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Select members of DFD re-affiliate with union

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Dyersburg Fire Department leads the way in an event commemorating the 10-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. Approximately 30 firefighters have signed up to be represented by the International Association of Fire Fighters, based in Washington, D.C. DFD Chief Veal, supported by the city, is refusing to acknowledge the union's presence.
Approximately 30 members of the Dyersburg Fire Department have elected to join the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), a union headquartered out of Washington, D.C. The approximate number of members was confirmed by Danny Todd, district vice president for District 14 of the IAFF. He also confirmed Dyersburg firefighter Jay Cryer was serving as the chapter's president. Cryer drafted a two-page letter along with attachments to DFD Chief Bob Veal listing recommendations for changes in policy at the fire department. The letter, dated Friday, Oct. 5 and received by the city on Tuesday, Oct. 9, was submitted to the battalion chief of Fire Station 1, who submitted it to Veal.

The letter states that the changes in policy would increase morale and improve the department as a whole. The recommendations include:

* A repeal of section 2.18 from the DFD Standard Operating Procedures, which is in conflict with the city charter.

* Re-enlistment in the educational incentive pay provided by the state of Tennessee.

* Review of the inconsistencies in the "city retirement plan regarding the buyback that the retirement board doesn't appear to acknowledge".

* Change in culture at the DFD so that "everyone has to go by the same rules and everyone gets treated with (the) respect that they deserve".

However, Veal and the city are not quickly folding under the pressure of a union. In a response letter sent to Cryer dated Thursday, Oct. 11, Veal refused to acknowledge the presence of a union representing firefighters. Veal's brief letter states:

"I respectfully advise you that the Dyersburg Fire Department does not, and will not, recognize your union or any other organization purporting to represent Departmental personnel or to negotiate terms of employment on their behalf. I am opposed to any third party attempting to intervene between my firefighters and my staff."

Veal concludes the letter by stating that he will continue to manage and administer the department through direct communications between command staff and personnel. A copy of the letter was sent to Dyersburg Mayor John Holden and the city aldermen. In addition, the letter was posted at all three fire department stations.

The State Gazette asked Holden if the city is in support of Veal's letter in response to the union.

"The City fully supports Chief Veal's position as set forth in his letter," said Holden in a written statement.

Holden did not say whether or not the city would address the concerns set forth by Cryer, but did state that the city would continue to rely on Veal, as head of the fire department, to manage his personnel and to administer policies and procedures in a fair, appropriate and lawful manner.

Holden did speak to why the city no longer participated in the state's educational incentive pay program, saying that the city terminated participation prior to 2000 due to inconsistencies between the city's in-house program and the state's program. Furthermore, the city experienced difficulties in maintaining the schedules and curriculum of the state program with the city's schedule of work assignments and paid leave. Holden also alluded to the unreasonable burden on the fire department staff in administering two separate training programs simultaneously. Under the program firefighters received anywhere from $300 to $600 in bonus money through the state for completing certain training criteria.

"The administration of the Dyersburg Fire Department believes its existing in-house training program is superior to that of the state and more economical and efficient to provide than that of the state," said Holden.

Dyersburg Alderman Bob Kirk, who chairs the public safety and fire committee, expressed to the State Gazette his disappointment with the firefighters that had chosen to join IAFF as well as his support for Veal.

"Chief (Veal) has an open-door policy," said Kirk. "I cannot understand why they didn't take their concerns to him or bring it up to the committee's attention."

However, he remained firm and resolute that the city had no intentions of negotiating with the union.

"We have no intentions of recognizing that organization," said Kirk. "If there are problems that need to be addressed, we will address them, but we do not have to recognize the union and we will not recognize the union."

The IAFF originally chartered the DFD as a union in September 1973. At the time, the local chapter was assigned union number 2269. According to Todd, he began meeting with Cryer and several others firefighters a month ago to discuss re-affiliation. Todd stated that after two meetings and several phone calls, the "super majority decided they wanted to re-affiliate". He further commented that the individuals he met with mentioned concerns with the city's retirement program as well as some other items.

"Legally they do not have to recognize the local, but we hope that they would as we have a lot to offer," said Todd.

He added that although the IAFF hopes the city will change its mind, this is not new territory for the organization, which services 40 city fire departments across Tennessee. Of those 40, only three have local agreements with their cities but most have developed some sort of relationship with their unions and he hopes Dyersburg will do the same.

According to the IAFF website, it represents nearly 300,000 full-time professional firefighters and paramedics nationwide who protect 85 percent of the country's population. The organization considers itself the primary advocate for providing firefighters and paramedics with the tools they need to perform their jobs. It also states the organization works to provide a strong voice in the development and implementation of new training and equipment, and has worked to ensure proper staffing of fire and emergency medical service departments throughout the nation.

Some information for this article was obtained through www.iaff.org.

