By Jennifer Gomori, POJ Editor
Bridgeport Township Full-Time Firefighters are a small unit, but they wanted the same protections as larger groups and they found the perfect fit as new POLC members.
“We reached out to a couple different unions and our police department here is part of POLC and they had good things to say,” said Louie Wiegele, Bridgeport Township Full-Time Firefighters Local Union President. “That seemed to be the best outlook. Our neighbors used Teamsters and they had restraints with us only being a two-member department at the time.”
The department is staffed with two Full-time Firefighters and the rest are Paid-on-Call. Prior to voting to join the POLC in February 2023, the full-time staff was not represented, but with the changing times in public safety they wanted the security of being part of a strong union.
“Due to the kind of issues going on in the world today, we wanted protection the Union could offer us — added insurance and other things that they do,” Wiegele said. “The PORAC insurance is for all public safety.”
POLC members have access to group rates for PORAC Legal Defense Fund, a public safety legal service plan for job-related litigation. Wiegele cited a January 2023 incident in which three Memphis, Tennessee Firefighter/EMTs were fired following their response to a traffic stop. Two of the three were called to the scene by police after the suspect was pepper sprayed. The suspect died days later in the hospital following the altercation with police officers.
“The public and City believed it was their duty to step in and stop the police,” he said. “Our duty is to protect the citizens. However, when it comes to police issues, we don’t ever step in. When it comes to criminal investigation, that’s the police realm. There were two Firefighters/EMTs that got let go and their Lieutenant was not on scene, but also got let go for that incident.”
“You hope you never have to deal with that kind of thing, but it happens,” Wiegele said. “That was our single most important thing — what kind of protections we can get ourselves.”
The group has been impressed with the service they’ve received so far. POLC Labor Representative Chris Watts wasted no time getting to work on their first bargaining agreement.
“We have Chris Watts as our Rep. now and he’s doing fantastic, so we’re happy,” Wiegele said. “The POLC has been fantastic. I’ve only dealt with Chris Watts and (POLC Bookkeeper) Cindy Gallego and she’s been great as well. We don’t have a single bad thing to say. So far everything has been great.”