City Sues Firefighter Union for Improperly Negotiating Benefits With Council

An Indiana city is suing the firefighters union claiming that benefits negotiated with the city’s Common Council are improper. City of Mishawaka filed suit against the Mishawaka Professional Firefighters Union claiming that since the city’s executive branch was “improperly excluded” from the negotiations of certain benefits, they are not enforceable.

According to the South Bend Tribune, the Common Council approved certain stipends and a reimbursement program for paramedics and EMTs as part of a pay raise for police and firefighters. Mayor Dave Wood vetoed the amendment authorizing the stipends and reimbursements, claiming his administration was left out of the process.

The council overrode the mayor’s veto, effectively adding a $50 or $100 per shift stipend to the compensation of paramedics, and a one-time reimbursement of $200 for health-related expenses, including gym memberships. When the city administration failed to implement the benefits in January, 2020, the union filed a grievance.

The city responded by filing suit St. Joseph County Circuit Court in February seeking to block the imposition of the benefits. On May 14, the union filed for binding arbitration of their grievance. That prompted the city to against file suit May 20 claiming the collective bargaining agreement mandates the union to negotiate with the executive branch, not the legislative branch.

A copy of the complaint is not available, but here is 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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