Volunteer Fire and EMS providers of Prince George’s County, Maryland have a unique opportunity to form a “trade organization” that will enable them to better position themselves in the future. The recent election of Pete Mellits as President of the Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association paves the way for volunteers to abandon the road to certain obsolescence for the greatness that they once had and are deserving of. President Pete Mellits fortunately is a charter member of the Alliance and he fully understands the need for volunteers to join the “Alliance.” The volunteers have lost great influence and millions of dollars because previous volunteer leaders sold their birthright for the elixir of prestige (the crack of volunteers in the County). While the previous leaders got hit after hit, when they came to themselves they find the volunteer service in jeopardy.
The “Alliance”, as it is called, is an organization that has been established to help organize the volunteers to seek solutions for their health and well being and to position themselves better at the bargaining table. Right now only Montgomery County Volunteers have successfully bargained for better treatment in the State of Maryland. The Alliance has completed most of the steps to bring power and influence to a group of dedicated individuals and their private fire and rescue corporations. The Alliance has demonstrated it has the power to chart the direction for the volunteers who were struggling under some very poor leadership. Now the volunteers need to realize that they cannot achieve their true potential through the Association alone. The Association does not have the position power, the vision or the mission to serve the needs of the volunteers today. The Association is not set up for bargaining and maintaining the rights of the volunteers. The Association is a social organization that has met the need for volunteers to get information and share information on how the corporations are doing.
The Association can highlight the needs of the volunteers but it is not a part of the fire service in a tangible way. Unlike the watered down version of the Fire Commission, (a once powerful organization) the Commission is a Charter organization of County Government. The Association is only recognized to speak on volunteer issues to those who may listen. This Alliance has been organized to create a liaison between the Volunteer First Responders and local governing bodies, to collect and evaluate data on all deleterious conditions incumbent in all areas where volunteers exist. To compile information concerning the injustices within the Fire and Emergency Medical Services, and implement action to address them. To promote relations of its Volunteer members throughout the Fire and Emergency Medical Services. To ensure that Volunteers are retained and recruited as First Responders, where ever they reside. To facilitate in motivating our Volunteer First Responders to seek advancement within the Fire and Emergency Medical Services.
“The Prince George’s County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association works closely with the Prince George’s County Fire Department administration to continue an excellent working relationship between career and volunteer firefighters and emergency medical personnel.” While the working relationship the Association seeks to establish and maintain dwindles everyday, the Association also has no power to carry out its stated mission. In fact whenever a substantial paid crew is added to the volunteer station, the volunteers are either run out of the station or leave because of these “working relationships.” The Association is not structured to address the volunteer’s “condition of employment” because it is not a Trade Organization. The volunteers are clearly an “instrumentality of the County Government” but they have no rights.
Volunteers have an opportunity to invest in change. Change is what is needed. The Alliance is a group of volunteers, run by volunteers with the aim of improving conditions for the volunteers. If you are a volunteer (any town USA) do you have any rights in your jurisdiction? Who is bargaining for your health and safety? What is your service worth? It is not that the citizens don’t want fire fighters to earn a good living and have good benefits. They contract with paid fire fighters year after year. (And the benefits are great.) The fact is the volunteers never ask for anything but equipment to do their jobs. That’s fair. You want equipment and you get that. Is there anything else you need? Never mind I suspect you have no bargaining power either.
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