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Well, remember back in the 60's when the Motorola Plant closed and moved to Mexico, because of the unions... Now the crooks have finally found their way to Dyersburg, and the Union will bankrupt Dyersburg, just like all the other cities. The UNIONS broke England and they will break America..

-- Posted by Hilda Curtis on Sun, Oct 14, 2012, at 7:45 AM

I'm not saying "yea" or "nay" on this union issue but to blame unions for Motorola leaving over 50 years ago leaves some doubt in the above statements. Why did most other companies leave for Mexico and other countries? Maybe less than one dollar per hour and no benefits was the reason. I recently purchased a new GM truck and guess where it came from. That's right MEXICO. Oops! That's one of the companies "bailed out" by the present Administration. So my money saved jobs in Mexico? Just something to think about.

-- Posted by Dybgtaxpayer on Sun, Oct 14, 2012, at 8:19 AM

If you read the article, it said nothing about wanting higher wages. Those guys want fairness. Way to go, Chief Veal. Way to try to increase moral. (Sarcasm) and you too, Mayor Holden. And these guys are supposed to rely on you? To Mr Kirk, the Chief may have an open door policy, but that means nothing if he ignores them. If ppl are so concerned about the city being bankrupted, look at the leaders in the city. Election time will roll around again, and for me, I hope we end up with administration that cares about their men that lay their lives on the line for the city. Administration has spoken, and I think they dropped the ball.

-- Posted by thisismysay on Sun, Oct 14, 2012, at 8:47 AM

Well spoken... Law enforcement and fire departments are being left behind all over because their leaders and "decision makers" dont care.. Those folks "run in" when all other people "run out" and should be fairly compensated because there are not people standing in the unemployment line waiting to be a cop or firefighter..

-- Posted by time2change on Sun, Oct 14, 2012, at 9:39 AM

Whether or not you believe in unions you should consider the fact that a super majority of the city firefighters have joined together. Something must need changing or this would not happen. I guess some leaders had rather bury their heads in the sand and not do their job and act like nothing is wrong. For this many people to come together is highly unlikely in today's world. Apathy seems to be the popular way to go. Maybe, just maybe, there are some problems that need addressing! The city leaders and the chief are living in the 70s and need to come up to today's world. This makes one wonder about the lack of leadership skills or if someone wants to be a dictator in his or her leadership skills.

-- Posted by Harvey12 on Sun, Oct 14, 2012, at 10:45 AM

I applaud the firefighters! My hope is now DPD will join suit. What is so wrong with any employee wanting to have an equal seat at the table with their employer? It's a 50/50 relationship. One needs the other equally. Without a collective bargaining agreement, you are solely at the mercy of your employer and must accept whatever they give out in the form of compensation, benefits, working conditions, retirement, pay, etc. or quit. Then you get collusion between all the major employers in the area to keep unions out, wages low and benefits laughable with this effort being spearheaded by the Dyer Co. Chamber Of Commerce. They then market the workforce here based on those facts along with the union busting legislation TN has in the form of "open shop" rules. Let ONE single union come in to a major factory here and see how bad everyone wants a job there once it's in. But nobody has the sand to vote one in initially. Blows my mind. Congratulations DFD!!!!

-- Posted by youknowimright on Mon, Oct 15, 2012, at 12:17 AM

Personally I despise unions and what they stand for. They exist ONLY BECAUSE MANAGEMENT HAS FAILED! Period! Poor communication, lack of leadership, mistrust and even 'cronyism" forces employees to seek representation. Sorry Mr. Veal, Mayor holden (small caps. by design)but if you have a union (small caps. by design) problem it is because you have a leadership problem!

Firefighters, thanks for all that you do every day but I can promise you that union represenation is not the answer!

-- Posted by southernborn1 on Mon, Oct 15, 2012, at 5:32 AM

i've had misfortune to need the fire departments twice in my lifetime. in both instances they did their jobs in an outstanding manner. i have no idea why these men (and/or women?) felt a need to make this decision; but, i'm fairly certain they have some issues that are being swept under the carpet or this problem would not have shown itself. i hope the city leaders will consider the apparent major concerns of these people and this problem can be settled without our property being in jeopardy. personally, anti-union sentiments have no more reasoning to get to the bottom of the problem than pro-union sentiments.

-- Posted by closerlook on Tue, Oct 16, 2012, at 8:55 AM

I smell a strike in the air and its our money that goes up in smoke.

-- Posted by hairless on Tue, Oct 16, 2012, at 5:35 PM

I support the DFD decision to unionize , elected city leaders are definitely not doing their job , perhaps it's time for a change ?

-- Posted by regulater93 on Tue, Oct 16, 2012, at 10:03 PM

Honestly, State Gazette, this heading for this story SHOULD read, Majority, not Select.

-- Posted by thisismysay on Thu, Nov 1, 2012, at 9:40 AM

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