Member Spotlight is a new, recurring blog post series intended to highlight and connect the dots between the programs and priorities of the NC State AFL-CIO and the leaders and activist members of our affiliates who make it all possible.
My name is Scott Mullins, and I am a member and president of the Asheville Fire Fighters Association (IAFF Local 332). I also serve as president of the Professional Fire Fighters and Paramedics of North Carolina (PFFPNC).
North Carolina law currently doesn’t allow public sector workers like me to have union contracts, but until we change that it’s still worth fighting together in unions to improve safety and pay for the benefit of our families. Even without collective bargaining, unions like mine can make a difference. Our strength lies in our numbers and in our willingness to fight for each other. No one is going to look out for fire fighters like we do, and when we work together, we’re able to make gains, especially locally.
Firefighter unions allow us to protect our jobs while protecting the public. When we aren’t properly equipped and compensated, we can’t do our jobs safely and the whole community is put at risk. For example, when the pandemic hit we were not given proper personal protective equipment (PPE). Firefighters had to enter homes to help sick people, but we weren’t even given gloves or masks. Our local unions were able to step in and provide these necessary tools.
Community members see the value in our work even when elected officials don’t, and they’ve helped us fight and win. Together we’ve been able to advocate for state legislation, the Firefighters Fighting Cancer Act, to support fire fighters facing cancer diagnoses. And we’ve advocated for better pay and better staffing locally. There were people in some fire departments who weren’t even getting paid ten dollars an hour. Now our members are making at least $15, some of them are earning 35% more than before. Our parent union, the IAFF, put together the scientific data to show our cities that proper staffing benefits not only us but the whole community. When given the facts, they’ve had our backs.
I want people to know that if they want safety, pay, and benefits the best way to do that is join a union. We’re stronger together, and even those of us without contract rights can fight for and win better pay, better safety, and better staffing. And other fire fighters who either don’t have a union yet or who want to strengthen theirs, they can reach out to see how we can organize or support each other.