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Branson Firefighters Vote to Unionize, City Considers Next Steps

City of Branson

By a vote of 17-7, the Branson Fire Department has voted to unionize, electing the representation of the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) Local 152.

A total of 31 employees were eligible to vote in the election, which was conducted Thursday morning by the Missouri state Board of Mediation.

Shawn Martin, president of Local 152, says the next step is the verification of those results by the Board of Mediation, at which time either the union or city has 30 days in which it can appeal.

“After that point I would like to be in rebuilding that relationship with the city of Branson so that we can move forward in a positive manner,” Martin told KSMU.

In a statement, Branson City Administrator Bill Malinen said the city is “disappointed” with the outcome and will review the matter over the next few days to assess the city's options. He said those options could include “the filing of a possible appeal from an earlier ruling by the state board that Captains should be included in the bargaining unit."

“We are proud of our history of long-standing support for our employees here, and we are sorry a majority of the Fire Department employees who voted today felt the need to bring in an outside union into that process,” Malinen said.

Malinen added that objections to the election process may also be in play after the city reviews it further.

“Whatever the outcome of those possible reviews, the city's administration will continue to do what is best for the entire city and the citizens we serve," he said.

Mailinen had said that unionizing the fire department isn’t necessary because the city pays competitive wages, offers employees health insurance, and has the highest level of state LAGERS retirement program available. 

Martin says that following the vote to unionize, it’s his hope to soon begin collective bargaining with city officials, a process that could take a year or two.

“So that the employees, the benefits, the working conditions and all of that could be put in contract form so that any changes that take place – good or bad – have to be run by the membership at large so that they would be able to weigh in on that.”  

Local 152 currently represents eight fire departments in southern Missouri, according to Martin, accounting for roughly 300 total fire fighters.

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