Northampton, Massachusetts Firefighters IAFF Local 108 have filed an unfair labor practice charge against the town over an incident that occurred February 24, 2011.
The unoccupied home of an elderly man collapsed under the weight of snow on February 8, 2011, and needed to be demolished. The man could not afford the cost of demolition, so the town hired a company to perform the work and placed a lien on the property to cover the cost.
The town also ordered firefighters to assist in removing personal effects and property, prompting the unfair labor practice charge. The house had not been lived in for a number of years but contained his personal effects.
The video explains what took place on February 24, 2011, but does not discuss the firefighter’s objection.Here is a pretty good article on the case
The difference between a grievance and an unfair labor practice is often misunderstood. A grievance is an allegation that a provision in the collective bargaining agreement has been violated. An unfair labor practice charge is an allegation that one party (usually the employer) has violated the state collective bargaining law. Often the same factual allegation can give rise to both a grievance and an unfair labor practice.
The Northampton firefighters allege that the town violated Mass. General Laws Chapter 150E 10 (a)(5) which prohibits an employer from the following:
(5) Refuse to bargain collectively in good faith with the exclusive representative as required in section six;
Based on the cited section, it would appear that the union is not alleging they could not be required to perform the work, but rather is claiming that because the work was outside the scope of their assigned duties, the town should have first bargained in good faith over the assignment.
Probably not the best time to be making these kinds of arguments – but an interesting legal question none the less. We’ll see how they make out!