After being terminated for speaking to his local’s Health and Safety Committee about a safety concern, Green Bay, WI Local 141 member David Walters is back on the job. His employer, Pro-Tec Fire Services, has also agreed to make whole his wages and benefits and rescind the discipline.
“This is a big win for our Local 141 brothers and sisters,” says IAFF 5th District Vice President Tom Thornberg. “It should also be noted that since Pro-Tec Fire Services has contracts all over the country, the results of this case could have ramifications nationwide.”
Walters is a fire fighter working at the Austin Straubel International Airport’s fire department. The department is managed by Pro-Tec Fire Services, which holds a contract with the airport management to provide Aircraft Rescue Fire Fighting (ARFF).
The local member had a clean disciplinary history of more than a decade before he discussed his concerns about a recent National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) report with Local 141 Health and Safety Committee Chair John Crabbe while Crabbe was visiting the airport in April 2014.
Upon hearing about the discussion, Pro-Tec launched an internal investigation and claimed that Walters had violated workplace policy and was guilty of a security breach by having the discussion. He was subsequently terminated in May 2014.
“Brother Walters has always been an outstanding fire fighter and union member and would never do anything to create a security breach,” says Local 141 President Chad Bronkhorst. “The local was prepared to stand by him until justice was served.”
On behalf of Walters, Local 141 filed a grievance with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), alleging unfair labor practices. To assist with legal fees, the IAFF awarded an Emergency Defense Fund (EDF) grant to the local.
Before the proceedings concluded, Pro-Tec conceded, agreeing to reinstate Walters with back pay. It is also anticipated that the employer will revise some of its employment policies to avoid similar issues.