indicated those 7 full-time positions in October will probably be vacated. I’m assuming they’ll transfer into paid-on-call as they are hiring more paid-on-call.”