IAFF begins Unionizing Volunteer Firefighters

In an incredible policy reversal, the International Association of Fire Fighters(IAFF) has called a truce on a decades-long feud with the volunteer fire service. It’s widely known that 70% of the American fire service is comprised of unpaid or barely compensated volunteers, while the remaining 30% are career staff. The large majority of firefighters in the United States are volunteers.

It’s been a long-held position of the IAFF that volunteer firefighters take jobs away from career firefighters, thus threatening the sanctity and long-term viability of the union. The IAFF’s continued mission to grow the union has been happening at a slower pace than planned. Due to the financial crisis, department consolidation, and budget cuts, small career departments have been dissolving back into volunteer

IAFF President Christopher Montgomery stated that it was time to rethink the 100-year-old IAFF platform. During a brainstorming session with the executive board of directors, the idea of unionizing volunteer stations was presented. It was a game-changing Eureka moment, Montgomery said. After very little discussion it was clear the decision was pivotal and necessary for the health of the union.

IAFF President Montgomery further stated that hundreds of thousands of existing firefighters are under-represented and disenfranchised by a system that doesn’t support them. Volunteers are required to complete the same training hours and respond to the same emergency calls, performing labor with ZERO compensation and in most cases ZERO ancillary medical or psychological support. Exposure to cancer-causing toxins, emotionally taxing situations, and the risk of post-traumatic stress leave an entire segment of the firefighting community in dire need of representation.

Union dues are expected to range from $10-$25 per month, per volunteer, depending on the type of department and budget. Montgomery stated that the union was committed to all firefighters everywhere willing to pay dues. Of course, the union local for a volunteer station will have limited powers at first but the action has the potential to upend the entire volunteer system as we know it, effectively
bankrupting communities, forcing consolidation, thus triggering the need and means to hire career staff.

IAFF board of trustee Mark Burke spoke out against the decision to unionize volunteers stating it was the most genius trojan horse plan the union has ever concocted to completely dismantle the American volunteer fire service, all in the pursuit of dues.

It’s nearly unbelievable that a situation like this would occur. Only time will tell whether the IAFF’s position will make a positive or negative impact on the fire service. For sure, this will benefit individual firefighters in some fashion as they will finally have professional representation.

No matter which side of the fence you reside with this topic, unions have always stood up for the American worker, protecting us from big business and government. Volunteers represent an untapped resource for the IAFF to grow in strength while building a stronger more safe fire service nationwide. The unionization of volunteers will redefine the American fire service. It’s clear the IAFF is taking a large step forward, revolutionizing the idea of a union. We applaud their efforts to protect the union and we certainly hope they are good sports.



55 thoughts on “IAFF begins Unionizing Volunteer Firefighters

  1. Well would you look at that! I had said that the whole time I was in (almost 7 years as a Volunteer) in my home town of Shelton, CT. It’s the same job the same training, same risk! There name says says it all International Association of Fire Fighters. Says nothing about Paid or Volunteer and in my opinion should represent us all. But now that I think about it today is April 1, 2017 meaning April fools day so my luck this is probably a joke!

    1. So volunteers take a 8 month academy? Then take numerous training hours a week and month? Not to mention how much PT and physically fitness they do… yeah i call BS. it’s NOT the same thing and volunteers do NOT do the same training, they do far less with little to no standards. The only joke here is you. Iaff should leave the volunteers (job thieves) alone so the can continue to be untrained, fat, and dumb.

      1. Damn john so much for brotherhood in the fire service. Im in a combination department in the chicago area! Our full timers are all union members while us hourly peons are not. But you know what the kicker is.. I went to the same academy as them, work the same days as them, Train next to them and respond on the same calls. I pump the same chest, engine, and put out the same fires.. period.. so you can take your under educated, thinking every volly is a hillbilly I LOVE THE UNION MORE THEN MY CITIZENS AND DEPARTMENT LOVING SELF and get bent. Ur nothing more then a ladder climbing rank jumper whos probably wrote more SOPs then fires seen. Peace Love and Brotherhood

      2. John, You sir, are an Ass of a special breed. As a recently retired paid Battalion Chief – and a volunteer firefighter for 37 years, it is obvious that a volunteer dept. somewhere down the line as really hurt your feelings. There are many volunteers that hope to one day support their families with a paid position at a fire dept., but there are many who work hard, train to ISFAC standards, and proudly GIVE their service to perform the SAME work as you do, for pay. Generalizing all volunteers as fat and lazy is like saying that all paid firefighters do is sit in recliners, watch TV, wash their personal vehicles on the city’s time and dime, and shop for groceries while wasting Dept money and resources while on duty. Have a safe career!

