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This Is Why Talking About What A Union Does For Workers Matters: Ohio’s ‘Intermittent’ Firefighters Rush To Sign Up For Full Membership In AFSCME After Learning How The Union Can Help Them

Published Wednesday, March 2, 2016
by Michael Byrne/

(THE STATE OF OHIO) - What happens when you get nearly 100 intermittent Firefighters in a room - half of whom are Fee Payers and not full-fledged Members - and you tell them about the plan to strengthen the Union against Anti-Union zealots trying to use the Supreme Court to undermine public services and the Workers who provide them?

It turns out that these Firefighters - Members of other Unions who fight fires in towns and cities across Ohio, but who are also State-Employed Firefighter Trainers through the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association (OCSEA)/American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 11 - were ready, willing and able to sign up for full AFSCME Membership.

“We had (48) Fee Payers who ‘immediately signed up’ to be Members,” said Greg Wells, who serves as a Vice President with his International Association of Fire Fighters Local and who is a top instructor at the Fire Training Academy. “These are ‘all strong Union Members’ who ‘didn’t understand why we weren’t’ full-fledged Union Members at the state level.”

Wells said many of the trainers didn’t realize they could be AFSCME Strong as intermittent Firefighters, since the state has used the intermittent title to describe Part-Time or Seasonal Workers who have few rights.

“We didn’t know we had a ‘strong Union behind us’ at the state level,” he said.

In fact, the intermittent label is especially inappropriate for this group of Firefighters, since they tended to be the most experienced and best trained in the state.

That’s why they’d been tapped to get certification to train other Firefighters.

“There were ‘a lot of our trainers who didn’t even know we could file a grievance through OCSEA,’ because we have different schedules and ‘not as much contact with each other’ and with OCSEA,” Wells said. “The Union ‘protects our jobs and negotiates for better pay and benefits,’ so ‘once that was clear - everybody understood the value’ of signing up as Members.”

Once again, the value of being a full-fledged Member of AFSCME became crystal clear to the Public Safety Officers once they got the information.

That’s why conversations about being in a Union go a long way.

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