Missouri U.S. Rep. Cori Bush, in a letter to the Webster Groves city administration, is calling for the immediate reinstatement of the most recent contract for Webster Grove fire fighters and a swift return to the bargaining table to continue negotiations on a new agreement.
Webster Groves fire fighters, who are represented by the Professional Fire Fighters of Eastern Missouri (PFEM) Local 2665, were in negotiations with the city administration on a new contract when the city manager emailed the fire department’s command staff, informing them that the city had canceled its current contract.
According to Local 2665, the city lacks the power to cancel the agreement as it contained an evergreen provision dictating that the contract remains in force as long as both sides are negotiating in good faith. City officials, however, contend that Local 2665 has not.
“The membership accepted 11 of the 12 requests from the city,” said Local 2665 4th District Vice President John Youngblood. “We could not accept the city’s proposal to cut overtime costs by reducing minimum staffing from 11 to 10 due to safety concerns. Local 2665 did offer several alternative cost-cutting proposals, but the city refused them all.”
After discussing the situation with 2nd District Vice President Mark Woolbright and Missouri State Council of Fire Fighters President Demetris Alfred, Bush intervened on Local 2665’s behalf.
In her letter to the city administration, she wrote, “Attempts to reduce staffing levels at our firehouses not only make our first responders’ jobs more difficult, but it also endangers the lives of those living in Webster Groves. The City of Webster Groves is risking the lives of those who protect our entire community by refusing to recognize essential workers’ rights such as work hours, joint labor management, grievances, just cause, and due process.”
Meanwhile, Local 2665 has filed a lawsuit against the city to challenge the termination of the contract. No date for the case to be heard has been set.
“Our members deserve to be at the bargaining table for fair and honest negotiations,” said General President Edward Kelly. “The IAFF appreciates having Rep. Bush in our corner as we fight to make Webster Groves a safe place to live and work.”
“It would be a dangerous precedent to allow contracts protected by an evergreen clause to be arbitrarily canceled by the employer,” said Woolbright. “It would certainly lessen public employees’ ability to collectively bargain. We are pleased to have Rep. Bush’s support on this issue.”