All for one?

With nowhere else to turn, I turned to Local 799, The Providence Firefighters union. My wife had been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis a year ago, just as I started the 42nd Acadamy of The Providence  Fire Department. One door opened, and it looked like another had shut, but looks are deceiving.

With a lot of help from my instructors and classmates I limped through the Acadamy, worked four nights till 1 am tending bar and cleaned offices on the weekend. I came into the Acadamy ranked #4 out of over 2000 candidates, and finished #55 out of 64. Not exactly Rhodes Scholar material, but I could not have done it without my brothers and sisters. 

With a year on the job, things had settled down, until my wife was diagnosed with a tumor in her mandable. Her teeth, jaw bone and palate had to be surgically removed. We survived the surgury, our two daughters helped, and I was fortunate to be a member of a union, whose members had sacrificed for decades to establish some great benefits, suburb health care and the opportunity to take time off.

I will be forever grateful.

As good as our health plan was, it did not cover dental work. We were left with no tumor, but no teeth. The cost for dental implants was staggering, and out of my range.

I went to Local 799. The president at the time, Retired Battallion Chief Stephen Day and firefighter Dave Curry worked tirelessly to find a way to get my wife back in shape, lobbied the State House, used their considerable political clout and managed to get us 5000 dollars from BCBS, and Local 799 voted and approved another 5000, which covered half the cost.

Again, grateful.

That was at the beginning of a 25 year career, I was a new guy, nobody knew me, I was unproven on the fireground and drowning in problems that had nothing to do with the job.

25 years later I asked Local 799 Again for assistance. 

What a difference 25 years makes. A techicality in the city’s pension language resulted in my being denied a disability pension after 5 out of six examining physicians found me unable to do the job because of job related injuries.

I knew I had earned the pension and decided to fight. With help from Firefighter Carl Richards, our Pension Board representative who suffered through hundreds of sometimes heated conversations with me, we waged a three year battle, never once hearing from a soul from Local 799. The president of The FOP and Local 1033 were often present during pension hearings concerning their dues paying members, my union representation was embarrasingly missing. Their absence was duly noted by the pension board.

The case went all the way to The Supreme Court, and that court decided in favor of me, and every firefighter who finds themselves in similar circumstances. It is case law, Morse vs. The City of Providence Retirement Board has already been used to make sure disabled firefighters are not thrown away by a technicality.

I petitioned the E board for assistance with my 25,000 legal fees.

They chose to deny. I have yet to get a written response with an explanation. 

A labor union exists so that each individual member has the strength of all of the members should an injustice occur. Local 799 understood brotherhood in 1992. They claim to understand it today. 

I’m not so sure.

People will always be remembered for their last act, no matter what good they have accomplished leading up to it. My union had a lot to live up to, but in my case, failed miserably.

Thanks for listening, this has been weighing heavy n my mind for well over a year.

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