There are over a million individuals who identify themselves as firefighters. Almost 350,000 make firefighting a career, 292,000 of them are members of a local chapter of the International Association of Fire Fighters.

WHEN IAFF MEMBERS "TWO-HAT"

Two-hatters are IAFF members who volunteer at another department that is represented by another IAFF local. The conflict is about the activity of a trade union member in another local's jurisdiction and the compliance with the rules and regulations of the International.

Former Kentland volunteer and Local 1619 President Tom McEachin introduced Resolution 43 at the 2000 IAFF convention. Two-hatters and their allies engaged in a campaign that gained national attention.

TriData determined that Prince George's County Fire Department has 678 employees and 1099 volunteers. (HERE - see page 130) Local 1619 identified about 200 PG volunteers as two-hatters.

John A. Mutchler, a former member of the PG Fire Commission, created an excellent repository of information about this issue HERE.


Two-hatting is a polarizing and emotional issue. Phantom, a DCFD employee and PG volunteer, describes the start of TheWatchDesk (TWD):

The concept that underlies the operations of TWD had their start in late 2000 when International Association of Firefighter's Local 1619 attacked members of surrounding locals for volunteering in Prince George's County Volunteer Fire Stations.

... This board quickly became controversial and moved into private ownership with better software, it was then that Phantom registered the name "TheWatchDesk.com" and with the help of Zorro established the site.



NATIONAL CRISIS OVER A LOCAL ISSUE

As the issues were spun-up the nature of the discussion changed. Moving beyond TheWatchDesk forum, most of the posters on the fire service message boards were NOT an IAFF or PG volunteer member.

Fire service opinion leaders and pundits also weighed in. PG is a busy urban county that provides varsity-level firefighting. The editorials and articles had nothing to do with the PG issue but added to the angst, anger and static of volunteer-versus-paid debates.

After months of back-and-forth discussons on TheWatchDesk, "Brother vs. Brother" was published in the January 2003 issue of Fire Chief magazine (HERE)

This example was the driving force to write the article:

Former volunteer fire chief and Pennsylvania Congressman Curt Weldon made a statement on the floor of the House of Representatives on Feb. 27, 2002, asking, “Does this mean that those career firefighters from other departments that went to New York City would lose their union cards if this were enforced because they were volunteering to help their brother firefighters in a time of need?”

That is not the objective of Resolution 43, ... (HERE)


I continued participating in two-hatter message board discussions. There were other high-profile PGFD activities that kept firehouse.com forums hopping.

A 2007 issue became a public policy case study. The Battle Over Kentland Ambulance 339

The two-hatter issue became old. The Resolution 43 trial boards made it clear that DC Local 36 does not care about two-hatters.

IAFF RESOLUTION 2 REIGNITES THE DEBATE

The Illinois delegation submitted Resolution 2 at the 2008 convention.

Resolution 2 directs the IAFF to delete Article XV, Section 3 and insert a new subsection to the list of defined misconduct as “working a secondary job part-time, paid on call, volunteer or otherwise as a firefighter, emergency medical services worker, public safety or law enforcement officer, or as a worker in a related service, whether in the public or private sector, where such job is within the work jurisdiction of any affiliate or which adversely impacts the interests of any affiliate or the IAFF.

Upon a finding of guilt…it is recommended that the penalty include disqualification from holding office in any affiliate and/or expulsion from membership for the period that the misconduct persists. Charges filed for the misconduct described…shall be preferred by a member of the charged party’s local and/or member of an adversely affected affiliate.”


The expansion of the description of misconduct activity addresses a problem in Illinois with union members working as PART-TIME firefighters at another town with full-time IAFF members. The part-timers are working for an hourly rate that is 30-50% less than the hourly rate for full-time firefighters. More information in THIS blog item.

UNION BANNING MEMBERS FROM VOLUNTEERING?

Title from the January 28, 2009, entry by FirefighterNation and IACOJ blogger Art "ChiefReason" Goodrich. Read it HERE. This post received 55 comments on FFN and 123 comments on the International Association of Crusty Old Jakes.

The post generated passion, heat and inaccurate assertions. Most of the posters are not IAFF members. A few remind me of "experts" who know that it was a US missle/truck bomb and not a hijacked 757 that hit the Pentagon.

Chief Goodrich provided 22 years of service to an Illinois volunteer department. He responsed on the IACOJ message board:

I belonged to a union, but it wasn't a firefighter union, but I don't think any union is so different from another in terms of purpose. They all seem to operate off of a similar set of core values and missions.

I have not been in the career fire service, but have had some collateral exposure to it in my mutual aid assistance.

And if anyone who read and understood my motivation for writing the blog, it was more from a "civil liberties" focus and in no way, do I buy in to the hysteria that the IAFF is going to drive volunteers from the service, because I know that it will never happen. At least, not in my life time.


