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Two-hatters forced out of union in Duluth. Three career firefighters are members of the Hermantown VFD.

IAFF Local 101

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.”

Picture from Duluth Fire Department. Click image for department website.

Picture from Duluth Fire Department. Click image for department website.

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. 


Comments - Add Yours

  • steve

    Typical union bullying tactics. They forget who they are working for. They dont work for the international, they work for the MEMBERS. I would love to see Obama outlaw unions like this.

  • Anonymous

    Good luck getting Obama to outlaw unions of any kind, especially anything affiliated with the AFL-CIO.

  • Anonymous


    The Deluth IAFF President has it wrong. I was an IAFF delegate to the International Convention in Las Vegas that dealt with this very issue. The International has no problems with any IAFF member volunteering in their community as long as that department is not an IAFF affiliated department.

    I would recommend that the 3 people contact their IAFF district Vice-President.

    Lt. Robert Kramer
    IAFF Local 1784 Division Rep.

  • Jeffrey S Austin

    The individual that posted the third reply is spot on. The rule was written to protect Brother & Sister firefighters from being forced to volunteer by the very department that they work for. I believe they is also a Federal statute that also prohibits such action by the muncipality or other AHJ for fire protecton.

  • Anonymous

    Jeffrey is somewhat correct. Federal Fair Labor Standards Act precludes employees from volunteering to do the same job in same jurisdiction they are employed by requiring them to be compensated.

    This IAFF bonehead in Duluth should be directing his efforts toward issues that matter, versus punishing his own members for trying to contribute their time and talents in their community.

  • Anonymous

    Lt. Robert Kramer
    IAFF Local 1784 Division Rep.

    And you call yourself a IAFF rep. You should be drawn and quartered to even give a hint that you support your members volunteering. Wait till you get laid off!

  • roy desoto

    Sorry, someone had to say it…. It’s all Kentlands falt!!!

  • Anonymous

    Union idiots.

  • Anonymous

    Last time I checked the fire service was made up of 70% volunteer. Hopefully the next election they rund a new president. Who cares if they volunteer. If they get hurt doing a job while volunteering why would the city pick it up anyway!

  • Anonymous

    IAFF talks out both sides of it’s mouth. When they stop Career firefighters from doing electrical work, lawn service, paiting, carpet laying, general contracting….. Then they are truely supporting jobs for all. Ironic that one union that is AFL-CIO supported allows for it’s members to work in other trade areas that are also represented and supported by the AFL-CIO. Same jurustiction I can understand the issue, any where else is pure bulls**t and interferes with your rights as a US citizen and none of IAFF’s business.

  • jimmy

    yes 70% are volunteers but the 30% that are fulltime protect 80% of the population

  • Steve in NJ

    Under FLSA you are not permitted to volunteer to do the same job in the same jurisdiction where you are paid. Under the IAFF Constitution and Bylaws, IAFF members are not permitted to work part-time, paid on call or volunteer within the work jurisdiction of any IAFF affiliate. This does not preclude IAFF members from volunteering in jurisdictions with all volunteer departments or un-affiliated combination departments. It appears that the Duluth local has more stringent rules that those of the International and if so then thats their business.

  • ???

    Really, the only reason the union does not want their members to volunteer is because they may get hurt while doing it…

    Okay, that is a possibility. However, where does it say that if I get hurt volunteering in one community that my paid department in another community must pay the bills. That does not even make sense.

    Okay, if they get hurt while volunteering, their paid department will have to pay OT to cover their position while they recover. Okay, once again a possibility. However, if I am jet sking, water sking, snowboarding, snow sking, scuba diving, hunting, biking, hiking, rock climbing, playing softball, basketball or any number of other sports and I get hurt – it is the same result. My paid department must pay someone OT to cover my position while I recover. Why are these activites not banned?

    So the union thinks that I am taking union jobs away from someone. So what are we doing when we work on the side as plumbers, truck drivers, roofers or any of the other trade professions. It is the same thing, it is just happening to someone else in another trade union. I guess that is OK then. (Not to mention we can get hurt while doing these side jobs)

    Lastly, if it is the union rules state that I cannot volunteer somewhere and be a voting union member, so be it. The union can set their own membership regulations. However, the union should have no say in whether or not I keep my job based on my volunteering somewhere else.

    My days off are mine, what I do with them (lawfully) is my own business.

  • Darren

    Fair enough volunteering for an IAFF department, I would kick your arse to. I volunteer, but my department doesn’t have any paid firefighters, and are never going to. We have a rule that if a station gets over certains calls or stops meeting targets and has the risk to warrant it, the whole station gets taken over by the paid department. There is no risk of taking jobs at all.
    The area these guys live in might not warrant a paid department. But they can assist in keeping the rigs on the street for that department.
    I like the examples given by those that say what about those off us that moonlight as Plumbers, Sparkies etc…bet those guys are pissed that we take work away from them even though we have fulltime paid jobs….

    Think there are bigger things to worry about at the moment!

  • smily

    As soon as the union members in Duluth stop throwing stones in their glass houses, I will listen! The rest of them EMT every hockey game in the same jurisdiction that they work in! They do it for about $12 an hour. They are stopping a rig from being paid to be there, the private ambulance service (which is also union) from being paid to be there, or an off duty firefighter from getting paid scale wages to be there! HMMMM…. oh yeah, that’s different! Those are the “good ole boys club” members!

  • Flash

    To Jimmy! Get your facts straight. You’re an idiot to write something that is 100% untrue. You’re a true union PUKE!! Not to take up for kentland but they are the best Vol. fire dept. in the world. So it can work. I to am union but I have common sense. Frankly you forgot where you came from or you are to simple to know!!