SALT LAKE CITY FIREMEN THREATENED TO STRIKE
Demanded Resignation of Fire Chief William H. Bywater or They Would Quit—After Several Conferences Matter Amicably Settled
WHAT threatened to be a serious labor disturbance and a strike of the Salt Lake City, Utah, fire department occurred on July 6, when a petition presented to the city commission and signed by 90 of the 110 firemen of the department demanded the resignation of Chief Bywater in spite of the fact that no specific charges were made against the chief The petition read in part: “Working conditions in the fire department have become absolutely intolerable to the men of the department. No American citizen should he compelled to endure the conduct of the chief of the department. The manner of drills recently put into effect is such that ordinary human beings cannot long perform them.
“We appreciate the duty and responsibility resting upon us as members of the fire department and have no personal ill-will towards the head of the department, but unless the head of this department is released, we cannot longer remain.”
It was said that the principal cause of the complaint was the recent introduction of the practice of drilling day shift men at night and night shift men in the daytime.
When it became evident that the firemen were in earnest in their refusal to attend any hearing unless held before the full board of city commissioners, Commissioner Barnes, to whom the demand had been referred by the city commission, submitted the matter to City Attorney Folland. The latter advised Commissioner Barnes that it was within his jurisdiction to summon the men individually and privately before him to discuss their grievances. Commissioner Barnes then divulged the fact that prior to the submission of the formal demand for Chief Bywater’s dismissal he had heard of the impending action and had invited three of the protesting firemen to visit him privately for discussion of the conditions complained of. None of the men appeared in spite of the fact that in one case he had furnished a relief to a man who was on duty, in order that he might be able to attend.
In that there was no one present to make specific charges against Chief Bywater, Commissioner Barnes took the stand that it was unnecessary to hear the chief. He was supported in this position by Attorney Folland who pointed out that the petition made only a general allegation and was in effect an ultimatum demanding that Chief Bywater he fired or the men would quit. After several hours’ conference on July 12 and 13 it was finally announced that the men had decided to defer quitting for the city’s good.
Following this, on July 20, it was announced by Commissioner Arthur F. Barnes, of the Department of Public Safety, that the difference between the 90 firemen and fire chief had been satisfactorily settled. No announcement was made of the method of settlement or the terms agreed upon but it was said that the men had given up all idea of striking or resigning.