MY PERSPECTIVE

I was an engine company commander working at a busy station where seven of the nine members of the shift were African-American. Some firehouse kitchen discussions ended with ... "It is a Black thing, you would not understand."

I appreciated that their experience, background, expectations and "hot button" issues are different than mine. Not better or worse, just different.

I had transformational experience that was different from Goodrich's collateral experience responding with career crews on mutual aid. My first assignment as a county firefighter was at the station where I started as a volunteer.

There was a dramatic change in perspective when I had to work at the place I volunteered at. Some of the features of the volunteer station I thought were "cool" when spending a weekend at the VFD became a problem when I worked 56 hours a week at the house.

Had a similar experience when I went from adjunct to full time as a university professor. In both cases I was not expecting such a change, since I had years of experience as a volunteer firefighter and a part-time professor. I had skill sets, but I did not "know the job."

I have been a member of other labor organizations. The IAFF is different.

The unique history of the fire service results in convoluted isues. One hundred years ago career firefighters worked continuous duty, getting just one to two days off a month. No other municipal employee worked that schedule.

I no longer entertain the fantasy that I can change anyone's mind, regardless of the research, examples or well-crafted message board postings. It is tiring to see the same innaccurate "facts" spewing from non-union firefighters when discussing two-hatters.

When the next event starts another barrage of message board posts by non-unionized firefighters, I will respond:

It is a Labor thing ...
... you would not understand.


Mike “Fossilmedic” Ward
From my February 07, 2009 posting on Firegeezer.com

Views: 1622

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Comment by Mike Ward on February 15, 2009 at 9:41pm
Dave Statter provides a story that proves me wrong, a New York local that *IS* prohibiting its members from participating at an all-volunteer fire company:

http://www.wusa9.com/news/columnist/blogs/2009/02/enforcing-two-hat...
Comment by Mike Ward on February 9, 2009 at 2:45pm
Art,

I am honored and appreciative of your response.

Holy cow, someone finally read the linked articles!!

It will take a little time to prepare a response to the outstanding addition Chief Goodrich has added to this discussion.

I appreciate the time and care spent in the response. It is not lost on me the observation:

Resolution 43 and its companion piece, Article 2 were ill-conceived, poorly crafted responses to internal problems at a firehouse between firefighters that should have been resolved at that level, but wasn’t. I cannot disagree when it comes to Resolution 43.

Mike
Comment by Art "ChiefReason" Goodrich on February 9, 2009 at 2:10pm
I know Mike personally and I know that he has been fighting his battle for a long time.
And it is "different" than PG County's situation.
I would compare Mike's situation to a department close to me deciding not to spend any more money for its fire department and calling my fire department when there is a fire. They aren't paying for it anymore, but is still getting service. Why should they increase taxes to fund their own department if they can get it from me for free under a mutual aid agreement?
Yes; we would remedy the situation and very quickly.
Mike:
You have presented TWO examples of two hatting.
TCSS.
Art
Comment by Mike Ward on February 9, 2009 at 12:54pm
Response from Mike Kilburg President of IAFF Local 2720, Country Club Hills Illinois:

I live with the “two-hatting” issue up close and personal. I am the president of a small IAFF local in the southern suburbs of Chicago. There are very very very few VOLUNTEER fire departments around here. Everyday the taxpayers of my town and others are paying the majority of the freight for towns that are too cheap to hire their own career people.

It makes my job at the bargaining table a hell of a lot harder when management knows that we have people selfish and stupid enough to work part-time at another fire department. I know this issue as well as anybody out here and also know the fact that it really effects small locals like mine. Don’t give me the old bad economy argument either. This has been going on for a very long time. My position is simple. If you choose to work part-time for another fire department, you are wrong.

There is no one size fits all approach to this issue. All the arguments have been placed out there. The IAFF has done more then any other organization to improve conditions of ALL firefighters. I do not agree with all of the IAFF positions…. But nobody is holding a gun to my head forcing me to be a member either.
Comment by Art "ChiefReason" Goodrich on February 9, 2009 at 12:17pm
I have attempted several times to reply, but I wanted to craft a perfect response to Professor Ward’s blog. I have come to the realization that I cannot, but I will respond anyway.

I was accused of “over-generalizing the “two hat” issue, because I see issues and concerns that go well beyond Resolution 43 and Article 2. I was told that I did not understand unions, particularly the IAFF. On top of it all, I was told that I shouldn’t comment if I wasn’t there. I have to laugh at that kind of narrow mindedness.

So, let me be specific: based on my review of information in Fossilmedic’s blog “It’s a Labor Thing…You Wouldn’t Understand”, Resolution 43 and its companion piece, Article 2 were ill-conceived, poorly crafted responses to internal problems at a firehouse between firefighters that should have been resolved at that level, but wasn’t.

