Duluth, Minnesota firefighters Bob Noldin, Sandy Merritt and Brian Black are still technically members of IAFF Local 101. According to Duluth News Trubune, under state law they pay union dues but don’t have voting rights. They were asked to resign the union because all three are members of the Hermantown Volunteer Fire Department.
Noldin, a 23-year veteran and the only one to talk to the newpaper, says he joined after recently building a home in the community, saying, “I thought it would be nice to help them, and they’re short [of] firefighters up here.”
Here are excerpts from the article (may have to register):
“I don’t feel that anybody should be able to tell a person what they can do in their days off for a community,” Noldin said.
The fire union disagrees. Union President Erik Simonson acknowledges the three were asked to resign their memberships, saying that volunteering for another department is strictly prohibited in union bylaws. Simonson said his union is following the rules set out by the International Fire Union.
“This is primarily over concern for the safety of our members,” Simonson said. “They are doing a job that is risky. If they were to get hurt, if something happens to them, they wouldn’t be covered under the city liability coverage.
Simonson notes that Duluth firefighters aren’t barred from any other work or volunteer activity when off-duty.
Noldin said the fire union wanted to go further than the resignations and sought to fire the three. He said the union voted to insert language into the next contract that would have allowed the city administration to fire any firefighter who served on a volunteer department.
The president of the Minnesota Professional Fire Fighters Union, Tom Thornberg, said he was aware of only one other union in the state that would fire employees for volunteering: St. Paul.
But the president of that union, Mike Smith, said the contract changed in early November after receiving a federal grant. Under the terms of that grant, “we can’t discriminate against any employees volunteering on another department,” Smith said.
The St. Paul union still has restrictions on firefighters serving on volunteer departments, including the ability to ask that employees be fired if they don’t receive permission from the union to volunteer.