Circa 1995: Initiated by Lee Kauss, a petition was circulated amongst the firefighters to show support for a fellow employee who had been dismissed. One year later he was reinstated. This gave the group its first taste of the benefits of a unified voice. Shortly thereafter an impromptu “E-Board” was organized to address employee concerns with management. The original members were Lee Kauss, Jim Madeya, Mike Plunkett, Bob Schacht, Scott Laird and Chuck Williams (later Dale Stephens).
Summer 1998: With the support of Phoenix area fire departments, Rural Metro firefighters in Maricopa County were allowed to organize under the IAFF banner; a move which surprised many considering the contentious history between the IAFF and Rural Metro. Nevertheless, progress was being made and the group anticipated inclusion into the “brotherhood” was forthcoming.
Meetings were held with Chris Medrea, the President of the Professional Firefighters Association at the time, who advised the group on how to proceed. Efforts were hampered when the Tucson chapter of the IAFF, Local 479, inexplicably made it clear that they would block any attempts by the Rural Metro firefighters in Pima County to organize under the auspices of the IAFF. Medrea advised the group to move ahead with organizing as an employee association in an effort to demonstrate our legitimacy to the TFD local. The E-Board was officially recognized, dues were collected, we participated in charitable events, and the name Old Pueblo Firefighters Association was adopted. In the end, our efforts were rebuffed and without the support of the largest IAFF local in the region, membership in the International Association of Firefighters would not be realized.
Summer 1999: Left with few options, Medrea recommended we organize under another existing labor group. It was a well known fact that the Teamsters had a number of fire departments under their umbrella and, after establishing a relationship with Teamsters Local 104, the OPFFA began making preparations to become a part of the Teamsters brotherhood.
While the labor group was not completely unified on membership with the Teamsters, the move to organize with them forced the hand of Rural Metro, who had no desire to negotiate against the Teamsters. Ironically, the IAFF did not want the Teamsters involved in fire department politics and yet TFD Local 479’s efforts to keep the OPFFA out of the IAFF would open that very door. In the end, Rural Metro offered to recognize the OPFFA as the official bargaining unit for the Pima County firefighters if the Teamsters vote was cancelled. The membership consensus was that a unified, independent labor group would best serve the interests of the firefighters and, thus, the OPFFA was officially born.
2000-2003: A new E-board was elected consisting of Todd Webb as President, Will Brooks as VP, Tom Brandhuber as Treasurer, and Mike Price as Secretary. The first labor contract negotiations were soon to begin when Alan Williams was brought on board as PIO. At the behest of the labor group, the negotiations would eventually be mediated by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service who would laud the labor team’s efforts and term the agreement as one of the best first-time contracts they had seen.
2003-2006: New elections would have Todd Webb, Tom Brandhuber, and Alan Williams re-elected as President, Treasurer, and PIO. Jordon Walker would come on as VP, Lucas Giampa as Secretary.
In an unorthodox move, management would appoint Todd Webb Assistant Chief of Operations which he accepted hoping to bridge a gap between Labor and Management. Tom Brandhuber was promoted to Training Chief shortly thereafter.
To fill the open positions, it was agreed amongst the E-Board that Alan Williams assume the President position, Ben Jones was brought on board as Treasurer and Mike Schwartz as PIO. The new labor group would head into its second contract negotiations and introduce a concept referred to as Interest Based Relations which would contribute greatly to another successful labor contract against some worthy adversaries on the new management team.
2006-Current: Coming off the success of contract negotiations, Alan Williams, Ben Jones, and Lucas Giampa would be re-elected to their positions. Jordon Walker and Mike Schwartz opted not to run again for office, so, Brad White was elected to VP and Brian Hollman as PIO. Preparations shall soon begin for a third round of contract negotiations before the current contract expiration in 2009.
The OPFFA continues to strive for a progressive relationship with Rural Metro’s management team while upholding the standards set forth in the FLSA and defending the interests of its membership conducive to a safe and productive work environment.