National News

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Voters OK Houston firefighter pay parity

Voters on Tuesday granted Houston firefighters the same pay as police of corresponding rank and seniority, giving a boost to firefighters who long have felt neglected by City Hall while dealing a blow to Mayor Sylvester Turner and the city budget he administers. The passage of Proposition B sets up a potential court fight over the legality of the measure, and raises the possibility that Turner may swiftly implement his pledge to lay off more than 850 firefighters and scores of other city workers to accommodate what he repeatedly has called the measure's "unaffordable" cost. Turner and the city budget he administers. The passage of Proposition B sets up a potential court fight over the legality of the measure, and raises the possibility that Turner may swiftly implement his pledge to lay off more than 850 firefighters and scores of other city workers to accommodate what he repeatedly has called the measure's "unaffordable" cost. Recommended Video Turner and City Controller Chris Brown have projected pay "parity" will cost more than $100 million in its first full year of implementation, constituting a more-than-25 percent raise for firefighters.
Houston Chronicle

U.S. Supreme Court rules for Arizona firefighters claiming age discrimination

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Tuesday in favor of two Arizona firefighters who claimed they were fired because of their advanced age. In the court's first opinion following oral argument of its new term, Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote that the Age Discrimination Act covers state and local governments without regard to the number of workers they employ. While the original 1967 law applied to private employers with at least 20 workers, Ginsburg noted, the 1974 amendment said the term employer "also means" a state or its political subdivision without any numerical threshold. "The ordinary meaning of 'also means' is additive," Ginsburg said in explaining her opinion from the bench, sticking closely to the words used by Congress. The ruling was a victory for John Guido, 46 when he was laid off, and Dennis Rankin, then 54, in their lawsuit against the Mount Lemmon Fire District.
USA Today

Public Safety Officer program comes under fire again during Iowa town council meeting

More than 150 people came to Monday’s City Council meeting to offer a rebuttal to the city’s recent mailing about the Public Safety Officer program. People in red shirts signifying opposition to PSO program filled City Hall. Council chambers could not hold the crowd, which overflowed into nearby rooms. Members of the group “Stand Up for Safety, Cedar Falls” organized the turnout and have been distributing signs, shirts and stickers calling for the city to hire more firefighters and seeking a public forum with city officials on the issue. A recent “special edition” of the city newsletter Currents was dedicated to defending the PSO program and included data on the cost of firefighting that angered many PSO opponents. During the meeting 21 people spoke about the PSO program, some for it, most against it. Several were rural Cedar Falls residents, who live outside city limits.
Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier

California Proposition 11, Private Ambulance Company Fight Over Work Breaks Projected to Pass

Proposition 11 has passed, the AP is predicting. The campaign largely funded by private ambulance companies had voters deciding what to do with employee breaks. Emergency ambulance employees who work for private companies will be allowed to continue their current practice of having emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics stay on-duty during their meal and rest breaks in order to respond to 911 calls. Private ambulance companies would attempt to reschedule meal and rest breaks that are interrupted by a 911 call. The debate stems from a 2016 California Supreme Court ruling in Augustus v. ABM Security Services. In that case, private security guards were required to keep their radios on during their breaks. The court ruled that requirement breaks state labor law and that employers must provide off-duty and uninterruptible breaks.
KOVR-TV CBS Sacramento

Wisconsin fire department weighing changes after firefighter’s death

The Madison Fire Department is examining its health programs and policies as federal officials plan to investigate the death of one of the department’s members earlier this year after a stressful shift. While it’s still unclear seven months later if a taxing 48-hour shift contributed to the sudden heart attack death of firefighter and paramedic Richard Garner, the fire department is looking at whether its wellness programs, fitness testing policies and shift scheduling could better prevent job-related health problems or deaths. The department’s self-examination also comes as the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), an arm of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, plans to probe Garner’s death to see if there could be a link between its circumstances and several other similar firefighter deaths.
Wisconsin State Jounral

