Union 101

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I decided a while back that I would not use this blog as a voice for my role as a Union Official. I enjoy the fact that at least some of you realize that when I write on here it is me as a firefighter and not as one of my other roles.

I learned that many of you all did not like to hear some of what I had to say as a Union Official in this unofficial forum.

I am not changing that stance. What I write below comes as a firefighter, not as a Union Official, however it has everything to do with the Union.

The other day at at a Union Meeting, I had the pleasure of answering a question that boggled my mind. A firefighter stopped by to borrow some items from the Union. Items which the Union owns and regularly allows members to borrow. It just so happens that the member stopped by minutes before a Union meeting. He asked what we were doing there. I told him we were there for a meeting. Then he asked “What do you guys do at the meeting?”. In which I responded we are planning out his career. He had no comment.

What did I mean by my answer. Simply, the Union is asked questions from members at each meeting which we are then tasked to find answers to. These questions range from simple to complex.

The meeting also serves as a continuing business plan for the direction in which we travel on various issues.

When I get around to various stations, which I do frequently, I am often asked what the Union is doing about this or that. My question is who are you referring to?

The Union is every member. Not anyone person more than another.

When asked why the Union is doing something, I usually offer the answer “because that is what the members voted to do.

That is where members are usually uneducated about the process. Why are they uneducated about Union business? I don’t know the answer to that. I can offer some suggestions.

  1. They don’t care
  2. They don’t know when the meetings are
  3. They don’t think they have a voice in the Union
  4. They don’t have time
  5. They aren’t willing to make time
I know that most members work 2 jobs and are involved in their children’s sports, Church, and other things. So are most of the members who are involved. There aren’t too many members who make it to every meeting, or that sign on to be in a bunch of committees. However, if we have members who are willing to allot a couple of hours each month at helping the Union move forward we would be able to accomplish so much more.

In the future, with hopes of the new Collective Bargaining Bill passing, we will rely on more and more member involvement to get initiatives planned and processed. The handful of extremely active members we have now will be very busy planning out and carrying out the negotiations which come along with collective bargaining. These negotiations and the contract to follow will be written by our members. You will have to have a voice in what you would like to see changed in order for your ideas to be heard.

I know that many members have lost interest due to the proceedings of Union meetings and issues in the past. Things have changed. I have been to most of the meetings in the past 4 years and I can say that the bitch sessions have ended.

These same issues we had in the past are the reason why I stopped going to Union meetings shortly after being hired. Ever since realizing that I wanted to be a Career Firefighter, I wanted to be a member of the IAFF. I understand what the IAFF stands for and I want to be a part of making my workplace, my career, my lifestyle better.

Many of you get a kick out of asking what the IAFF has done for you. I can say that rarely does the IAFF walk away with bad news. Many of the things that you take for granted were awarded at the Local, State, and Federal level. Three big initiatives are the Heart/Lung Bill, the Presumptive Laws, and soon to be Collective Bargaining.

Each meeting, we bring up the proper process for Workers Compensation Claims. This issue has been talked about in depth for the last year. However, we still have members who do not know. Why not? The word is not getting out.

I know that many of you do not like to hear “Come to a Union Meeting and you will find out”. Well the comment could not be more clear. I know that the days after a Union Meeting I am tasked with giving a brief synopsis of the meeting to many of the members I come in contact with. I don’t mind filling you guys in, but it sure would be easier if you guys were there. I cannot guarantee that I will remember everything.

At the meetings, when something new is brought up which requires action, we are tasked with finding someone to carry it out. Inevitably, this person already has a lot on their plate and due to lack of involvement by others, these persons have to do more.

Don’t think that for a moment our Union is any different from most others. When I go out of town to conventions, seminars, and meetings I find the same issues to plague many other locals.

More than likely you can measure the amount of involvement by realizing how much a Union succeeds in its endeavors. Currently, your Union is working on many initiatives and trying to mediate many issues which directly effect you.

If you have any questions about getting involved contact your Shift Vice President, Shift Steward, come to the next meeting on September 24th, or contact me.

By the way, it doesn’t matter whether you have been here 25 years or 25 days, you still have a voice.

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