Omaha Firefighters Lose Bad Faith Bargaining Claim

The Nebraska Commission of Industrial Relations has ruled that the city of Omaha did not commit an unfair labor practice in bargaining with its firefighters. IAFF Local 385 filed a complaint with the Commission last August accusing the city of bargaining in bad faith.

The case arose when the Omaha city council refused to ratify a negotiated agreement between Mayor Jim Suttle and Local 385, and sought additional concessions including a shorter term and changes in health care. The firefighters alleged that the city engaged merely in “surface bargaining”, as opposed to bargaining in good faith.

While admitting the facts presented a “close case”, the Commission concluded on Tuesday that the firefighters did not present “sufficient evidence to establish that the City Council acted to hinder, delay or string out the process or to frustrate or bypass the union.”

In a statement that goes to the general state of collective bargaining in the US fire service, the commission wrote: “the most telling aspect of the case before us is the amount of acrimony between the parties. Rather than engage in meaningful negotiations with an eye toward reaching an agreement, the parties are interacting in an atmosphere of distrust, frustration, acrimony and almost constant litigation.”

Here is a copy of the Commission’s ruling.

More on the story.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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