IAFF files suit on behalf of union leader

A federal court suit was filed on behalf of Ronnie Bozeman Jr., president of International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) Local 1444, against the city of Montgomery, Alabama, Mayor Bobby Bright, and other city and fire department officials, to obtain relief from the unlawful retaliatory actions taken against him.

Bozeman is a 17-year veteran of the Montgomery, AL Local 1444 and the Montgomery (AL) Fire Department with an excellent employment record. The city recognized him as the Fire Fighter of the Year in 1999, and he was promoted to captain in 2004.

Bozeman became president of Local 1444 in March 2007. After he and his firefighter membership supported the candidate who lost the election to incumbent Mayor Bright, things began to change. Bozeman was targeted for multiple adverse actions in violation of his constitutional rights of free association and free speech. In the past year, he has been suspended without pay, involuntarily transferred, subjected to repeated investigations, issued a written reprimand, and threatened with demotion and termination.

Although Bozeman appealed three of the adverse actions to the mayor’s office, only one of the appeals was heard by the city administrative assistant, who denied the appeal and prohibited Bozeman from addressing any issues related to retaliation for union activity. Mayor Bright agreed with that decision. Bozeman was recently issued a letter of reprimand which threatened demotion or termination if he participates in any further activity that is deemed unacceptable to the city.

Other IAFF members have been told by fire department chief officers that they “would be better off if they got out of the union.” The city, through the mayor’s office and fire department officials, have clearly violated Ronnie Bozeman’s First Amendment rights of free association and free speech, as well as his rights under Alabama state law, which gives fire fighters the right to join and support a labor organization.

“The IAFF stands by its local affiliate leaders when they are harassed and targeted with illegal retaliation for exercising their protected rights. We are committed to supporting Ronnie Bozeman and getting him the justice he deserves,” IAFF General President Harold A. Schaitberger said.

The International Association of Fire Fighters, headquartered in Washington, D.C., represents more than 290,000 full-time professional firefighters and paramedics who protect 85 percent of the nation’s population. More information is available at www.iaff.org.

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