For many Years after the advent of the paid New York City Fire Department in 1865, numerous efforts were made by employees to organize into benevolent or fraternal associations. The inherent danger of the job, coupled with poor working conditions, inadequate wages, no discernible benefits or legal protections for firefighters, led to the eventual formation in 1917 of the Uniformed Firemen's Association (UFA).
The following is a history of the UFA from its organization to today:
Through the 1920s
1917 - FF Albert Guinness formed the Uniformed Firemen's Association of the FDNY, which became Local 94 of the International Association of Firefighters the following year. Firemen were working "continuous duty," of 151 hours per week with 3 hours off each day. Annual salary was $1,500.
1920 - UFA won a 27% increase to a more livable annual salary of $1,900.
1921 - The Honor Emergency Fund was created to provide financial assistance to active/retired firefighters and their families due to death, illness or injury.
1922 - UFA pressure resulted in a two-platoon system of 84 hours per week.
1927 - Due in large part to the lobbying efforts of the UFA, "Right of Appeal Law" legislation was passed, granting civil service employees the right to appear before legislative bodies to express grievances. Prior to the enactment of this particular measure, civil service employees could be denied the right by departmental edict.
1928 - The UFA won the right for referendum vote, raising annual salaries to $3,000.
As the Great Depression was taking hold, Mayor Jimmy Walker pressured city workers to take a "payless furlough," claiming the city was on the verge of bankruptcy.
The UFA was the only group to refuse to submit. Mayor LaGuardia had a bill passed reducing the salaries of all city employees. The UFA fought the measure until it was rescinded.
- The UFA succeeded in achieving the three-platoon system (or eight-hour day) through a referendum of the voters during the general election.
- Passage of a local law granting a disability pension for firemen with line-of-duty injuries.
1937 - The UFA inserted a provision in the state Constitution, making public employee pensions a contractual requirement of the state.
1939 - Voters then passed a UFA-sponsored resolution reducing a fireman's work week from 84 to 50 hours.
1940 - Two major pension systems were installed:
Article 1, whereby members appointed prior to April 1940 were to pay in 5% or 6% of their salaries, and Article 1B under which new appointees were required to contribute 9% to 14% on an actuarial basis.
1943 - The UFA and FDNY established the Medal of Supreme Sacrifice. Some 1,800 members of the Fire Department served in the armed forces during World War II.
1944 - The three-platoon system was suspended and the remaining members worked 84 hours per week.
1946 - The work week was gradually reduced to 60 hours per week. First grade FF earned $3,900 per year.
1947 - A 28-day vacation for firefighters was established and numerous pension improvements went into effect.
1948 - The UFA negotiated a 20-year retirement and a return to the two-platoon system, although the City had the right to keep the three-platoon system. (More improvements came in the 1960s.)
1950 - First grade firefighters earned $4,400 a year.
1957 - A Constitutional Convention came up for approval by the voters; the UFA campaigned against it, and the Convention was defeated. The intention was to invalidate the contractual obligations on pensions.
- The Mayor's Management Survey Committee recommended the elimination of 52 fire houses. The UFA opposed the plan and it was disapproved.
- The 46-hour work week won.
- Uniform allowance was established.
- UFA started its first Political Action program.
The UFA successfully led the battle for increased pensions of widows and retired men.
- A 40-hour work week mandated by referendum.
- 1/60th pension benefit secured for all firefighters.
- Four paid holidays successfully negotiated, as well as emergency overtime paid in cash.
- UFA has abolished three-platoon system both legislatively at the state level and by voter referendum in NYC.
- Equalized vacations for all first-grade FFs established.
- Residency restrictions liberalized. Paid holidays increased to six.
- Dues check-off inaugurated. Prior to this time, all dues had been collected by delegates.
- Ten paid holidays secured.
- A two and one-half percent reduction in pension rate achieved.
- Improved 1/60th bill for Article 1 members.
- Half final pay for Article 1 B members established.
- Honor Emergency Death Benefit increased.
- UFA's Security Benefit Fund established.
- Paid holidays increased to 11 annually.
- Dental and Optical Plans added to UFA Security Benefit Fund.
- 965 Members and families given choice of health plans.
- Death Gamble provided.
- Payment of time-and-a-half for OT gained.
- First-grade FF earned $8,483 base pay.
- Pension contributions reduced by 5%.
- Longevity established.
- Pension escalation for disability retirements and service retirements after age 62.
- Personal leave day granted.
- The UFA successfully gets the "no strike" clause eliminated from the IAFF Constitution, then seeks approval of the membership to order a strike. This was prompted by the city's foot dragging in negotiating a new contract. Threats lead to negotiations and a contract within two months.
- UFA and the City reach agreement on a new benefit for members who retire after 20 years of service-the Variable Supplements Fund (VSF). (Legislation is signed by the Governor in 1970, and the first payments are made in 1973.)
- First-grade FF base pay reaches $10,325.
- Union name is changed from the "Uniformed Firemen's Association" to the "Uniformed Firefighters Association".
- Permanent "Lung Bill" was signed into law by Gov. Rockefeller.
- The Heart Bill signed into law (was an original goal of the UFA, beginning with its first President Albert E. Guinness).
- UFA achieves vested pension option for members after 15 years of service.
- Through negotiations, the UFA obtains overtime pay for ordered overtime work, as well as night differential.
- City agrees to increase companies and manning, creating one new Division, five battalions and eight companies. Manning increases to 11,891 Firefighters.
- UFA-sponsored "one-man, one vote" resolution is adopted by the IAFF, giving New York City's Local 94 greater representation in the international.
