by Michael Byrne | March 01, 2016
What happens when you get nearly 100 “intermittent” firefighters in a room – half of whom are “fee payers” and not full-fledged members – and you tell them about the plan to strengthen the union against anti-union zealots trying to use the Supreme Court to undermine public services and the workers who provide them?
It turns out that these firefighters – members of other unions who fight fires in towns and cities across Ohio, but who are also state-employed firefighter trainers through the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association (OCSEA)/AFSCME Local 11 – were ready, willing and able to sign up for full AFSCME membership.
“We had 48 fee payers who immediately signed up to be members,” said Greg Wells, a vice president with his International Association of Fire Fighters local who is a top instructor at the Fire Training Academy. “These are all strong union members who didn’t understand why we weren’t full-fledged union members at the state level.”
Wells said many of the trainers didn’t realize they could be AFSCME Strong as “intermittent” firefighters, since the state has used the “intermittent” title to describe part-time or seasonal workers who have few rights. “We didn’t know we had a strong union behind us at the state level.”
In fact, the “intermittent” label is especially inappropriate for this group of firefighters, since they tended to be the most experienced and best trained in the state. That’s why they had been tapped to get certification to train other firefighters.
“There were a lot of our trainers who didn’t even know we could file a grievance through OCSEA, because we have different schedules and not as much contact with each other and with OCSEA,” Wells said. “The union protects our jobs and negotiates for better pay and benefits, so once that was clear, everybody understood the value of signing up as members.”
Once again, the value of being a member of AFSCME became crystal clear to the public safety officers once they got the information. Conversations about our union go a long way.
Not only did fee payers sign up to be full members, but many also agreed to sign up for PEOPLE. Nearly 10 percent of the “intermittent” firefighters signed up to be MVPs in our political action fund.
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