Posts Tagged Chicago Firefighters Union Local 2

Chicago Fire Department news

Excerpts from the ChicagoSunTimes.com:

Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s also hopes to hammer out a new firefighters’ contract that eliminates treasured union perks and outdated staffing requirements that cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars.

Sources said she delivered her cost-cutting message in a recent face-to-face meeting with Jim Tracy, president of Chicago Firefighters Union Local 2. The mayor asked for help and cooperation from a union that gave her a pivotal endorsement during the runoff campaign against Toni Preckwinkle. Sources said the answer was no, setting the stage for contentious negotiations.

Another city hall source noted former Mayor Rahm Emanuel had been close to a new firefighters’ contract that would have traded health insurance concessions for a reduction in daily variances from the minimum manning requirement that triggered the bitter 1980 firefighters strike. That rule requires every piece of fire apparatus to be staffed by at least five firefighters. But time ran out before the deal got done.

“If the union was smart, they would have grabbed that deal. But they got greedy. They wanted 15% over five years,” the source said.

Emanuel took office in 2011 talking even tougher than Lightfoot is now. He vowed to take a hard line with firefighters — though his own fire commissioner opposed closing fire houses or reducing the minimum staffing requirement. Four months later, then-Fire Commissioner Robert Hoff abruptly resigned, leaving firefighters without a champion.

Emanuel infuriated Local 2 by taking aim at such treasured union perks as holiday and duty availability pay; clothing allowances; pay grades; premium pay; the physical fitness incentive and the 7% premium paid to cross-trained firefighter/paramedics. The plan did not include closing fire stations, but it would have allowed all fire houses with an engine and truck to be staffed by nine firefighters instead of 10. Rookie probation would have doubled to 18 months.

In a letter to the rank and file, then-union president Tom Ryan declared Emanuel’s plan horrendous, insulting and ridiculous. Ryan dug in for what he feared would be a long and bitter battle that never happened. Emanuel backed off and settled for a vanilla agreement with no cost-cutting concessions.

For years, Inspector General Joe Ferguson has urged the city to revisit the minimum staffing requirement and eliminate a host of contract sweeteners. Ferguson had estimated annual savings of $57 million if the number of firefighters on each piece of fire apparatus was cut from five to four, and that another $14.3 million could be saved yearly by eliminating“duty availability pay — compensation for being on 24-hour call.

The mayor’s city council floor leader argued Tuesday that every option now must be on the table, including closing firehouses, to chip away at the city’s $838 million shortfall. “If the need for firefighters vs. EMTs has changed, we need to change the formula. There are no sacred cows anymore. They’ve all gone out to pasture.”

Excerpts from cltv.com:

Mayor Lori Lightfoot stood surrounded by firefighters at a solemn 9/11 remembrance Wednesday, an image in stark contrast to her reported private fight with them. She used the event as a backdrop to slam a Chicago Sun-Times report claiming that she went to the Union Local 2 demanding cost-cutting, and the union said no.

“That reporting was wildly inaccurate and I’m personally offended that it came out on 9/11. This is a day of unity. This is a day that we should be standing together,” Lightfoot said. “I’m disturbed at the inaccuracies in that reporting.”

She is in the process of negotiating contracts with unions representing Chicago’s firefighters, police officers, and teachers. Each powerful group is likely to secure pay raises as a condition of signing new deals.

Facing a staggering $838 million budget deficit, the mayor is looking for savings and efficiencies. This week she said the city can’t afford police overtime expenses, which soared to $67.6 million the first six months of the year.

She may also comb through the fire department’s budget, and costly minimum staffing requirements.

The city council floor leader says the unions must partner with the city.

There’s no comment from the firefighters’ union, but former firefighter and Alderman Nick Sposato said minimum staffing requirements are essential. But he admitted there could be room for some cuts.

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Chicago Fire Department news

Excerpts from the ChicagoSun-Times.com:

Jim Tracy, a veteran business agent, beat out former Chicago Firefighters Union Local 2 President Dan Fabrizio for the open seat vacated by the retirement of three-term union president Tom Ryan. Both candidates were union insiders and members of the executive board. Jim Tracy was the 4th District business agent. Fabrizio was in charge of political action.

His campaign poster highlights nine promises that include: providing immediate relief for 300 retired members without Medicare or other health insurance; putting five more advanced life support ambulances in service; restoring the paramedic clothing allowance so they can buy a bulletproof vest; and establishing a paramedicine division of the Fire Prevention Bureau.

He also promised to: stop runaway legal bills suddenly an extra $300,000-a-year; allow retired members ages 60 to 63 to rescind their furloughs for their buyout; lower the threshold to 25 years of service to earn a so-called Grandpa Day, awarded as an extra furlough day to the most senior members (it is now 26 or 27 years); activate a post-retirement medical savings plan; get firefighters and paramedics out of the Chicago Healthy Lives Program.

The poster also brands as inexcusable, ill-advised or disappointing decisions made by the Ryan regime or under the retiring president’s watch. They include: prosecuting seven union members; not bringing a 16 percent raise to the board, and not going to arbitration to get our pension millions of dollars owed.

The changing of the guard at Local 2 comes at a time when the union is gearing up to negotiate another contract.

Five years ago, Emanuel took aim at treasured union perks that included the clothing allowance; holiday and duty-availability pay; pay grades; premium pay; non-duty lay-up coverage; a physical fitness incentive and a 7 percent premium paid to cross-trained firefighter-paramedics.

The mayor subsequently backed away from all of those concession demands in a pre-election contract that won him the surprise endorsement of Local 2, a union that had endorsed mayoral challenger Gery Chico over Emanuel in 2011.

The contract that expires June 30 called for Chicago firefighters, paramedics and emergency medical technicians to get an 11 percent pay raise over five years, but ended free health care for those who retire between the ages of 55 and 65.

Ryan returned the favor by signing on to a deal that gave Chicago 15 more years to ramp up to a 90 percent funding level for police and fire pensions. Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed that bill. But three Republican crossover votes helped Emanuel overturn the governor’s veto.

Now, Emanuel is under pressure to get tough with the union again.

Last year, Inspector General Joe Ferguson concluded that Chicago taxpayers were shelling out $5 million a year to provide a uniform allowance to firefighters that’s more like an automatic cash bonus because it’s completely unmoored from any determination of actual need or use.

Ald. Nick Sposato (38th), a former Chicago firefighter, noted that the minimum-manning requirement that triggered the 1980 firefighters strike will not expire until 2019. All other aspects of the union contract will be negotiated this year.

 

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Chicago Fire Department news

Excerpts from the ChicagoSunTimes.com:

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration and the Chicago Firefighters Union Local 2 are blaming each other for a broken promise to add at least five ambulances by July 1, 2016.

“As part of the side letter with Local 2, the fire department and union agreed they would form a six- person committee to come to a consensus on the placement of the five new ambulances,” mayoral spokesperson Julienn Kaviar wrote in an email.

“The fire department sent a letter in January of 2015 to the union president and has not received the union’s appointments to the committee.”

Even without that committee, sources said the Chicago Fire Department forged ahead with an internal study to determine locations for the five new ambulances that has narrowed the list of possible sites to fewer than fifteen.

Ald. Nick Sposato (38th), a former Chicago firefighter, agreed that the ambulance expansion he championed got lost in the shuffle, in part because of the shortage of paramedics.

“There is no how, no way if they put five more ambulances out there that they would be able to man ’em because they don’t have enough paramedics,” Sposato said.

“All of these paramedics are making a ton of money because they’re working a day, off a day, working a day, off a day. That’s a brutal schedule for paramedics because they pretty much take a beating out there. If they’re in busier ambulances, they’re doing 20-to-25 runs-a-day, four or five runs after midnight.”

Sposato noted that a class of 50 paramedics started their ten weeks of training this week and another class of 50 is scheduled to start in June. A third class may follow this fall.

The five-year firefighters contract that expires on June 30 included a dramatic upgrade in emergency medical care — by ending Chicago’s two-tiered system of ambulance service.

Instead, all 15 of Chicago’s basic-life-support ambulances were converted to advanced-life-support, giving Chicago 75 ambulances.

The move freed up the equivalent of 30 firefighters, since each one of the city’s BLS ambulances were staffed by a pair of firefighter-EMT’s. At the same time, the city agreed to hire more paramedics — anywhere from 50 to 200.

The contract also included a side-letter promising to appoint a six-member ambulance expansion committee — with three appointees from both the city and Local 2 — within 60 days of contract ratification.

Last month, veteran paramedics accused Emanuel and their own union leaders of dropping the ball on a promised ambulance expansion they claim is desperately needed. The wave of paramedic hiring promised during negotiations hasn’t happened either, veteran paramedics said.

During the first six months of last year, the fire department had already spent $26 million on overtime. That’s 86.6 percent of its overtime budget for the entire year.

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Chicago Fire Department news

Excerpts from the ChicagoSunTimes.com:

Rank-and-file firefighters and paramedics were informed this week that Tom Ryan, their leader for the last nine years, is calling it quits as president of the Chicago Firefighters Union Local 2. He’s not running for re-election. He retired in November after 34 years as a Chicago firefighter.

Instead, former Union President Dan Fabrizio, who’s now serving as legislative director for Local 2, will face off against business agent Jim Tracy.

The changing of the guard at Local 2 comes as the union gears up to negotiate another contract.

Five years ago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel took aim at treasured union perks that included the clothing allowance; holiday and duty-availability pay; pay grades; premium pay; non-duty lay-up coverage; a physical fitness incentive and a 7-percent premium paid to cross-trained firefighter-paramedics.

The mayor subsequently backed away from all of those concession demands in a pre-election contract that won him the surprise endorsement of Local 2, a union that had endorsed mayoral challenger Gery Chico over Emanuel in 2011.

The contract that expires June 30 called for Chicago firefighters, paramedics and emergency medical technicians to get an 11 percent pay raise over five years, but ends free health care for those who retire between the ages of 55 and 65.

Ryan returned the favor by signing on to a deal that gave Chicago 15 more years to ramp up to a 90 percent funding level for police and fire pensions.

Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed that bill. But three Republican crossover votes helped Emanuel overturn the governor’s veto. Now, Emanuel is under pressure to get tough with the union again.

Last year, Inspector General Joe Ferguson concluded that Chicago taxpayers were shelling out $5 million-a-year to provide a uniform allowance to firefighters and paramedics that’s more like an “automatic cash bonus” because it’s “completely unmoored from any determination of actual need or use.”

The uniform allowance — $1,250 or $1,500, depending on the assignment — is supposed to be used for the maintenance and cleaning of uniforms.

In his audit, Ferguson compared uniform issuances, exchanges and allowances at the Chicago Fire Department to similar spending in New York City, Philadelphia, Toronto, Dallas, San Diego and Indianapolis. The CFD issued fewer dress and work uniform items to new hires than most other cities and spent less per employee than any other city surveyed.

But, that comparative advantage is more than offset by an annual uniform allowance that is among the most generous in the nation, Ferguson concluded.

In yet another audit, Ferguson concluded that the fire department could save at least $1.2 million a year and potentially millions more in overtime by hiring civilians to perform 34 administrative jobs that have nothing to do with firefighting or emergency medical service.

One of the slots listed as a potential civilian position was the job of commissary liaison, charged with resolving uniform exchange disputes between members and the outside vendor. The job is currently filled by a fire department captain.

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Chicago Fire Department news

Excerpts from the ChicagoSunTimes.com:

More than 2,300 people have signed a petition criticizing Chicago Fire Commissioner Jose Santiago in connection with the suspension of a lieutenant for refusing an order.

 Lt. Steven Spallina refused an order to send members of the fire department into an area where he suspected they might come into contact with Ebola, the deadly disease, according to union officials.

Spallina was suspended for 60 days, but on July 12, arbitrator Jacalyn Zimmerman overturned the discipline. She ruled he was not guilty of insubordination the union said in a recent letter to members.

The letter said Zimmerman decided Spallina could disagree with an order he believed would endanger the health and safety of him or other employees, the union said.

“We were recently informed that the department is going to seek to have the arbitrator’s decision overturned on the basis that it is against public policy — that the firefighters would stop doing their inherently dangerous jobs because of this decision,” the letter said.

On Sept. 21, the executive board of Chicago Fire Fighters Union Local 2 declared a vote of no confidence in Santiago and urged members to sign a petition expressing disappointment “in the CFD’s decision to challenge this final and binding arbitration award,” according to the letter.

In a text message, Tom Ryan, president of the union, told the Chicago Sun-Times: “Local 2 is expected to honor arbitrator’s rulings — good or bad. Arbitrator Zimmerman was very clear in her ruling that Lt. Spallina was vindicated and should be made whole. The petition is in response to this CFD action.”

The union represents the city’s 4,645 rank-and-file firefighters and paramedics. It’s unclear how many of the signatures on the petition belong to members of the Chicago Fire Department.

Chicago Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford refused to comment on the petition drive. Instead, he issued an emailed statement defending Santiago’s decision to order a lengthy suspension.

“Lt. Spallina was given a 60-day suspension for insubordination after not following a direct order,” Langford wrote. “We continue to evaluate our legal options and the decision has not yet been made on whether to appeal the arbitrator’s decision.”

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Chicago Fire Department news

Chicago Firefighters Union Local 2 message Chicago Firefighters Union Local 2 message

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Chicago inspector general attacks CFD uniform allowance

Excerpts from the ChicagoSunTimes.com:

Chicago taxpayers are shelling out $5 million-a-year to provide a uniform allowance to firefighters that’s more like an automatic cash bonus because it’s completely unmoored from any determination of actual need or use, Inspector General Joe Ferguson concluded Wednesday.

Four years ago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel took aim at treasured union perks that included the clothing allowance; holiday and duty-availability pay; pay grades; premium pay; non-duty lay-up coverage; a physical fitness incentive and a 7-percent premium paid to cross-trained firefighter-paramedics.

The mayor subsequently backed away from all of those concession demands in a pre-election contract that won him the surprise endorsement of a Chicago Firefighters Union Local 2 that had endorsed mayoral challenger Gery Chico over Emanuel in 2011.

The new, five-year contract called for Chicago firefighters, paramedics and emergency medical technicians to get an 11-percent pay raise over five years, but ends free health care for those who retire between the ages of 55 and 65.

Now, Inspector General Joe Ferguson is taking aim at that uniform allowance in an audit that examined the “issuance, exchange and repair of uniform items” at the Chicago Fire Department’s Commissary.  That’s a storefront run by an outside contractor that issues and sells uniforms under a five-year, $11.7 million contract that expires in 2019.

The city provides free uniforms and free replacements on an exchange basis, unless items are lost or stolen, damaged beyond repair due to employee negligence or excessive weight fluctuations.

The uniform allowance — $1,250 or $1,500, depending on the assignment — is supposed to be used for the maintenance and cleaning of uniforms.

In his audit, Ferguson compared uniform issuances, exchanges and allowances at the Chicago Fire Department to similar spending in New York City, Philadelphia, Toronto, Dallas, San Diego, and Indianapolis.

The Chicago Fire Department issued fewer dress and work uniform items to new hires than most other cities and spent less per-employee than any other city surveyed. But, that comparative advantage is more than offset by an annual uniform allowance that is among the most generous in the nation, Ferguson concluded.

“Purportedly provided to pay for the annual maintenance and cleaning of uniforms, the allowance is completely unmoored from any determination of actual need or use,” Ferguson wrote.

“In addition, CFD does not monitor or audit how [or for what] members spend their allowance once it’s disbursed. As a result, this substantial annual stipend, one of the most generous in the nation, more closely resembles an automatic cash bonus. It therefore merits rigorous scrutiny and reassessment in the context of the city’s 2017 bargaining round with Local 2. … The sizable uniform allowance given to CFD personnel represents an additional opportunity for improved budgetary transparency, accountability and savings.”

In the audit, Ferguson examined 58,257 transactions valued at $1.7 million over a one-year period ending on June 30, 2015 and found that 99.9 percent of those transactions adhered to department policy and management practices.

But, he also found that $535,757 — or 10.5 percent — of commissary expenditures made in 2012 and 2013 “came from a grant source that was not included in the budget proposal or appropriation” for the vendor-run store.

The Chicago Fire Department said that was an historical practice that it intends to change in the future to provide more transparency.

Fire Commissioner Jose Santiago has also made other changes in response to the audit. They include prohibiting firefighters and paramedics from procuring uniform items for other members and modifying the point during training at which candidate paramedics are measured for an receive uniform items to reduce spending on candidate for subsequently drop out.

In addition, the commissary vendor is now required to review past usage of individual members at the time of new transactions to reduce the risk of excessive purchases or exchanges.

Earlier this year, Ferguson concluded that the fire department could save at least $1.2 million a year and potentially millions more in overtime by hiring civilians to perform 34 administrative jobs that have nothing to do with firefighting or emergency medical service.

One of the positions targeted for civilianization was the job of commissary liaison charged with resolving uniform exchange disputes between members and the outside vendor. The job is currently filled by a CFD captain, the new audit states.

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Firefighters sue over excessive noise from sirens (more)

Excerpts from the ChicagoTribune.com:

During 38 years as a Chicago firefighter, George Beary regularly heard the emergency sirens as he rode on the back of the firetruck. Since his retirement in 2005, Beary, the chairman of a committee of retired Chicago firefighters, said he suffers from tinnitus, a condition that causes ringing or buzzing in the ears.

Beary, former vice president of Chicago Firefighters Union Local 2, is among about 4,400 current and former firefighters nationwide who are suing Federal Signal, an Oak Brook-based company that makes sirens, claiming it didn’t do enough to make them safer for those on firetrucks. Since 1999, Beary said he and about 700 Chicago firefighters have filed suit. Some have been settled or ruled on, but the vast majority, about 500, are still open.

Firefighters contend the company could have designed sirens in a way that directs the volume away from areas where firefighters sit in the engines, shielding them from sound blasts that lawyers say reach 120 decibels, roughly equivalent to a rock concert.

Federal Signal argues that directing the sound defeats one of the main purposes of a siren — to warn motorists and pedestrians that a truck is coming. And it says it has long supported what many departments have advised their firefighters to do: wear ear protection.

David Duffy, attorney for Federal Signal, said studies measuring the level of noise firefighters are exposed to during their work shifts, including sirens, is on average below 85 decibels.

The lawsuits, which began surfacing more than a decade ago, have been in places such as New York, Philadelphia, Boston, New Jersey and the Chicago area, said attorney Marc Bern, who’s leading all of them. In documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company said juries have decided in favor of Federal Signal in most of the half-dozen or so suits that have gone to trial.

The company also has settled in some cases without admitting any wrongdoing. The largest settlement, reached in 2011, required the company to pay $3.6 million to 1,069 firefighters for cases filed in Philadelphia.

Federal standards take into account the intensity of the sound and the duration. The higher the decibel level, the shorter the time workers can be exposed to it. Rick Neitzel, who studies noise and other exposures at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, said the standards are geared to traditional jobs like manufacturing, not firefighting, where shifts can last longer and the exposure is intermittent but intense.

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Chicago FF contract passes city council

Politics Early & Often has an article on the city’s approval of the new CFD contract:

Chicago will get a dramatic upgrade in ambulance care — and firefighters will get $32 million in back pay — under a five-year contract approved Wednesday that opens the door to even higher pay raises.

The agreement ratified by the City Council guarantees 4,645 firefighters, paramedics and emergency medical technicians an 11 percent pay raise over five years, but ends free health care for those who retire between the ages of 55 and 65. After Dec. 31, those retirees will be forced to contribute 2 percent of their annuities toward the cost of their health insurance until they’re eligible for Medicare.

The pre-Medicare fee for retiree health care was one of the only givebacks Mayor Rahm Emanuel was able to wring out of Local 2. The mayor came up empty on his laundry list that took aim at treasured union perks such as holiday and duty-availability pay; clothing allowance; pay grades; premium pay; non-duty lay-up coverage; the physical fitness incentive; and the 7-percent premium paid to cross-trained firefighter-paramedics. Nor did the union agree to Emanuel’s plan to have “double houses” — stations with both engines and trucks — to be staffed by nine firefighters instead of 10.

All 15 of Chicago’s basic-life-support ambulances will be converted to advanced-life-support, giving Chicago 75 ambulances capable of administering the most sophisticated level of care. The decision to end a two-tiered emergency medical system that paramedics have called a dismal failure follows investigations by Inspector General Joe Ferguson, WBBM-TV and the Better Government Association. All three concluded Chicago needs more advanced-life-support ambulances to consistently meet response-time standards.The 15 basic-life-support ambulances are expected to be converted to advanced in September.

The 11-percent pay raise is only a “floor.” If the Illinois General Assembly mandates a pension contribution higher than the current 9.12 percent, the Chicago Firefighters Union Local 2 can negotiate an even bigger pay raise.

Workforce Development Committee Chairman Pat O’Connor (40th) has acknowledged that the contract’s $80 million pricetag is almost certain to rise “if the state [pension] law changes—and we anticipate that it would.” But he rose on the City Council floor to praise Chicago Firefighters Union Local 2 for coming to the bargaining table in good faith and avoiding the financial wildcard of interest arbitration, where the cost to Chicago taxpayers could have been even higher. O’Connor noted that it’s the first time in recent history that firefighters have settled their contract before Chicago Police officers.

The $32 million in back pay is already tucked away in the mayor’s 2014 budget and will not require additional borrowing. It must be paid within 75 days of next week’s final City Council vote.

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2014 Illinois Firefighter Medal of Honor Ceremony award recipients

This from Dennis McGuire, Jr:

The 21st Annual Illinois Fallen Firefighter Memorial and Firefighter Medal of Honor Ceremony will be held Tuesday, May 6, 2014 in Springfield, IL. The following are Chicago Fire Department Local 2 members who will be receiving awards at this year’s ceremony.

Certificate of Recognition Award

            Firefighter/EMT Edtismond Johnson, T40

           Firefighter/Paramedic Joseph White, III, E38

 

Firefighter Excellence Award

            Firefighter/EMT Sean Butler, E56

            Firefighter/EMT Jason Flores, T13

            Fire Paramedic Edward Gilbridge, A21

            Firefighter/Paramedic Anthony Licato, E93

            Engineer/EMT John Meade, E101

            Firefighter Robert Murphy, T15

 

Medal of Valor Award

            Firefighter/EMT Joseph Atkins, Sqd 5

            Firefighter/EMT Cedric Collins, ASR

            Firefighter/EMT Michael Diete, T11

            Lieutenant/EMT Ronald Ellingsen, T12

            Captain/EMT Alfred Kiefer, Headquarters 

            Firefighter/EMT Kevin Martin, T15

            Firefighter John McClorey, ASR

            Firefighter John Veller, E38

 

Medal of Honor Award

            Lieutenant/EMT John Majka, E93

            Firefighter Michael Kappel, T56

            Captain/EMT Mauricio Rodriguez, E116

            Firefighter/EMT James Wagner, ASR

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