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Vegas firefighters vote for union

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By David Giuliani

Las Vegas firefighters taking part in a union election Friday unanimously agreed to organize.

Of the department’s 18 firefighters, nine were eligible to vote in the election to decide whether to be represented by the International Association of Firefighters; six of them participated. The department’s other nine members couldn’t participate because they are on their year’s probation or they are supervisors.

The votes were counted just after the two-hour election ended at 10 a.m. Friday. Present were representatives from the city, including two outside attorneys, and the New Mexico Professional Firefighters Association.

Chuck Griego, an employee in the city clerk’s office, counted the ballots, as the others watched.

Fire Chief Andrew Duran said the department wasn’t unionized when he became a firefighter 17 years ago, but it organized a few years later. Until a few years ago, he said, the department was represented by the International Association but then it joined the American Association of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents many other groups of city employees, the chief said.

The firefighters left the government employees union sometime last year, Duran said.

“The vote was expected. We’ve never been against the formation of a union,” Duran said.

At a recent City Council meeting, Duran requested that his department get an additional $67,000 per year as part of a pay package for his firefighters. He said firefighters can make $13,000 more a year starting out in Bernalillo County, so he said he loses department members after the city spends money training them.

A couple of years ago, the Optic found that Las Vegas paid the least of a number of similarly sized departments surveyed from around the state.

Las Vegas firefighters, who start out at $7.50 an hour, make more money now that they are on a 24-hour schedule, but officials have noted that change in schedule really wasn’t a pay increase because department members are working more hours.

The Police Department is already unionized.