For more than two years, Moberly, Missouri, has been a battleground for Moberly Local 2671 and the City of Moberly over the unjust termination of past Local 2671 President Cory Putnam and negotiations on the local’s first contract.
“Our 2nd District members are pleased with these two positive outcomes,” says 2nd District Vice President Mark Woolbright. “Everyone involved remained determined to see that Brother Putnam and Local 2671 members were treated fairly. I am very proud of everyone’s hard work and dedication.”
“Reinstating Brother Putnam with full seniority and ratifying the local’s first contract are two major successes for our Moberly members,” says 2nd District Field Service Representative Kurt Becker. “Local 2671 is a small local but is filled with motivated members who are ready to fight until victory is at hand.”
Moberly Local 2671 had been dormant for several years until a motivated group of fire fighters working for the department – including Cory Putnam – decided it was time to bring the local back to life.
When Putnam was elected president, he reached out to 2nd District leaders for advice and was making great progress in revitalizing the local. But in February 2018, he was severely injured while a passenger in a motor vehicle accident that killed the driver. Putnam spent several weeks recovering.
When he was finally cleared to return to work, he was surprised to be accused of being the driver of the vehicle and charged with several serious crimes related to the accident.
Despite evidence proving Putnam was not the driver, the prosecution was determined to move forward with the case. Meanwhile, the city put Putnam on administrative leave.
In November 2019, the city tried to fire Putnam, who filed a grievance. Still, he learned later that the city’s human relation’s department had already effectively terminated him in December 2018 but had failed to notify him.
The IAFF, the 2nd District, the Missouri State Council of Fire Fighters (MSCFF) and Local 2671 stepped in on his behalf, arguing that Putnam not only deserved to keep his seniority, but also deserved to return to his previous assignment.
“I just wanted my life back,” says Putnam. “From the beginning, the IAFF had my back, keeping in contact so I was never in the dark. I knew the IAFF would see this through to the end. I am very thankful for everything.”
Ultimately, the city agreed, and Putnam is returning to work.
“This was a very long and difficult process,” says Local 2671 President Ross Dutton, who took over after Putnam left office. “If not for the stellar union leadership at every level, I do not believe we would have the success we had. It took a lot of perseverance.”
Meanwhile, Becker was assisting Local 2671 President Dutton with negotiating the local’s first contract. That, too, was an uphill climb.
In 2018, the Missouri legislature passed HB 1413, which included provisions that made union members vulnerable throughout the collective bargaining process. Seeing this, the City of Moberly tried to implement some of the provisions of the new law.
Local 2671 reached out to the IAFF for assistance and was approved for assistance under the Guardian Policy as the dispute raised anti-union concerns and questions about state labor law. If the City of Moberly was successful in thwarting Local 2671’s collective bargaining efforts, it could become a precedent-setting case.
But before legal action could be filed, a coalition of unions filed a lawsuit arguing against the constitutionality of HB 1413. The court granted a preliminary injunction, stopping the enforcement of the anti-labor law in March 2019.
Soon after voters elected several new city leaders. Following that election, the parties renewed efforts to negotiate a final agreement without court intervention. Because the Guardian Policy remained active, the IAFF continued to provide support in negotiations.
In the end, Local 2671 ratified its first contract, which includes all the priority provisions the local requested and none of the unlawful provisions of HB 1413.