Lancaster Mayor May Sue the City’s Firefighters Union

Mayor Rick Gray may take legal action against Local 319 because of harassment allegations

Reprinted from
By Jaime Garland, Fox 43 staff reporter
December 8, 2010

LANCASTER — A dispute is brewing in Lancaster. The Mayor is upset with members of the city’s paid firefighters union for what he says is unprofessional conduct.

“Apparently some of our firefighters have engaged in harassment of people who came in as volunteers,” says Mayor Rick Gray.

Because of that conduct, the Manheim Township Fire Department has stopped going into the city to help fight fires. The Mayor calls that a threat to public safety and is considering filing a lawsuit against the Lancaster Professional Firefighters Union Local 319.

Union leadership says the harassment is only an allegation and that no volunteers have filed a complaint. The union does admit to having a problem with other career firefighters coming in to volunteer because that is against union by laws.

“We heard allegedly that there were some of our members harassing volunteers, now it’s all alleged,” says Jamie Haines, Treasurer of Local 319.

Haines says non-career volunteers are always welcome & appreciated, but there is concern the free service is taking the place of union work.

“The Chief laid off four firemen last year and now wants to lay off two more this year & he feels that if he can get our numbers down, volunteers will come in and do the job for free,” Haines says.

“Apparently there’s some kind of thought that this is costing some firefighters jobs in the city of Lancaster, which is not accurate,” Mayor Gray says.

The Mayor says the proposed layoffs should be taken care of by retirements & taking frustrations out on volunteers is unacceptable.

Both sides say they have the best interest of the city at heart; but homeowners just want to know firefighters will respond when they call 911.

“I feel that’s very important because if we wouldn’t have them, I’m sure a lot of these homes would go,” says Carol Smith of West King Street.

“I just want to feel safe when I’m asleep and when I’m at work, I want to make sure the building is not on fire,” says Jorge Colon, also of West King Street.

The Mayor says if the harassment stops, he will not file the lawsuit. The union, the city, and other local fire chiefs will meet in the coming weeks to hash out these issues. The Manheim Township Chief expects his volunteers to back in the city after that meeting.