      3. Wow….what a completley false and ridiculous statement…W train to the same Pro-Board certification standards as full time departments, answer to the same standards and regulations as full timers, except we do it for our communities, not a fucking paycheck…ridiculous and disrespectful.

      4. You’re an idiot. Obviously you haven’t paid attention to what volunteers contribute. We might not live there for 24 hr. shifts, but we do train where I come from and we are held to the same standard as career firefighters. I have been a volunteer for 37 years. We have a great combo department. We are not looked at as second class citizens.

      5. John, you suck. Seriously you speak out your ass. You no NOTHING of what we do. This is obvious by your statement. I hope you are not in anyway a superior to anyone.

      6. Dedicated volunteers do as much training if not more on our personal time while also holding down a full time job. It’s people like you that create the animosity between paid and volunteer.

      7. John – I was going to call you an asshole, but I see from reading further that others have beat me to it. So I won’t. Kudos to all the others who pointed out John’s assholish nature. Thanks for carrying the banner. John=dickhead!

      8. Pretty simple to me, after 29 years as a ff/emt with a volunteer department that transitioned to a combination department that John is a MORON!!!

      9. I went through an 8 month academy as a volunteer. I was looking for a job for over a year after the academy that my volunteer station sponsored me through. Most of the paid firemen I know got their start in a volunteer service. The only way a volunteer here is “stealing” your job is if you’re a lazy slack POS and they have a better drive to work than you do.

      10. John, you are a disgrace to the fire service, your community, and everyone who ever did the job. Check your ego, attitude, and pride at the door. What a disappointment you and your words are. I pray you recognize what an absolute cock you sound like.

        Yeah, this is a joke, we all get it. You big bad city ‘career’ ‘professional’ dragon fighters are so superior to everyone that is joke worthy when the idea that a group that calls itself the association of firefighters would even consider representing ALL those who do the job. Even those who do it for the love of the fellow man alone. Try to wrap your heads around that – some people work full time careers doing anything else and when their community needs them – they answer the call, not for money, representation, or compensation, pension, comp time, or glory – but because they are called to serve their fellow man. And yeah, they’re not as squared away as those who spend their days polishing Their skill set. But does that make the fire they face any less dangerous? Or the risk they assume any less heroic?

        I’d present a case that’d they deserve more respect. But on a page like This we can’t talk about how those lowley volunteers and their petty contributions to the fire service after all they’re not in the union.

        Get the Fu*k over yourself you pompous cun+

      11. You are not part of the brotherhood, bashing other brothers! I’m a Volunteer. Since January 1st I have over 260 hours in shift coverage for open full time slots, over 250 hours on-hands training, and responded to over 100 calls. I train right beside paid FFs doing exactly what they do. Before we had a local academy, I sacrificed many weekends to get FF2 certified. You should reflect on this after you read it.

      12. Obviously you have no experience on volunteer fire fighting. I have 19 years volunteer and 10 years career, I do more training in my volunteer department then I do in my career department. And yes we all work the same, nothing changes exept the pay. Also volunteer firefighters have way more passion for the job that you won’t find in a career department, they find time to train and love it. Volunteer departments going union would be a great idea. They deserve it

    2. In lehigh county pa a volunteer station successfully unionized through iaff and i believe even won the ensuing court case that the municipality tried to block it with.

      1. I know a lot of union fireman, who take 2nd jobs in the trades and aren’t in the union so they are job thieves also,do you know a y union fireman, that are also sheet metal workers, painters, Carpenters et c

      2. The legal battle in Emmaus, PA, is now in its third year. It will probably end up before the State Supreme Court. We’ll keep you posted on any new developments. Stay tuned.

  2. Only for the “Health of the Union”. The union is loosing numbers so let’s finally change our policy so the union representatives still get paid. No thank you I’m not a volunteer to help you earn your paycheck. Don’t need you.

  3. I too was a IAFF member then became a Chief of a Part-time Fire Department. The IAFF wouldn’t have anything to do with us so the members joined the AFSCME union. This made a lot of sense. I had always said the IAFF is missing the boat with not taking on part-time, part-paid and volunteer departments. As they can join other unions the IAFF was missing out on the NUMBERS. It could have even been associate membership status. The sad part is that many of my personnel were trained and received line experience then were picked up by career departments, and then they fell into the Full Time IAFF mentality forgetting where they came from. I’m glad the leadership has seen the light. These departments were never there to take away jobs it is in the politics of city government that refused to let a department move forward, I know because I tried to go full time in my city.

  4. The IAFF has just realized a vast untapped pool of DUES paying people to increase their income. They aren’t at all concerned about the firefighters, just the new found source of revenue.

