Red, White and Blue to vote on IAFF
BRECKENRIDGE – The Red, White and Blue Career Fire Fighters Association (RWB) will vote later this month whether to join the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) – a move that should help make the local organization stronger.
The IAFF is an association that helps member fire departments with resources, data and firefighting issues, including health and safety, labor, training, political action, fire-based emergency medical services and other concerns.
But some people have misconceptions about the role of the IAFF and what membership means to a fire department and the community it serves, said RWB Capt. Mike Rutherford.
“Sometimes, there’s a perception that (workers and management) are going head to head,” Rutherford said. “But we have been very open and working together for a long time.”
Chief Gary Green agreed.
“This was not a confrontational situation that created this,” he said. “I support them affiliating. It’ll make their organization stronger. It solidifies their association and ties them in internationally.”
For some, primarily in big cities, the IAFF offers assistance in labor negotiations. For many, however, it is merely a group fire departments can join for the brothership, camaraderie and data resources pertaining to issues that concern firefighters.
That’s what the members of the RWB are hoping to get out of their membership.
“This will affiliate us with firefighters from all over the country,” Rutherford said. “It’s very important to us. But nothing much will change for us.”
The career group has taken over the fundraising and community activities formerly held by the volunteer organization, including hosting Robbie’s Friends, holding pancake breakfasts and keeping the Chris Ethridge Scholarship Fund operational.
The RWB career association formed last year after the volunteer organization began to disband.
Paid firefighters organized to improve communication with the administration and subsequently address safety, training and policy issues.
Currently, seven volunteers remain – and four more are going through training. Ten student firefighters, 23 career firefighters and seven administrative members round out the staff. Almost all of the career firefighters rose from volunteer ranks, Rutherford said.
One of the things RWB association has no plans to do is participate in collective bargaining through contract negotiations – an action often associated with such professional associations, Rutherford said.
While many IAFF members have their own unions and participate in collective bargaining – for better wages and working conditions, among other things – the IAFF merely provides information to members who want to participate in such actions.
“The IAFF doesn’t have the time to do that,” he said. “They’re not looking to be involved in your group; it’s you being involved in their group. What you do with your association is up to you. Ours is about fundraising and carrying the torch for the old volunteer organization. We want those things to continue.”
Unions are often perceived to act as an intermediary between workers and management – particularly in times of strife – but no such animosity exists between the firefighters and administrative staff at Red, White and Blue, Rutherford and Green agreed. When the RWB association meets to discuss issues, Rutherford, who also serves as president of the organization, merely takes them to Green to work out a solution.
“We have been open and working together for many years,” Rutherford said. “
“These people who work in this fire department sincerely care about this fire department and this community. We have examined this decision to affiliate for some time now and feel the timing is right to vote. I think it’s going to pass.”
Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 228, or
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