Milford joins MAFF to give them a voice, improve communications

By Jennifer Foley, MAFF Editor

Milford Paid On-Call Fire Fighters voted to join Michigan Association of Fire Fighters (MAFF) March 17 to improve communications between themselves and the township.

"I think the main agenda for us was having a voice at the table and truly trying to establish a joint process on any changes and issues that might arise with the township," said Local Union President Martin Cook, adding that a contract allows them to be proactive rather than reactive. "Overall we view it as a very positive move that we're going to have this interaction through MAFF to straighten out any issues that may be present. My vision for our Local is that we effect a true culture change at the Milford Fire Department. I believe we can build a relationship with the Township where we proactively collaborate on issues effecting the department and municipality."

Milford Fire Department services both Milford Township and the Village of Milford and has 24 Paid On-Call Fire Fighters.

"They weren't organized at all," said MAFF Labor Relations Specialist Ron Palmquist. "They just want to make sure their wages, hours and terms and conditions of employment are all codified into a document that everybody has to live with. Having one collective voice to meet and negotiate with the employer and have an agreement with both sides. I'm not so sure they have a lot of issues with benefits they are currently being provided with other than really getting it down on paper," Palmquist said, adding it is important everyone is treated equally and a contract ensures that.

MAFF representation allows for uniform benefits, wages and more

By Jennifer Foley, MAFF Editor

Chelsea Area Fire Authority voted unanimously to join Michigan Association of Fire Fighters (MAFF) in an April 4 election with 12 members voting Yes for MAFF representation and zero opposing.

"The Authority is made up of different communities and each has different ideas on how things should be covered," said Ron Palmquist, MAFF Labor Relations Specialist for Chelsea Area Fire Authority. "There was too much uncertainty as to how things were going to go with benefits and wages and everything else. Now everyone will know what is what and follow the contract."

The members being represented by MAFF include 10 full-time and five paid-on-call fire fighters employed by the Chelsea Area Fire Department. The Chelsea Area Fire Authority includes the City of Chelsea, Lima Township, Lyndon Township, Sylvan Township and portions of Waterloo and Dexter townships. The City of Chelsea and the townships of Lima, Lyndon and Sylvan are represented by MAFF. Waterloo and Dexter townships pay a fee to participate in the Authority and do not have a vote on the Chelsea Fire Authority Board.

MAFF is the first union to represent the Chelsea Area Fire Authority. A year ago, they held a vote to join International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), a national organization which has state fire fighters associations affiliated with them. However, the fire fighters voted against having IAFF represent them.

"They have been a non-organized group, at-will employees," Palmquist said, adding once an election is held the organization must wait one year before they can seek other representation. "When you get out away from southeast Michigan you find it's a little more common than in the metro area (to be unrepresented). A lot of these departments were originally volunteer groups where they were not paid."

Authority Fire Fighters contacted MAFF after the one-year bar from choosing other representation. "I think they had been talking to some of the surrounding departments," Palmquist said, adding MAFF represents the townships of Sumpter, Van Buren, Northfield, Green Oak and Augusta. Between mutual aid runs and training, he said, fire fighters communicate with each other and find out about union representation.

Now that Michigan Employment Relations Commission (MERC) has given their official approval, Palmquist is busy getting the group ready for their first contract. "I have them working on bylaws for their local group and in the meantime we provide surveys to them to find out what they want to see in the contract," he said. "I sent a letter to the Employer requesting information and we'll put a contract together and start negotiations hopefully in the next few weeks."