By Jennifer Gomori, MAFF Editor

MAFF Executive Board President Jeff Craig has seen many changes over the past two decades, but one thing that hasn’t changed is having a strong Union to back members, whether they’re paid-on-call, full-time, part-time, or auxiliary Fire Fighters.

MAFF Executive Board President Jeff Craig

“MAFF labor representatives come from the public sector and have had many years of previous work experience to help solve labor issues that arise,” Craig said.

Craig has served as Macomb Township Firefighters Association Paid-on-Call and Auxiliary Local Union President the past 18 of his 21 years of service with Macomb Township Fire Department.

“I’ve been MAFF Executive Board President since 2009,” he said. “I get along very well with all the guys and gals that work there.”

Craig’s Union background at Ford, Chrysler and a small engineering consulting firm prompted him to take on the two President positions. “I have a labor relations background from my full-time jobs,” Craig said. “I’ve worked in automotive for 35 years. I’ve been on both sides of the table, as a UAW member and the management side as a supervisor, but it doesn’t matter. You’re sitting at the same table.”

“What I learned is Union officials who treated us like garbage were not usually very effective,” Craig said. “At the time I took over the Local, we had a strained relationship. I helped build a strong relationship with our members and management, solving problems on both sides. I wanted to make sure the guys got treated fairly. Sometimes egos get in the way of better judgment, but there are no kings or queens here. Everyone must follow rules and regulations at work. Building a strong relationship with your opposing partner is the best way to do business.”

Craig began his career with Macomb Township Fire Department as a Firefighter/EMT and was promoted to Sergeant, a position he’s held for the past 15 years.

“We secured what I believe to be one of the best collective bargaining agreements in the State of Michigan with the help and experience of MAFF,” Craig said, adding MAFF has represented Macomb Township Paid-on-Call since the early 1990s.

“We modeled our 2004-2008 contract after some UAW contracts with performance bonuses. Those were unheard of in the public sector,” Craig said. “We demonstrated that it works. This brought member’s performance up, so management was pleased and Union members were happy to be rewarded for additional efforts. That really laid the foundation for many of other MAFF Paid-on-Call (POC) contracts.”

These types of agreements help motivate Paid-on-Call Firefighters who are asked to get up in the middle of the night to respond to fires as well as leave holiday gatherings and parties, Craig said. “You’re on edge and any given second you could be called in and it helped,” he said.

Even though firefighting is his second job, Craig said his experiences helping others in their time of need is what matters most. “Working as a Firefighter/EMT has been more rewarding than anything I’ve done in the automotive industry,” he said.

Macomb Township has grown from a community of about 38,000 to 95,000 residents since Craig first hired in. “In 20 years, we’ve almost tripled the population. As the tax base goes up, we’ve hired more full-time,” he said.

Those full-timers are represented by a different Union, which has been trying to get rid of Macomb’s POC group. Over the years, Craig has successfully fought efforts to oust Paid-on-Call and Auxiliary.

“Fiscally responsible elected government officials are always looking for ways to reduce costs for taxpayers,” Craig said. “The financial value of Paid-on-Call fire departments supplemented with some full-time is our biggest selling point. It’s far more cost effective than an all full-time department. I’m good at debating the benefits of being fiscally responsible while still providing excellent service for our residents.”

Craig shares the importance of being a dues paying Union member with other MAFF groups who think it’s best to opt out due to Right to Work. “It’s a small price to pay for the protection,” Craig said. “Until something goes wrong, you don’t really know how valuable it is.”

“MAFF has always provided great customer service to its members — from contracts, grievances and wrongful termination proceedings to providing great advice on handling work-related situations,” Craig said. “They’ve always been very fair to the Employers. They treat municipalities with respect. However, they know MAFF is a worthy adversary when they need to be.”