Members of career staff from Carroll County fire companies have voted to form a union.

The organization, called Carroll County Professional Fire Fighters and Paramedics, currently has between 30 and 40 members and is in the process of seeking recognition from the Professional Fire Fighters of Maryland branch of the International Association of Firefighters.

Advertisement

The main goal is to give a voice to career staff to advocate for themselves, and “a seat at the table” said Max Nickey, president of the newly organized union.

The move happens in the context of a shift toward a more centralized county fire service. Currently the 14 fire companies operate independently, but in January of this year, the Carroll County delegation moved forward with legislation that provides the county government the ability, if it chooses, to exercise authority over the county’s volunteer fire services.

At the time the legislation was enabled, the work group that drafted it said this would not be a move to an all-paid service and the county would continue as a combination system of volunteers and paid staff, including fire lieutenants, EMTs, ambulance drivers and other positions.

The number of paid staff and the positions they hold currently varies from company to company.

Representatives from each fire company serve on the advisory council.

Nickey said the union seeks to give the staff greater representation in this discussion. Because the union members are currently employed by separate, individual companies, they cannot engage in collective bargaining.

At this stage, IAFF is a resource for training and education, Nickey said. Members felt uncertain whether they would keep their jobs as the process moved forward and to whom they would be employed.

Another factor was that organizers felt Carroll companies were losing paid staff, who started out in in the county, then moved to surrounding counties that have longer established systems for career firefighters and paramedics.

“People here want to stay here … we want to fight for better pay, better benefits,” Nickey said.

Volunteer staff members are overseen by the Carroll County Volunteer Emergency Services Association. President Don Fair said he did not have an official statement about the formation of the union because there had not yet been formal communication between the union and CCVESA.

Carroll delegation moves forward with CCVESA enabling legislation

Members of the Carroll County delegation unanimously approved moving forward with an enabling legislation that would provide the county government the ability, if it chooses, to exercise authority over the county’s volunteer fire services for the first time.

Commissioner Stephen Wantz, R-District 1, who is a member of the Pleasant Valley Volunteer Fire Company, said he was troubled by the fact that the union had not communicated with the commissioners at all.

"We have some challenging times ahead of us with fire and EMS," he said. "We all have got to work together to get to the best type of system that we can. We're just beginning a process, and the process is going to be lengthy.

“These folks seem to be stepping up with a lack of communication. I’m hopeful that it doesn’t set us back.”

Nickey said the union hopes to communicate with commissioners and state delegates going forward.

Advertisement

“They determine our futures,” he said.

When asked if there were concerns that he wanted to address, he said, “Everyone has their own opinions on how a union operates,” he said.

Right now the union is trying to “be positive” and do “what’s best for the career staff, the volunteer staff and the residents of Carroll County,” he said.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement