We want everyone in the department, especially our members, to know that everyone at the Newport News Firefighter’s Association, Local 794, still supports you day in and day out. While you might not have heard from us for a short while, it does not mean we have forgotten you, the department, or given up our fight to provide you a better department, admin, and working environment.
The fact is, we have been pushing almost daily to make sure there are checks and balances for the department’s administration. We are still doing everything within our powers in a right to work state to make sure admin is held accountable for their actions while working to ensure the city manager has the resources to select a new fire chief that has us, the firefighter, as their top priority. We continue to consult legal counsel to make sure we are bringing the most fight to the table and to ensure we have the best arguments when checking admin and the city’s actions. The unfortunate fact is we stopped posting every little thing we do on the website because a lot of the info that was posted was sent to admin. This allowed them to have prepared statements and rebuttals waiting for us or the city manager. This does not mean we are no longer communicating with the city manager. We stay in communication with her via email, phone and face to face meetings weekly to make sure our side of the story is always heard.
We understand a lot of you are nervous, anxious, concerned, and worried about the future of NNFD and your careers. You are not alone. We are also concerned about the current and future state of the department, which is why we have not given up the fight. We decided to focus our communications to the city manager and city council members this past fall because that is where real change for our department will come from. Just because admin conceded on some small items at the insisting of the city manager, specifically allowing officers to work overtime to cut down on mandatory overtime and hold overs along with EMS stipends, it does not mean we walked away happy and ignored everything else taking place. With everything taking place daily we decided to sit down and choose where to focus our attention. We have chosen to focus our attention on items we know we will be able to work with the city manager to change. Items that affect the long-term, well-being of our department. As much as we want to fight every poor decision being made, it won’t be effective or what is best for you. Our focus is fighting actions and working with the city manager to make real changes to the department that will bring stability to the department. Updated directives and practices that create a modern and safe work environment, support for our members, and relieving the many tensions and worry everyone experiences daily. Your well-being, physical and mental, along with your families is our top priority.
Our short-term focus is on the selection of a new fire chief who will have the member’s best interest at heart and not be self-serving. Someone who can help bridge the gap between you and the city administration while restructuring admin to support you and daily operations. To ensure we find a chief who understands the great value a department with good morale, proper training, correct staffing, and appreciated firefighters bring to a city. Our other primary focus is supporting our members fighting for coverage from cancer and not letting the city set a precedence with them.
Long term, our focus is on establishing a working relationship with the new chief to ensure they can restructure admin, update directives, and develop a culture where you, the firefighter, is put first and foremost. We want to end frustration caused by operations being put second to personal agendas and work with the new chief to ensure operations take top precedence over support functions. We know that the best thing for the community and public relations is not an engine at a preschool, but rather a department full of firefighter’s who are appreciated and well taken care of, so they provide the upmost, dedicated service to every citizen, every day. We want a chief who knows firefighters working under simple directives allow for safe operations which in return create a safe city that businesses and residents alike want to live and work in. We want to find a chief who will create a department where accreditation and ISO are easy to maintain because the department is well cared for, priorities are focused in the right areas, and our firefighter’s care about the job.
In closing, we understand that we need to improve communications with our members, so you know you are not alone in this fight. Likewise, we need you to ensure your email and phone numbers are correct on the website and that you are checking the website for updates. Most important, we want you to know that no matter how disheartening things may seem, Local 794 is standing in front of you, fighting to make our department what is once was. We only ask that you keep our fellow firefighters first and foremost, look after each other, and stick together. If you feel the need to side with admin and leak our info to them, then please remove yourself from our association. For everyone else, you are not alone and not abandoned.