State Labor Agency Issues More Unfair Labor Changes Against Oak Bluffs For Its Mistreatment of Fire Fighters; Town Facing Landmark 20 Separate Unfair Labor Practices, with More to Come

May 24, 2018

For the past year, the Town of Oak Bluffs, including its Town Manager and Fire Chief*, have waged a vicious anti-union campaign to retaliate against the Fire Fighters/EMTs organized to join the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF). In November, the Department of Labor Relations, which administers state collective bargaining law, issued a complaint itemizing 11 counts of Unfair Labor Practices by the Town, and then another complaint with two more counts. Attorneys James Hykel, Patrick Bryant and Leah Barrault, and IAFF 3rd District Vice President Jay Colbert have been fighting aggressively to assist and defend Oak Bluffs fire fighters.

With those counts pending for a public hearing in just two weeks, the Commonwealth Employment Relations Board (CERB) today ordered the Town to be held accountable on another seven counts. In total, the state labor relations agency has found probable cause to believe Oak Bluffs has violated the law nearly 20 different ways since firefighters filed to form a Union less than a year ago.

In addition to the already pending counts for union retaliation, failure to bargain, and intimidating employees, the new counts added by CERB relate to:

• The Chief's ridicule of union criticism about his weird decision to assign himself a locker in the women’s locker room;
• The Town's release of private personnel information to the media about fire fighters who complained about the Chief ;
• The Town Manager’s and Board of Selectmen’s wholly unfounded references to certain union supporters in a public meeting as as “the worst paramedics I’ve ever seen” to the press and “cowards who hid behind the press”;
• The Town's request that its Personnel Board remove firefighting duties from the fire fighters;
• The Chief's exclusion of a union supporter from officer meetings;
• The Town's direct dealing with a fire fighter on his terms of employment, while refusing to discuss it with the Union law; and
• The Chief's implementation of new rules for time off and breaks, but only as they related to union activity.

Remarkably, the 18 pending unfair labor practices still do not include all of Oak Bluffs’ anti-union activity. The Union has another charge pending, alleging an additional nine violations (MUP-18-6629). Further, undeterred by the Complaint’s allegations that even the threat to remove firefighter duties violates the law, yesterday the Town announced that it is removing those duties and reducing fire fighter coverage on for Town residents. The Union is already preparing to file a grievance.

*Corrected to state FIRE Chief, not Police Chief.

Related Attorney: 
James Hykel
Related Attorney: 
Patrick N. Bryant
Related Attorney: 
Leah M. Barrault