Archive for January 8th, 2016

North Riverside considers privatizing the fire department (more)

Excerpts from

Despite the fact that both sides appear to remain far apart and a resolution is still beyond the horizon, North Riverside’s mayor and the leadership of the North Riverside Firefighters’ Union have been meeting informally over the past couple of months, trying to find something that resembles common ground.

Mayor Hubert Hermanek said last week that he has met with the union’s president, Rick Urbinati, eight times in recent months. It’s been 18 months since Hermanek rolled out a plan to privatize the village’s fire protection services, where union firefighters would be phased out and replaced with paramedic/firefighters supplied by Paramedic Services of Illinois (PSI).

Hermanek had hoped to save hundreds of thousands of dollars in mounting pension obligations with the move. The deal also would have eliminated a source of aggravation for Hermanek and the majority VIP Party, who the firefighters’ union publicly opposed in the 2013 and 2015 elections. The firefighters’ union has also filed numerous grievances against the village over the years.

In mid-December, Hermanek and North Riverside Finance Director Sue Scarpiniti were called to testify in front of an Illinois Labor Relations Board arbitrator as part of an unfair labor practice complaint lodged by the union against the village related to the privatization plan. Hermanek, who was grilled by attorneys for about three hours, characterized the four-day hearing as “combative and unpleasant.”

It’s unclear when the arbitrator will issue a recommended solution to the complaint, which alleged that the village did not and had no plans to negotiate a new union contract in good faith.

In the meantime, the village is waiting to hear from the Illinois Court of Appeals, which is considering an appeal filed by the village in the wake of a Cook County Circuit Court judge’s ruling in October that she didn’t have jurisdiction to rule on North Riverside’s lawsuit, which sought to terminate the union contract unilaterally.

As the waiting game continues, Hermanek and Urbinati say they’ll continue to meet to see if there’s some sort of solution that can be reached in order to tamp down the contentious environment that’s existed for more than two years now.

What Hermanek would like to do is cut a deal with the union that would allow the village to save money by not replacing three firefighter positions that have become vacant in the past year or so, through one retirement and two terminations. Hermanek said he’d like to be able to replace those positions with paid-on-call firefighters. Doing so would allow the village to avoid new pension obligations and avoid paying overtime to union firefighters.

However, the union’s position, according to their attorney, J. Dale Berry, is that the village is not allowed to staff its fire department — including its paramedics — in any way other than what’s required by state law. According to Berry, civil service rules were tightened in 2011, upgrading hiring standards for firefighters and paramedics. “The only way they can staff it is by hiring from a competitive list [of potential employees],” said Berry. Those rules can be the subject of contract discussions, said Berry, but “they have to negotiate that.”

When the village filed its lawsuit to privatize the department in September 2014, one of the key arguments was that the village ought to be able to terminate its contract with the union unilaterally after reaching an impasse in negotiations. But with almost every decision in court going against the village during the past 18 months, it appears that the village is extending an olive branch by Hermanek holding informal private talks with union leaders.

Both Urbinati and Berry said that a solution is possible. “We can settle this in a reasonable way,” Berry said, “but [the village] ha[s] to acknowledge they’re covered by the law.”

thanks Dan

a complete summary of articles on this topic can be found HERE

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African American Firefighter and Paramedic League of Chicago calls for resignations

Excerpts from

Some black firefighters and paramedics in Chicago are calling for Mayor Rahm Emanuel to oust Fire Commissioner Jose Santiago and for the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the Chicago Fire Department. The mayor added the department of justice already oversees CFD’s promotions testing since 1980. He says the city has been working with DOJ and will continue to do so.

The African American Firefighters & Paramedics League claims there’s still racism within the CFD, despite a court order to hire and promote black firefighters.

The Chicago Fire Department has a well-documented history of discriminatory hiring. Recent class action lawsuits have resulted in minorities and women becoming firefighters. But some say heavy handed discipline and missed promotions are disproportionately affecting African Americans in the department.

It is rare that a firefighter would speak against the department. But on Thursday, some representing Chicago’s African American firefighters and paramedics made some disturbing allegations. “We have systemic racism within the Chicago Fire Department,” said James Winbush, African American Firefighters & Paramedics League.

They want the Department of Justice to investigate hiring and promotion within the department, and they want the fire commissioner out. “We’ve met with him for five years, the league has met with him, we’ve had all kinds of discussions with him. He says one thing, he does something absolutely different,” Winbush said.

On Thursday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel noted changes that have been made to address past injustices in hiring and he stands behind Commissioner Santiago. The mayor and commissioner emphasize equal treatment and equal opportunity are critically important.

Despite African American applicants going through the academy following class action lawsuits, those here today allege that problems exist.

“Despite my degrees, despite my work history and also my experience, I still found myself being demoted and not treated fairly,” said Vickie Beals, a CFD ambulance commander.

A recent incident, they say, was how a station with a majority of African American firefighters was treated after concerns about bedbugs. New beds were delivered as the league held its press conference Thursday.

“We’re not asking for a handout, we are just asking for equality,” said Gregory Boggs, African American Firefighters & Paramedics.

thanks Dan

Excerpts from

There is a renewed call for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to resign, this time from some firefighters.

James Winbush, founder of the African American Firefighter and Paramedic League of Chicago, says there are unfair hiring practices within the fire department and is calling on the resignation of Fire Commissioner Jose Santiago as well as Mayor Emanuel.

“Mayor Rahm Emanuel, we need him out of here. He needs to be gone. He’s racist, he’s incompetent, he’s a union buster,” Winbush said.

Of Chicago’s 4,800 firefighters, Winbush says 753 are Black.

Winbush wants the U.S. Department of Justice, which is investigating the police department, to look into hiring practices at the fire department.

thanks Asher

Excerpts from

An organization representing African-American firefighters and paramedics on Thursday asked the U.S. Department of Justice to expand its probe of the Chicago Police Department to include the fire department, saying hiring and disciplinary practices there are unfair.

The African-American Firefighters & Paramedics League of Chicago also demanded that Mayor Rahm Emanuel dismiss Fire Commissioner Jose Santiago, alleging that Santiago has failed to investigate claims that minority firefighters are disciplined and demoted unjustly.

“We have to address the fact that there have been so few minority hirings on the job,” league President Gregory Boggs, a lieutenant emergency medical technician, said at a news conference. “We want the Justice Department to come in before any new hiring is done. African-Americans are being disciplined much more often than anyone else. We’re calling on the mayor to do something about this.”

Fire departments across the country have long struggled with race and hiring. And although Chicago’s department is led by a Hispanic, he has not addressed the discrimination and bias that still exists, the firefighters contend.

The Chicago Fire Department has been sued numerous times and has been ordered by judges to change hiring practices to be more inclusive. Of the nearly 4,800 Chicago firefighters, 16.5 percent are African-American, said Larry Langford, a spokesman for the department. About 13.5 percent of the firefighters are Hispanic, and the vast majority — about 64.5 percent — are white.

“There are no restrictions on who can apply for this job,” he said. “We aren’t excluding anybody. What else can we change to be more inclusive?”

The written exam to apply to be a firefighter is given about once every decade. More than 40,000 applicants sat for the test, even though only a few hundred will be hired. Those who pass the exam are issued a random number, placed on a waiting list and offered a chance to be hired if their number is called.

About three dozen black firefighters and paramedics attended the news conference to tell their personal stories.

Capt. Carmelita Wiley-Earls said she joined the department to help the public and was able to rise to become an academy commander. But after complaining about sexist behavior in her firehouse, she said, she was moved from her administrative position.

“There’s no one that held that position prior who had ever been demoted,” she said. “I am sick of putting my uniform on every day, going to a firehouse to represent and serve the citizens of Chicago, only to be retaliated (against) on various fronts.”

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2015 fire scene video compilation

This from Code Photography:

Here is a video recap of all the scenes we were at in 2015.

-Code Photography

All photos: 

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