  5. How do I go about getting my small rural Fire Department involved with IAFF Union Brotherhood. I’m sure many of our Firefighters (30+) will be interested and join up.
    I’m with Grahamsville Fire Department #67 in Upstate New York Sullivan County.
    My Name is Dale Robin Kufert GFD #67 Fire Police Please send an information
    Package or Kit. I’ll probably be the one representing my Department. Send some
    Stickers, Decals, and other related stuff and things along with the informational
    Kit or Package. Thank you very much for your assistance and help with this great
    cause and unionship of Brother and Sister Firefighters. I’ll send you my mailing address
    once you respond to this comment and posting. Take care and be well. Stay Safe.

  6. The concept sounds strong, I am certainly supportive of ideas that can and will unite and strengthen the fire service as a whole. As I have spent a career in combination departments, I have never unsterstood or agreed with the them verses us attitude from my colleagues who train side by side.

  7. That was my first reaction: April Fools….or the Leafs just won the Stanley Cup ’cause the idea that the IAFF can suddenly play nice with volunteer firefighters seems just about as likely.

  8. Screw the IAFF as the local federal IAFF FF at NIH allowed the local to kick fellow GS-0081’s fire protection specialists out and have the NIH HRO to rewrite SF 52’s and say that it had been a mistake. In one case a fellow employee had ten years of SF50’service re-done to reflect a mistake.

  9. In lehigh county pa a volunteer station successfully unionized with iaff and i believe won the court case that the municipality tried to use to block them.

  10. Ruling: Emmaus firefighters can vote to unionize
    Pa. Labor Relations Board examiner: Firefighters are borough employees.
    Members of the Emmaus Fire Department, long considered volunteers by the borough’s council and management, are employees who have the right to unionize, a state Labor Relations Board hearing examiner has ruled in a proposed order. The order, which could have significant financial implications for the borough of 12,000 if firefighters ultimately decide to unionize, could potentially affect other boroughs and townships that have similar control over and provide wages to firefighters now classified as volunteers. The dispute stems from a decision the borough made a number of years ago to pay what it considered a stipend to firefighters to help offset the drop in qualified volunteers. Emmaus is one of about a dozen Lehigh Valley municipalities that provides some level of pay and benefits to firefighters. A union vote is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon at Borough Hall. Following the vote, the borough and the firefighters can appeal the order by John Pozniak, who heard arguments in January following a petition by the Pennsylvania Professional Fire Fighters Association to represent the Emmaus firefighters. Wednesday’s vote is also subject to challenges by both sides. “We disagree with the decision,” said Tom Dinkelacker, an Orefield attorney who represents the borough. “But the next step is for the election.” Matthew Areman, the Philadelphia attorney representing the firefighters organization, said his client is pleased that the issue is going to an election. “We look forward to an honest and fair election to determine whether the employees want to be represented.” Even though the firefighters gained the right to unionize, the formation of a union isn’t a foregone conclusion. Half of the Fire Department members who vote in Wednesday’s election must give their support for the union. The department has an estimated 35 members. Chief James Reiss is not eligible to be a member of the union. It’s not clear what financial impact a unionized Fire Department would have on the borough and its taxpayers. The borough, which has a general operating budget of $8.8 million this year, earmarked $2.2 million for its unionized police department, which has about 18 officers and a chief, according to borough budget documents. Pozniak’s ruling was based in large part on measures the borough and its council have taken in recent years relative to the operation and oversight of and compensation for firefighters. The issue came down to whether the firefighters were considered employees or volunteers. “In essence, the borough has already hired the firefighters and despite any alleged intent on behalf of the borough that the firefighters not be public employees, the borough has already made them public employees by paying them hourly wages and possessing and exercising significant control over their terms and conditions of employment,” Pozniak said in his ruling. The borough earmarks a little more than $500,000 in its annual budget for firefighting services. Of that, about $269,000 goes toward stipends for firefighters. The borough owns the Fire Department building and most of the equipment in it. The Fire Department has two members — Reiss and secretary Victoria Schadler — who are employees of the borough and answer to the borough’s administration In addition, council in 1999 passed an ordinance that established the Fire Department and several positions as “at-will employees and appointees.” The ordinance also said that appointees were subject to the approval of council and that firefighters would be under the control of the fire chief “who shall be accountable to the borough manager and council.” The borough also reserved the right to establish rules, regulations and operating procedures for the department. “There is little doubt that the petitioned-for firefighters are employees…and not volunteers as alleged by the borough,” Pozniak wrote. In 2013, the pay rate was set at $10.15 to $15.22. Firefighters receive a base amount that increases based on their qualifications and training. Pozniak noted the final say on discipline of firefighters rests with the borough in that a firefighter can appeal discipline imposed by the chief. In 2011, management issued firefighters a borough personnel policy. Two years later, it issued them a policy for light duty responsibilities related to on-the-job injuries. Neil A. Morris, a labor attorney from Philadelphia, said the Fire Department operation as it relates to the borough seems unique. In most towns, fire companies operate independently from the borough and receive some financial support from the municipality. Municipalities also pay for workers’ compensation insurance. “Most smaller towns have volunteer fire departments, which may have a few paid employees and are funded largely through a fire tax that the municipality supports them with,” he said. “However, it is truly a volunteer, private organization. “In this situation, the borough appears to have extended its reach in terms of the fire company to the extent that it exercises more control.” This article was written by Patrick Lester and originally published in “The Morning Call East Penn News” you can view the article on their site by clicking here

