Heading into negotiations, Poplar Bluff, MO Local 2543 had a strategically developed list of priorities – from long overdue wage increases to dangerously out-of-date fire apparatus. Local leadership worked tirelessly to ensure these issues were favorably resolved and that the lives and livelihoods of their sister and brother members were improved.
“Local 2543 leadership and members showed the power of a union,” said General President Edward Kelly. “When we use our voice, and our elected officials are made to understand the importance of the issues fire departments face, our cities and towns are safer. We are proud of the good work accomplished in Poplar Bluff, both for our members and their community.”
Members got a 6 percent raise in 2022 and will get another 3 percent in 2023. Local 2543’s last increase was in 2015. The rank of lieutenant, which comes with a higher salary and longevity pay, was added to the contract – as was minimum staffing. Off-duty members must now be paid overtime when staffing falls below seven fire fighters.
“Working amicably with the city was key. It wasn’t always easy, but it was worth it in the end,” said Local 2543 President Justin Maddock. “We are very pleased with the outcome of this contract.”
Local 2543 also sought to protect health coverage. A 2019 city ordinance eliminated a subsidized family health insurance benefit for new city employees. After Local 2543 successfully argued legal precedence using a comparable situation with a different labor union, the city allowed the affiliate to keep this important benefit in the contract.
“Fire fighters are very family oriented, whether it is the family at home or in the station. It is very important that fire fighters know they and their families are protected so they can focus on their work,” said Maddock. “If we lost the benefit, it would have been very hard on our membership. We are thankful that the city agreed not to remove the benefit.”
Local 2543 tackled one last, pressing issue: aging fire apparatus.
The Seagraves fire engine at Fire Station 2 had been in operation for 42 years, more than twice the maximum manufacturer-recommended use. The engine remained in operation due to budget constraints – and because it was the only engine the Poplar Bluff Fire Department had that was short enough to clear the city’s railroad bridge.
With guidance from IAFF 2nd District Field Service Representative Mark Fuller, Local 2543 submitted a successful FEMA Assistance to Fire Fighters Grant (AFG) to fund a new engine.
“I am very proud of the hard work the Poplar Bluff members put in addressing these issues,” said 2nd District Vice President Mark Woolbright. “They have proven that small locals can have big successes if they tap into IAFF resources and stay determined.”