A system that is designed to provide for the best interests of all members became an instrument of self interest for a few. The unintended consequence was that an internal, personnel issue between a career firefighter and a volunteer chief, also a career firefighter, escalated to what became known as Resolution 43. Apparently, with the fear of compromise on the table, reasonable dialogue could not be found. A combination system that has proven to be successful in many other parts of the world was corrupted in PG County, because volunteer was over career, instead of vice versa.

But, were that the only philosophical difference involved, a solution might have been found. But there were also accusations of abuse of power by the chief and mistreatment to the career firefighters. I wouldn’t know; I wasn’t there. I can only comment on what I read.

So, again, so that everyone is clear on what I believe triggered Resolution 43 and Article 2; it was pissing contests between rival union members and NOT rival organizations. I fervently believe that the issue could have been resolved without union intervention. It was a knee jerk reaction, fueled by assertions-true, false or exaggerated-that has created a ripple through the fire service; not because of guys like me, who sees an article and responds to it, but because we have organizations who don’t know where their influence and authority with members should end.

Unions were formed to improve working conditions, wages and benefits, safety and health and to act on behalf of employees with a company. It is easy to understand if you read this, courtesy of Ward:

From UFA website:

1917: FF Albert Guinness formed the Uniformed Firemen's Association of the FDNY, which became Local 94 of the International Association of Firefighters the following year. Firemen were working "continuous duty," of 151 hours per week with 3 hours off each day. Annual salary was $1,500
.


With regards to unions, I am unwilling to accept that the IAFF is on a different philosophical plane as the other unions. The Teamsters, UAW, Coal miners, AFSCME and the others were ALL founded on the same principles. There are obvious differences in the sectors of labor that they represent. But the people who join them join on the promise of better working conditions, better wages and benefits, better safety and health and protection from an employer who can summarily fire employees without just cause. And that’s a fact.

I have some experience with unions. I was in a union for 7 years, went through THREE strikes, was a union representative who was laid off and never went back. So, please don’t tell me that I don’t know anything about unions. I also know that, in my current situation, a union tried TWICE to organize our employees and twice failed to do so. I know that the company who contracts our services is moving work out of Illinois and into right-to-work states and are building manufacturing facilities all over the world. Would anyone care to speculate as to why?

I can’t speak for the rest of you, but I went to work for a COMPANY. I didn’t go to work for the union. Illinois is a closed shop, so I had to join because a union represented the employees and the company recognized the union as the employees’ bargaining unit. Which is another key point.

Did you wake up one day and say, “I want to be a union member”?

No; you woke up and said, “I want to be a firefighter”.

And I have no problem with having the union represent you and bargain for you while you are AT WORK. You owe them nothing more than your union dues, but the union wants more. They want your blind obedience where it serves their interests. They want to cross the threshold of the fire station and walk right into your life. They want you, but only because it satisfies their appetite for power and control.

I agree with the notion that, when you join an organization, you agree to follow their rules. The question was asked, “If you know that the rule exists when you are hired, is it too much to ask to follow it?” I would agree that the answer should be “no”. But, if you were told at your time of hire that you could continue as a volunteer, regardless of whether it was a combie department serviced by IAFF or not, and then through resolution, told after you were hired that you could no longer do it, I’d be concerned; NOT because I see a career/vollie dust up, but rather, a deliberate and intrusive effort to exert control where it should be a personal choice. Again; give them your money; don’t give them your soul.

But, what if those rules are a moving target? What if they changed AFTER you joined? Do you grandfather everyone before that and apply it to the new ones? Seems reasonable, but that didn’t happen. You were given the choice under Resolution 43 and Article 2 of quitting as a volunteer or facing sanctions. But it doesn’t affect me, so I should have no opinion on it.

Just remember that your union is your business agent. They aren’t your best friend. They want your money, because money buys power in this country. That’s the reality. It doesn’t make me pro or anti-union simply because I have opinions, however strong or weak, on their benefits to workers. I have been on both sides and function without problems.

In Mike Ward’s “Brother vs. Brother” article for Fire Chief Magazine, he identified seven (7) factors that drove career firefighters to volunteer in PG County. The obvious one was missing: money! I don’t mention that for any particular reason, other than I find it interesting that a strong motivator like money was left off the list.

What is disturbing for me are the benefits that the career firefighter was receiving as a volunteer was incalculable. From training classes to OJT to the “toys”, much was gained at a cost of ZERO to their career department or the IAFF. Had some discretion been used, it was a very workable system. Instead of banning career from volunteering, why didn’t they instead craft a resolution that forbid their members from holding positions of rank in the volunteer stations where career firefighters were assigned?

The author and I agree that a lack of strong leadership at the county level allowed this situation to blow up. I read the selected pages of the Tri Date Final Report with emphasis on Page 130, as suggested by Ward. It was used to point out that volunteer participation was dropping and recruitment of new volunteers was also lagging. The two exceptions were stations 33 and 37.

However; I found the last portion of the document (Pages 156 – 169) to be very interesting, because it laid out recommendations for restructuring the department, re-deploying equipment, consolidating manpower, changing the duties of officers and exploring additional positions (90 at a cost of $5.4 million). It is noted that this report was from 2004.

On the issue of presumptive illness, I would like to know how many cases there have been to date, where there was a dispute over whether it was caused by the firefighters’ secondary employment or their primary job. Presumptive illness claims could be huge in the years to come, because people my age are starting to retire and are having health issues dating back to the days of riding the tailboard. Hopefully, the firefighter won’t get caught between the medical care provider and the insurance company.

In closing, I will say that I have been involved in this nation’s fire service for over 28 years now and though I have my present day heroes, NONE of them could ever silence me on any issue that I feel should be shared in this service. Whether it is a speaking engagement, a conference, a magazine article, a video or a book; we choose to increase our public profile for any number of reasons, so we should accept that there are those who would encourage us or discourage us.

And when comments are made that, in my opinion, minimize, trivialize, denigrate or otherwise infer that my “volunteer fire service” doesn’t measure up to my career counterparts, then THAT is an opinion that I don’t share. I know what I did while I was active and what I have done since then. I know how much I sacrificed physically, mentally and financially and I enjoyed every minute of it and have no regrets. I am not a boil on the ass of the fire service. I was and still am a leader who can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with anyone else in the fire service. And I have no intention of prefacing anything I do or say with how important I think I am. I am strictly blue collar who had the privilege of leading an excellent small, volunteer department and I offer no apologies for that.

“I wouldn’t understand…”?

That’s what a parent tells a five year old, because they don’t have the time or the patience to EXPLAIN it to them. On the other end of the response scale is that they get pissed because we DON’T understand. Maybe they haven’t clearly explained their position on the issue.

To those of you who read my blogs, I will tell you that I have enough respect for you that, if you tell me that you don’t understand what I have written, then I haven’t done my job in explaining it to you.

And to those of you who are enjoying the discussions; let me say again that, in my mind and in my opinion, this is NOT a career vs. volunteer issue.

TCSS.
Art
Comment by PA Firefighter on February 8, 2009 at 9:04pm
Mike,
I was an IAFF member for 27 years. I came from the volunteer ranks. The problem I think, is that some locals, like mine, cajoled and harass members that are two-hatters in rural or suburban departments that have no IAFF local. Some local leaders just don't want anything to do with volunteers.

Like Ben said almost all members of our executive boards in the last 20+ years have part-time jobs. Some of them worked for employers with union workers and never joined the union.

I agree we shouldn't be volunteering in departments with IAFF locals.

Thanks for the post. Stay Safe
Comment by Mike Ward on February 8, 2009 at 4:24pm
Jeff:

Resolution 43 (2000) was specifically aimed at a problem affecting PG IAFF members. From THIS blog:

PG volunteers who worked at DCFD rose to volunteer chief rank at many of the 38 independent PG fire companies. Most were in their 20s and early 30s. A FEW of these two-hatters acted like tin-horn tyrants, using their volunteer authority to jerk around PG career firefighters. These tyrants made administrative, response and operational rules that were demeaning to career staff and affecting the quality of service.

Resolution 2 (2008) provided a more global approach, reflecting what had happened since 2000. Illinois submitted the resolution to address a problem they were having with off-duty members of one local working as part-timers at another department that has IAFF members. My understanding is that proposed or existing full-time firefighter positions in the smaller departments were eliminated in favor of the part-timers.

Resolution 2 requires action by a local's leadership and the direction provided by the members that show up and vote at the local membership meetings.

DC Local 36 could care less what it's members do on their off-duty time. The off-duty Local 36 members who are volunteer chiefs and presidents take actions that affect the on-duty work enviroment of the 600+ members of PG Local 1619.

Mike
Comment by Jeff Crow on February 8, 2009 at 3:54pm
You're right. "Thugs" was an unfair term, and has been corrected.

Now as to your question: Smaller communities in Texas do have paid, part-time firefighters who are also IAFF Members. As I read it, Resolution 2 as you quote it above is very broad in scope, and seems to apply to any case ("“working a secondary job part-time, paid on call, volunteer or otherwise") whether the smaller communities have "career firefighters" or not.
Comment by Mike Ward on February 8, 2009 at 3:03pm
Brother Crow,

Thanks for the comments and the response in your blog.

I cannot agree with the "thug" description.

Do the smaller communities you describe (in Texas) have career firefighters who are also IAFF members? If so, that is what Resolution 2 (2008) covers. If not, no issue.

Mike
Comment by Mike Ward on February 8, 2009 at 2:52pm
Hi Joe,

You are correct

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