Thursday afternoonPlymouth Firefighter Austin Bragg welcomed those attending the official announcement that the Plymouth full-timers in the firehouse unionizing. He said, “This is kind of a culmination of an effort to establish ourselves as a professional firefighter’s union.”
Bragg said, “We hope to use this as a launching point to continue to give back to our community, work with the city, and continue to have good working conditions like we have had up to this point.”
Tony Murray, President of the Professional Firefighters Union of Indiana was on hand to present the 18 original members with their formal charter and Challenge Coin. The result of months of work will now be known as Plymouth Professional Firefighters Local 5443. Murry said with the creation of the Plymouth Local, the Professional Firefighters Union of Indiana now represents 87 locals across Indiana which is about 8,500 active and retired firefighters, paramedics, and EMTs.
Plymouth will be part of the 8th District which includes 5 states, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Kentucky, and Ohio.
Murray said, “Part of the work we do is to represent you and our members at the Indiana State House among 150 lawmakers that we work with to develop laws and policies that affect our work and our ability to respond to emergencies right here in Plymouth.” Plymouth was awarded one of four regional training centers in expansion and Murry said the Professional Fire Fighters Union of Indiana worked very hard in the legislature and with the governor’s office to expand the footprint of training.
Murray said, “We welcome you into this group. This is the next step in professionalizing our profession.” He continued, “It’s a proud moment to join over 330,000 of our brothers and sisters that do the same job that you do here, all across this country, and taking a step forward to help have a say and a seat at the table about the future of our career as firefighters, EMTs and paramedics in this country and to help advance the fire service in many ways.”
When asked what the impact of unionizing will do to their relationship with the city, Austin Bragg, President of Local 5443 said, “Essentially there is little to no change today. Our hope is, we’ve been blessed with a good partnership with the city. They provide us with good salaries, good benefits. There are a lot of good people working on behalf of the fire department under the assistance of Chief Holm, so those discussions don’t really change much. Our hope is that over time we continue to find ways to give back to the community but also be able to bring information to the table when there are times when we are looking for new equipment, new salary, and new benefits. We want to make sure as professional firefighters we are at the forefront of that information. We want to get to the meetings that help us understand what we should be looking out for and continue to have a good line of communication with the city.”
Bragg said the Plymouth Fire Fighters Union wasn’t formed out of malice, it wasn’t formed out of frustration, it was simply a good time to unionize when relationships are good. He said, “As far as our day-to-day operations with the city, we still operate under their contract of employment. We don’t have a bargaining agreement at this time, so it doesn’t change anything about our day-to-day employment. Everything that we gain through discussions with the city is going to have to be mutually beneficial. It’s going to come through discussions and a little give and take but traditionally it’s not very different than what happens now, but instead of just having a chief go there to voice our concerns about the things we are looking for, we can also have a voice as employees and as a Local to support that idea. Hopefully, it continues to be a good positive thing for our community.”
Mr. Murray said, “One of the things remarkable about Indiana is the Indiana Hoosier common sense that transcends into the fire department and EMS and emergency services. The greatest thing that really comes from formalizing a relationship is bringing together labor and management. To have a relationship and discussion to deal with issues.”
Bragg said he wants the community to understand that the Plymouth Fire Department has always had a traditionally strong volunteer fire department and that still remains intact. He said, “As the volunteers have their relationship with the Volunteer Firefighters Association in the state, now the career side of this department will have our relationship with the professional side of things.” Local 5443 President said, “Hopefully it just remains a continued operation where we support them, and they support us as it has traditionally been.”
Charter members are Austin Bragg, Jesus Garcia, Keegan Holland, Steve Holm, Christopher Todd, Michael Jernstrom, Chad Kinney, Zach Marquardt, Paul Mathewson, Daren Miller, Heath Neidig, Lisa Richards and Justyn Wade.