Greensboro firefighters win dues checkoff

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City Council votes 6-3 for respect

We got a great piece of labor news from Greensboro this week.

On Tuesday, the city council voted 6-3 to allow firefighters to have voluntary union dues deducted from their paychecks. More from the Greensboro News & Record:

The City Council has agreed to take union dues from firefighters’ paychecks.

The Professional Firefighters of Greensboro requested that the city use an automatic payroll deduction process to collect membership dues.

The council voted 6-3, with council members Zack Matheny, T. Dianne Bellamy-Small and Tony Wilkins dissenting. Officials did not say when the deductions would start.

The city’s financial staff estimated it will cost between $1,000 to $5,000 to initiate the process, plus annual costs upward of $1,000 a year.

Union President Dave Coker presented the council with a petition from more than 300 firefighters supporting the effort at Tuesday night’s council meeting.

The Professional Firefighters of Greensboro (IAFF Local 947), represent most of the city’s firefighters. Winning dues checkoff has been a major priority for the union, which even offered to pay up to $1,000 to help cover the cost to carry out the new payroll program.

“Beyond the issue of simple fairness, it’s a historic shift in how the City relates to its union employees,” president Coker told us. “A number of specific deductions were already allowed but union dues were specifically restricted.”

“Our hope is that the vote’s a signal of positive things to come. Hopefully, it will strengthen our membership and help us mobilize more firefighters to be active and engaged in building up our community.” — Dave Coker, 3/8/2013

Greensboro firefighters have raised tens of thousands of dollars for charity, including for fire safety and prevention programs and help for burn victims. “Even though we’re a small organization relative to the city as a whole, we have a significant impact,” said Coker.

City of Greensboro’s decision to respect its firefighters by voting in favor of automatic voluntary dues deduction came two months after firefighters and other employees of the City of Charlotte won the same respect in January.

Automatic payroll deductions are a convenience for workers who already have taxes, retirement contributions, and charitable donations withheld from their paychecks. Deductions for dues are really no different. Nevertheless, denying workers dues checkoff to undermine labor unions’ ability to organize and be effective advocates for working families is often a tactic of right-wing politicians.

Greensboro’s decision, while clearly a victory for fairness and respect for its firefighters, does not change that collective bargaining with its employees is still outlawed by the Jim Crow-era law, G.S. 95-98.

Join us in giving a big congratulations to our brothers and sisters with the Greensboro Firefighters union on their win by leaving your message of support on their Facebook page!