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Fighting Fire with Fire

Black firefighters ask for joint bargaining power.

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Representatives for the Progressive Black Firefighters of Memphis will appeal to the City Council and Mayor Willie Herenton for joint bargaining power with Local Firefighters Association 1784 in negotiations with the city.

At a press conference July 1st, members of the Progressive Black Firefighters called the local union racist and said they would move forward with a formal letter to city officials this week.

"We would like joint bargaining power," said PBF president, Lt. Sandra Richards. "We're a national organization. We should be allowed to be heard."

PBF is upset with the union's promotional testing practices. Richards said her group would also like more information from the union.

"If you're not a dues-paying member, you're not allowed to be [in their meetings]. But they're serving as the spokesperson to the City Council and the mayor on behalf of the Fire Department," said Richards. "I've been on the job 11 years and I've never been asked what I thought about anything."

Because the agreement between the city and the union has already been signed for this year, Richards said PBF wants joint bargaining power next year.

"I'm just hoping they look within the department," said Richards of city government. "The memorandum of understanding has never been revised. It's just been renewed for over 30 years. It's time for it to be revised.

"We just want access to information. I don't think that's unreasonable," she said.

Calls to Local 1784 were not returned by press time.

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