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Branson Firefighters Will Decide Whether or Not to Unionize

City of Branson

Branson firefighters--up to the rank of captain--will decide tomorrow (5/28) whether or not to join a union.  And city officials have been vocal about opposing unionization of the fire department.  KSMU’s Michele Skalicky has more.

About two years ago, Branson firefighters approached IAFF Local 152 about possibly joining the union.  The chapter’s president, Shawn Martin, told them he would consider it if they were to get support from at least two-thirds of firefighters.  They did, and the process moved forward. 

But the city of Branson doesn’t want the firefighters to unionize.  Branson’s city administrator, Bill Malinen, said having a union come between the city and a select group of employees could be “divisive internally” and create a two-tiered wage and benefit system.

"Currently, we provide all of our employees with the same level of wages and benefits, and we have a policy handbook that helps guide them in what the expectations are," he said.

Martin believes even if firefighters vote to join a union, all employees will still be treated equally.

"By law I have a duty of what is called fair representation, so whether someone is in the union or not in the union, I have to represent their interests equally," he said.

Malinen said unionizing the fire department isn’t necessary because the city pays competitive wages, offers employees health insurance, has the highest level of state LAGERS retirement program available and continues to provide the fire department with whatever it needs.  And he said the city’s management team would have to devote time to union negotiations “that would only benefit firefighters."

"To the expense of all of the other things we could otherwise be doing," he said.

But Martin said the city’s already wasted time and money opposing unionizing the fire department.  He said unionizing would give the firefighters a collective voice in bringing any concerns forward.

"Whether it be pay and benefits, safety concerns, promotional processes, the disciplinary process or just having more open, honest and transparent communication with the City of Branson," he said.

If the firefighters vote to unionize, there would be a 30-day period in which the vote could be challenged.