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Twp. firefighters reject union

January 23, 2013 - Brandon Twp.- Township firefighters have voted against becoming a union department.

All ten full-time firefighters voted in the election, with seven voting no on joining the International Association of Firefighters and three voting yes.

"Obviously with the results of the election, the majority of the firefighters feel we have enough say in our future and we hope the township continues to support the fire department," said BFD Sgt./Medic Billy Starr.

Fire Chief David Kwapis had no comment.

The January election was held after at least three firefighters approached Terry Chesney, secretary-treasurer for the Michigan Professional Firefighters Union, expressing an interest in learning more about the IAFF and the process to join.

The IAFF currently represents 126 fire departments in Michigan with full-time firefighters, Chesney said, and assists them with the tools, information, and training to negotiate with their employers, including the ability to bargain as a group for wages, hours, and conditions of employment.

Currently, wages and benefits for firefighters, like other township employees, are determined by the township board. There have been several changes to healthcare benefits for both current township employees, as well as retirees, in recent years, as the township board seeks ways to cut costs.

"I don't think (the no vote) had anything do to with our union—they were happy with their situation and didn't feel they needed it," said Chesney.

"Oftentimes, people think the only reason to join a union is for better wages or benefits, but that is not always true. It's nice to belong to an organization that your brother and sister firefighters belong to… I suspect it's not a dead issue forever. Sometime in the future they may want to consider it again, but for now they do not."

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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