  11. If you have to pay dues to get respect for doing the same job, same training, same exposure to same hazards, when you’re a volunteer, I believe I’ll keep my 29 year’s of volunteer FF with out paying the monies to pad some CEO’S Pocket. Thank You but no Thanks!! Volunteers Rule!!

  12. Yeeahaaaaawwwww! Lookie herr at this perty red sticker. I think imma put it right next to my John Deere one!

    1. Why so serious?

      It’s merely a lightly written article to break up the seriousness and stress of our job.

      No different than some of the facts that are given by some of today’s news sources.

  13. They’re ONLY trying to pocket our money to abet the benefits for the paid firefighters. What can the give a volunteer? A raise? in what? Benefits? Many are already available, we just have to open our eyes. Ultimately it could COST US MONEY. By them dealing with an individual fire district, they could create snags which would require more legal services and that cost MONEY, TAX MONEY. Ultimately, they could be aiming for creating more PAID DEPARTMENTS, which gives them even more money.

  14. I wish I could believe the IAFF is actually looking to recruit volunteers to provide support but it is evidently clear this only about collecting dues to support union survival. I volunteer because I want to help out my and surrounding communities. I know I am not going to get paid or receive benefits.

  15. April Fool’s Day has come and gone, and it’s an event for which the Station Pride staff obviously had lots of fun penning highly satirical articles that were beyond incredulous. I was amazed at how many readers/followers subsequently penned poisonous rebuttals regarding those efforts to provide some levity in the otherwise life-and-death realities of our profession (paid personnel) and/or paraprofession (volunteers). Have we become so full of ourselves that everything we read is immediately taken to heart? Do we honestly believe that everything we read, especially on the internet, is the truth? Do we not afford ourselves the opportunity to “reality check” what we are seeing or hearing? Having spent 40 years on both sides of the professional/paraprofessional fence, my experience is “not so!” Regardless of any station’s paid or volunteer status, I have rarely seen any failure to seize the moment to turn something said or done into a joke or prank, except in the midst of a call. Even then, we very often later engage in what could be called morbid humor to defuse the stress of situations we have encountered. Station Pride has constructively addressed those very situations and behaviors. Lighten up, folks, and take the opportunity to laugh at the fact that you may have taken the bait “hook, line and sinker,” even for a moment! Laughter, perhaps with a touch of humility, can be good for what ails you.

  16. Where to start…if Station Pride is taking a shot at the unions…Im all for it…either way, this doesn’t make the situation any better. The IAFF will always only care about less than one third of the “brothers”…as for vollies, part-timers or whatever term you use to demean the fact they aren’t career, taking jobs away from full-time “brothers”…thats garbage. Remember this…your community will only support a career department if they feel they need it and will PAY for it. It doesnt matter how many studies are done by the union to “support” it, if the community wont pay for it…wont happen. The community wants protected…they don’t care full-time, part-time, volunteer….as long as someone shows up. When they want more…they will pay for it. As for the brotherhood thing…too many comments from “career” tools downgrading the non-career guys and gals.

  17. The 2015 National Fire Protection Administrations estimates there were approximately 1,160,450 local firefighters in the U.S. in 2015. Of the total number of firefighters 345,600 (30%) were career firefighters and 814,850 (70%) were volunteer firefighters. I grew up in a strong union State and Unions run on dues. It does not take a Ph.D. (that I have) to do the math. As a Fire Instructor for the Commonwealth of VA I have taught many classes over the last 28 years to both career and volunteers and we will all die the same. I miss the reasoning behind the exclusion of 70% of the potential dues paying population. We are an egotistical bunch but this is a failure of Union Leadership in managing its organization in the name of Ego. Stay safe and bring everyone home no matter what.

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