I am presently a Member of Local 282 Buffalo Fire Department in New York. I have a question for anyone who can assist me.


 In our Department all are Union Members. Head Quarter Staff - Commissioner, Deputy Commissioners, Division Chiefs, Battalion Chiefs, Captains, Lieutenants and Firemen.


  I am totally pro-union. I was a UAW Member for 13 yrs and BFD now for 24 yrs.

Heres the issue/question: In the Fire Service and Police Department, all are Union Members. Even those appointed by the Mayor of the City.


 So we have guys who jump back and forth from being a line-fire Fighter all the way to Commissioner. From the rank of Lieutenant on up they are what I consider, “Supervisors” - they are in charge of their crews and enforce “Company Policy” - so wheres the line of distinction between employee and management?


 Is there any rules or laws that cover what appears as a conflict of interests?



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Can't help too much there Rick, because you seem to operate in a different set up than most departments. For us, when one becomes a chief, they are considered management and are no longer part of the union. Captains and lieutenants are considered company officers, captain in charge of the house, Lt's a rig, but are part of the union. If one decides to test for promotion to Battalion Chief, then they are considered management.
Now I believe in Milwaukee, their Battalion Chiefs are still in the union, but those above are not. I haven't heard of too many depts set up like yours where one can be a manager or commissioner one day and a line personel the next.

To me though, I would say the line between union and management is to the level of Battalion Chief, irregardless if they are in a union or not. As soon as one trades in their colored helmet for a white one, they take on the role of a manager. A company officer like a captain or lieutenant, I consider more of a mentor in many ways than a manager.
It just doesn't seem right, one day a guy is a FF, LT,Capt,BC,DC all one Union - then they go management and tear up the contract - turn around and walk right back into being a Union Member at a Fire House.

Many times those very same management/Union Members are on the Eboard or members of our Union Negotiation Team. Obvious conflict of interests.
I am baffled why a local would include management personnel as active, voting members. I have no problem with management still paying dues and being involved, but the focus on union involvement is only two things.

1. Wages
2. Working Conditions

Anything else is fluff. Unions should not run departments, but they do... indirectly and that is just as bad as having someone in management vote like a manager and not a union member. Thus creating no clear distinction between labor and management. This is a perfect storm for ensuring both wages and working conditions are compromised. Remember, even though someone in management may agree with you that you need better wages or working conditions, the folks they report to have a different agenda. If you are talking paid positions, then there is money involved. Folks will generally look out for themselves first, even though it may not be discussed openly.

If you want to fix this, take away voting rights from anyone involved in management. It's also appropriate to exclude management personnel from labor meetings, right? I think you would be doing your management folks a service to take away the burden of having to be accountable to two diametrically opposed forces, labor verses management... What an impossible situation that unfortunately will require tough love and hard decisions to get you steer back on course.

Good luck,

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