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Former deputy fire marshal wins whistleblower lawsuit against California city

A jury sided with a former West Covina deputy fire marshal last week in his whistleblower-retaliation lawsuit against the city. Jason Briley had worked for the West Covina Fire Department for nine years when he was fired in September 2015. The city claimed Briley had been fired for improper conduct and being difficult to work with, but he alleged the move was retaliation for him pointing out various city facilities — including City Hall, the Cortez Park Community & Senior Center and the Cameron Park Community Center — did not have proper fire alarm systems. Briley filed his lawsuit in January 2016, and on Wednesday, a jury awarded him a little more than $4 million. “My first reaction was that I was vindicated,” Briley said in a phone interview. “I didn’t do anything wrong and wasn’t a horrible person.”
San Gabriel Valley Tribune

Pennsylvania’s restrictive election laws make it hard for Philly firefighters and EMS workers to vote

Thomas Scheuerman wants to vote Tuesday. He'd really, really like to cast a ballot. To do so, he's planning on having a colleague cover part of his shift while Scheuerman votes at 7 a.m., right when the polls open, before rushing to work. "If he says no … I'm kind of stuck," Scheuerman said. "If there's a situation and someone says no — has child-care issues or something — I'm stuck, I won't vote this year." Scheuerman, 29, is an emergency medical technician with the Philadelphia Fire Department, driving an ambulance around the city in response to 911 calls. He's not exactly free to take a break to vote in the middle of a 12-hour shift, and he lives across the city from where he's stationed. Scheuerman and most of his 500 or so fellow first responders working Election Day in the city also aren't eligible for absentee ballots, which are limited to very specific circumstances by Pennsylvania law; early in-person voting is not allowed in the state.

Ohio city council approves settlement in fatal fire truck crash

Columbus will pay $410,000 to the family of a woman who was killed in a crash with a fire truck on the Southeast Side in 2013 as part of a settlement in a wrongful-death lawsuit. The Columbus City Council voted Monday to settle the lawsuit brought by William R. Glenn, whose mother, Elvyra T. Glenn, 86, died a week after a crash between her vehicle and a Columbus Division of Fire engine at the intersection of Brice and Refugee roads on Nov. 12, 2013. The 10th District Court of Appeals ruled that Columbus had immunity in the lawsuit but that it did not fully extend to Paul Sheridan, the firefighter who was driving the truck. “In this case, it came down to whether the employee operated Engine 32 in a reckless manner,” said Josh Cox, chief counsel in the Columbus city attorney’s office. Sheridan was working out of Station 32, 3675 Gender Road, when he was dispatched as a driver to 5400 Sedalia Drive. He swore in an affidavit that he activated an electronic siren before leaving the station but did not activate a mechanical siren during the response.
Columbus Dispatch

Georgia fire department responds to firefighters association complaints

After receiving at least three letters with complaints and meeting with the local firefighters association, the Augusta Fire Department wants to set the record straight about claims made against it. Michael Meyers, the department’s public information officer, said the majority of the allegations made by Augusta Professional Firefighters Association Local 3357 President Charlie Coleman in a series of letters since Sept. 21 were not true. An additional letter was sent by the International Association of Fire Fighters to the city stating that the city was attempting to suppress the organization’s voice. Coleman said last week that he met with Augusta Fire Chief Chris James on Oct. 19 but that the meeting didn’t go well. Meyers said Monday the meeting actually went well.
Augusta Chronicle

London police arrest 5 people after viral video of burning model Grenfell Tower

Five people were arrested in London on Monday after a video posted on social media showed a group burning an effigy of Grenfell Tower, the public housing block where 72 people died in a massive blaze in 2017. In a statement, London's Metropolitan Police said five men, ages 19 to 55, were being held on suspicion of a public order offense after they turned themselves in to a south London police station. The men were not identified and additional details were not immediately available. In the video, several people appear to be gathered around a model of the tower. After it's set alight, the group can be heard chuckling and cracking jokes.
NBC News

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