When Chief Dennis Rubin, just a week into the job, ordered the firing of a firefighter, it was clear to everyone he was sending a message that it would not be business as usual. It is a message his boss, Mayor Adrian Fenty, clearly endorsed. As Chief Rubin sped off from the press conference to the fire at the library in Georgetown, Local 36 went right to work and then to court. http://www.wusa9.com/news/news_article.aspx?storyid=58406
Two firefighters were found guilty by a DC Fire and EMS trial board for their treatment of former New York Times reporter David Rosenbaum in January, 2006. The union representing the firefighters contended in an April 30th press release
http://www.iafflocal36.com/SCAPEGOATING_THE_FIREFIGHTERS.htmthat that Chief Rubin was violating the union contract and department regulations by increasing the penalties for the firefighters. Now a DC Superior Court Judge agrees that Local 36 may have a point. On the union's website http://www.iafflocal36.com/ there is a link to Judge Robert Tignor's order.
What sources at Local 36 tell me they are clearly cheering at the union hall is this quote from the temporary restraining order: "Plaintiffs have demonstrated a substantial likelihood that they will ultimately prevail on the merits, in that it appears that the city's action is in clear contravention of its own regulations."
Obviously, this is just the first round. The order is for 10 days. Everyone is supposed to return to court on May 18th and the city will have a chance to show why there shouldn't be a preliminary injunction issued as this all gets worked out.
DC Fire and EMS spokesman Alan Etter called me as I am writing this to say, of course, Chief Rubin will obey the order from the judge. Etter says the Chief stands by his statements last week explaining why he fired the one firefighter and ordered that the second firefighter will not interact with the public for the rest of his career.
Other than Chief Rubin's earlier explanation that he believed he was operating under the authority of the Mayor in increasing the penalties, I don't know a lot about the city's legal position in this case. But having covered a number of battles between DC firefighters and the District of Columbia over the last 25 years, I can say that the firefighters have an enviable track record.
Going from memory now, I believe Local 36, with the help of the ACLU, prevailed in 3 freedom of speech cases. Also, there were the cases of the firefighters who held onto their jobs despite grooming standards limiting beards and long hair.
I have seen the union take a number of fire chiefs to court. I just don't remember seeing it happen within days after a chief took office.