Michigan Association of Fire Fighters

By Jennifer Gomori, MAFF Editor

MAFF’s new Legal Counsel Bryan Davis, Jr. may be young, but he’s accomplished, earning a bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University (MSU), two master’s degrees, a law degree and working on a third master’s degree.

MAFF Legal Counsel Bryan Davis,Jr.

With a bachelor’s degree in Psychology, a master’s in Rehabilitation Counseling, a Master of Jurisprudence in Legal Doctrine and Analysis and a Juris Doctorate, the 26-year-old joked, “I’ve been a lifelong Michigan State student.” Davis is continuing to pursue a master’s in Human Resources and Labor Relations at MSU. However, his experiences beyond the classroom are just as noteworthy.

He worked as an intern in Career Planning and Consultation for Peckham, Inc., a community rehabilitation organization helping individuals with disabilities find employment. He also participated in Spartan Project SEARCH at MSU, which focuses on employment readiness for individuals with developmental disabilities. “High school students were utilizing this program for their final year in order to gain employment skills to find work after graduation,” Davis said.

While he didn’t take a traditional route into labor law, he said, “I found the Rehab Counseling master’s program and did get a lot of background in employment readiness for individuals with disabilities. A lot of the stuff I learned focused on disability rights in general, which are all things that I took with me when I got to law school.”

He understands the importance of unions when it comes to protecting workers’ rights. “My family has a pretty substantial relationship with unions,” Davis said. “My father, all of his brothers and his father were all carpenters. To this day my dad is still a business agent for the Local 687."

“The bulk of my courses I tried to focus in labor and employment law,” Davis said of his Juris Doctorate. He put his law degree to work for the Michigan Employment Relations Commission (MERC) from January to October 2019. “A professor at MSU, Mary Bedikian suggested I reach out because the Bureau of Employment Relations was looking for a law clerk. I was fortunate enough to be offered a position there,” Davis said.

His MERC work experience included issues surrounding Act 312, the newly enacted Michigan Paid Medical Leave Act, issues with union dues and agency fees, and research into the Supreme Court’s Janus decision. “He comes highly recommended by MERC and by several arbitrators,” said Julie Palmquist, MAFF Executive Administrator.

Davis began working part-time for MAFF in October 2019 and finished his law degree that December. “I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of good people speak on my behalf,” he said, adding Arbitrator George Roumell introduced him to MAFF Executive Director Fred Timpner. “I cannot say ‘thank you’ enough to George Roumell, truly, because without him, I don’t know if this opportunity would have come about.”

He took the Bar Exam in February and began working full-time with MAFF in March 2020. “I’m focusing on finishing the bar and working here, then diving back in and wrapping up everything with my master’s in Human Resources and Labor Relations,” he said late last year.

“With my background at the Bureau, being in public sector labor relations, and knowing the importance of police, fire and public employees’ unions, it was a win-win for me to have the opportunity to work for the Unions,” Davis said. “Really, what cemented it with me was meeting with Fred (Timpner) and seeing the transparency, being forward when you talk to people. I want to work for an organization that’s truthful, honest and does the right thing. And that’s exactly what I found when I came here.”

“We are at a time in the United States when income inequality is at its highest and you see unions at their lowest,” he said, adding that he sees MAFF’s role to “right the inequalities.”

With all the negative press unions in general have received in recent years, Davis said he will do what he can to bring a positive light to MAFF membership through income equality and benefits associated with Union membership. “Anyone that I interact with here, I want them to know that I will be honest with them. I want them to know my word is my bond,” he said. “At the end of the day, I want people to know that whatever actions are being taken are because we think they are the right ones, made for the good of the organization as a whole.”