2017-01-12 / Life in Leelanau

Lieutenant refuses to join union, tenders resignation

By Amy Hubbell
Of The Enterprise staff


ERIC DUBORD of Empire recently resigned as lieutenant with the Glen Lake Fire Department, refusing to pay dues to the International Association of Fire Fighters and a ‘service fee’ assessed to those who choose not to join the union. ERIC DUBORD of Empire recently resigned as lieutenant with the Glen Lake Fire Department, refusing to pay dues to the International Association of Fire Fighters and a ‘service fee’ assessed to those who choose not to join the union. Firefighting has been part of Eric Dubord’s life since childhood.

But after 21 years in the profession, he stepped down from his lieutenant’s post with the Glen Lake Fire Department, rather than join the union.

“I’ve always felt if I go to work and do my best, people will notice,” said Dubord, who’s been with the department since 2009. “I have never felt the need to pay someone to speak for me.”

In January 2016, members of the Glen Lake Fire Department voted to organize as a chapter of the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF). Members of Local 5086 are assessed about $60 a month in dues. But that isn’t the end of the story.

In 2012, Michigan passed a law affecting how unions can interact with the companies that employ their members.

The law states that workers can choose whether or not they want to join a union and also whether they want to pay dues or fees, said Scott Sheehan, who was elected president of Local 5086 last Thursday.

“We can all choose whether we want to be part of the firefighters union, but if we choose not to we will, at the very least, have to pay a service fee,” said firefighter Scott Sheehan, who was elected president of Local 5086 last Thursday. Steve Lienard was elected vice president.

Police and firefighters are exempt from the law and as such have a choice whether they want to be in the union. However, those who chose not to join are assessed a “service fee.”

“That fee varies from department to department,” Sheehan said. “It is a fee figured on how much it costs to administer and maintain a contract.”

Those who choose not to participate pay a monthly service fee of $22.70.

The contract between Glen Lake Fire & Rescue and Local 5086 — which not yet a year old — states those who fail to make application for membership and refuse to pay the fee for 90 days are subject to dismissal.

Still, Dubord’s principles wouldn’t permit him to act, even though it would mean losing his job.

“I morally don’t believe (unionizing) was the best for me or the department,” said Dubord, a native of Escanaba, who watched his father start the volunteer department in his community after his uncle perished in a structure fire. “I didn’t get into this for the money. I got into it to help people.”

Despite the job vacancies, Chief John Dodson said the department continues to operate smoothly.

“Our staff pool is very healthy,” Dodson said last week. “We’re running the same staff we ran all summer.”

A letter to the editor appearing in last week’s Enterprise states that firefighters and EMTs in the department are “now required to work all the shifts of the missing personnel.”

However, Dodson said it’s the union contract that outlines how staff is assigned to fill holes in the schedule or “hold over” at the end of a shift.

Dubord’s resignation was effective Dec. 26, giving him plenty of quality time over the holidays with his wife, Robin and daughters, age 5 and 10, in their Empire home.

He declined to say what his employment plans may be. However, he did say he will continue as a part-time, paid volunteer with the department.

“When I was hired, I truly believed this is the place I’d retire from … They’d pushed me out the door at 65 or 70,” Dubord said. “But that’s not the way the cards fell.”

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Sorry for the troubles,

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