The IAFF is saddened to report the passing of Jim Fisher. Fisher was one of the co-founders of the Professional Fire Fighters of Utah and paved the way to collective bargaining rights for many Utah members.
“He was one of our pioneers in the ninth district,” says General President Harold Schaitberger. “When he started, there was not a lot of organized labor in Utah. But because of his dedication, the membership grew exponentially.”
“He was a great union leader who was able to envision how powerful the fire fighter labor movement would one day be,” says 9th District Vice President Ray Rahne. “We are all thankful for laying a great foundation for all of us to continue building on.”
Fisher joined the Salt Lake City Fire Department in the early 1960s and, quickly realized his fire fighters needed to be able to speak with one voice to resolve ongoing labor issues with the city administration.
Salt Lake City had been one of the IAFF’s first locals in 1918, then Local 81. However, in 1925 the local gave up its charter in 1925 due to tense labor-management issues. When Fisher reorganized the local, it was given a new number, Local 1645 (it went back to Local 81 two years ago).
Fisher was immediately hit with resistance from the City for organizing – so much so that the City tried a variety of retaliatory maneuvers against Fisher, including assigning him to a new fire house every shift.
But, he was not deterred and even used the fire house shuffling to his advantage. The shuffling enabled him to meet nearly every fire fighter in the department and bring more of them into the local.
“He knew how to turn a difficult situation to his advantage and never lost his determination to do the right thing for his members,” says Professional Fire Fighters of Utah President Jack Tidrow. “He was a true mentor.”
In 1967, as president of Local 1645, Fisher became one of the founding members of the Professional Fire Fighters of Utah. Three other locals were also charter members: Salt Lake County Local 1696, Ogden Local 552 (then 1654) and Provo Local 593.
In 1975, he was instrumental in adding language to the Utah State Statutes, which allows collective bargaining if both labor and management are open to the process.
Fisher kept pushing the envelope and was eventually fired for his union activities. But, that did not end his position in the labor movement. He became one of the first IAFF field service representatives. He accepted many assignments where he worked hard to resolve various labor issues.
Fisher received many awards for his contributions including, most recently the Professional Fire Fighters of Utah Frontline Leadership Award for his outstanding service.