A clear majority of fire fighters at the Rock Hill Fire Department are seeking representation from the Professional Firefighters of Eastern Missouri, International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) Local 2665. Rock Hill is the only fire department/district that is not part of a union in St. Louis County.
Seven of the department’s nine full-time employees have submitted membership applications, said Kurt Becker, Local 2665’s Fourth District vice president. In Missouri, employees seeking to form a bargaining unit must show that at least 30 percent of the eligible employees are interested in it.
Because the number of employees exceeds the threshold required to demonstrate sufficient interest in forming a bargaining unit, the union is hoping to use the Unit Clarification Petition process to clarify the scope of the bargaining unit, which would save the city considerable resources as compared to the more drawn out and expensive Representation Petition process, Becker said.
Becker said the union has notified the city of its desire to form a bargaining unit and offered to meet with officials to expedite this process. The unit would consist of six fire fighters and three captains. The fire chief and all civilian personnel would not be included in the unit.
“It is our sincere hope that the city of Rock Hill views its fire department becoming part of IAFF Local 2665 as a positive development, and that we can work collaboratively to bring our resources and expertise into Rock Hill to assist the city in providing the best possible fire and emergency medical services to its residents,” Becker said.
CONCERN ABOUT MERGER
Rock Hill is one of five neighboring municipalities seeking to merge its fire command staff into a consolidated group called East Central Fire Command (ECFC). The other cities include Brentwood, Clayton, Maplewood and Richmond Heights. The plan has been in the works for over a year.
“I think the impetus behind the Rock Hill fire fighters wanting to join IAFF Local 2665 was their concern about the merger,” Becker said. “IAFF Local 2665 has been forced to advocate on behalf of its members against ECFC due to critical flaws in the concept. I think the fire fighters in Rock Hill, seeing the value of having an organization dedicated to representing their interests, finally decided to join their peers and become members of the IAFF.”
Richmond Heights officials recently approved the plan. Prior to the vote, Becker spoke in opposition to the plan.
CURRENT PLAN IS UNSAFE
Becker said the ECFC concept in its current form is unsafe, will result in a decrease in services to residents and will cost considerably more than the cities are currently paying for their current fire department command staff with no measurable improvement to its residents.
He said that while the IAFF 2665 is supportive of the concept of creating more efficient systems through mergers, consolidations and cooperative efforts, it cannot and will not support any efforts that cut services to citizens, that make fire fighters less safe, and that operates without transparency by excluding key stakeholders from the process.
“The recommendation upon which you are being asked to vote is economically uncertain, spreads thin front-line services to your residents, will make our job more dangerous, and it was created while expressly excluding the IAFF from the process despite your fire fighters’ repeated requests to be involved,” he said.
For the plan to take effect, all five cities would need to approve it.