- Contract demands again fall on deaf ears at City Hall, prompting yet another strike threat from the UFA.
- $25,000 line-of-duty death benefit achieved for New York City Firefighters.
- A new contract guaranteed five-man manning on all apparatus.
- Night differential increased from 5% to 10%.
- Portal-to-portal & "clean-up" pay secured.
- Number of FFs reaches its highest-12,500.
- The Rand Corporation retained by the City to study the fire service; recommends closing six companies and relocating seven others. The plan is implemented and the UFA responds by holding mass rallies and filing a lawsuit.
- After several threats over the past few years to hold a job action in response to the City's unwillingness to negotiate a new contract, the UFA goes on strike. Members walk out at 8:30 a.m. on Nov. 6, but return to work five-and-a-half hours later after Supreme Court Justice Sidney A. Fine ordered the City to negotiate with the union.
- By December, the union had reached an agreement with the City on a one-year contract.
- The UFA wins an increase in compulsory insurance (compensation insurance) coverage for active Firefighters from $2,000 to $5,000.
1975 - The City's fiscal problems worsen; more than 40,000 city workers are laid off, including 1,600 firefighters. However, 700 are hired back within three days. The UFA continues to provide health, hospital and dental care to these members and their families. The union also is instrumental in getting Federal jobs for 250 brothers and in having another 300 hired in temporary jobs as bus drivers for the Transit Authority.
- The City disbanded eight companies citing fiscal crisis. The UFA unsuccessfully sued to stop the closings.
- Base pay of a first-grade FF increased to $17,458.
1975-7 - The City reneges on minimum manning provisions, reducing to 42 the number of five-man engines. (By 1982, the number of engines riding with five firefighters is increased to about 140, leaving 71 four-man engines.
- The UFA establishes a Security Benefit Fund for retired members.
- Federal legislation passed providing assistance to the family of a LODD Firefighter, $50,000 to surviving dependents.
- The first annual Delegates Seminar is held.
- As the number of fires soared in the mid-1970s and the fiscal crisis began to abate, the City agreed to restore five-man manning on 20 engines. By this time, all firefighters who had been laid off and wanted to return were rehired by the FDNY.
- New programs created by UFA included free legal consultation and voluntary group life insurance program.
- UFA achieved increase in pensions for line-of-duty widows through legislative actions signed by Gov. Carey.
- Union negotiated increases in compulsory insurance coverage for active firefighters from $5,000 to $7,500, retired firefighters from $2,000 to $4,000.
1981 - After many years of struggle, a supplemental cost-of-living increase was passed by the state legislature, providing pension increases of 3 % to 29% for retirees.
- UFA plays key role with Uniformed Forces Coalition, two-year contract, salary raises of 9% and 8% and no give- backs.
- Members vote to end the union's 63-year affiliation with the IAFF
- Problems at the medical office, which had been brewing for years, came to a head, the UFA and 1,000 Firefighters rallied outside the Medical Office to protest mistreatment and improper care rendered. The protest led to the appointment of a special panel by Mayor Koch which recommended several operational changes at the Bureau.
- UFA filed for a court injunction to halt the retest of women who failed the FD physical.
1982 - Unified, more than 10,000 firefighters, police officers and correction officers marched on City Hall. Negotiating once again under the umbrella Uniformed Forces Coalition, several months a two-year contract of 8% per year, one-percent higher than the civilian coalition.
1985-9 - A negotiated contract is rejected by the Executive Board and the delegates. The sticking point is the City's offer to restore five-firefighter manning to only six additional engine companies, out of 73 that still have four-firefighter manning. Membership rejected two negotiated agreements. UFA forced into an arbitration. The City's Office of Collective Bargaining "scoped out" several key provisions, including minimum manning, vacation, the group chart and the firefighter's job description. It would take several years and several negotiated contracts to win back some of these important provisions.
- The UFA secured law for FFs laid off in 1975 and later rehired the right to buy back time for pension credit. Affected about 950 firefighters.
- Back wages deferred as a result of the mid-70s fiscal crisis were negotiated by the UFA.
- Union sued to bring five-firefighter minimum manning level to the remaining 71 engine companies still riding with four firefighters.
- UFA lobbying resulted in a $5.2 million boost in the FDNY budget, including the creation of two new engine companies, two truck companies, one battalion and the Haz Mat unit.
1990-1 - Calling it unsafe for firefighters and citizens, the UFA urged the City's Office of Collective Bargaining to eliminate the Fire Department's roster manning program, which, despite promises to the contrary, had failed to provide promised manning levels on engines (five firefighters) the majority of the time.
- The UFA launches a political action committee, Fire PAC, to fund effective lobbying efforts in City Hall, Albany and Washington, DC.
- The union purchased a five-story building in Manhattan as its new Headquarters.
- Proposed draconian cuts of 10% of the FDNY budget-including firehouse closings-are avoided due to intense UFA lobbying efforts. The department takes only a $1.3 million budget hit, out of a proposed $57 million cut.
1993 - A pilot CPR program begins in Brooklyn, where Firefighters respond to medical emergencies. The program, established without union input due to the loss of the firefighter's job description in the '87-90 arbitration, is expanded a year later to include the use of defibrillators.
1994 - The Cancer Bill, allowing for line-of-duty pensions for members disabled by six different types of cancer was signed into law by Gov. Cuomo, capping an eight-year struggle to protect firefighters and officers.
- UFA settles Roster Staffing hearings restoring five-man manning to 61 engine companies. In conjunction, 96 hours of RSOT is guaranteed for every firefighter.
- Members vote 2-1 to re-affiliate with IAFF.
- First Legislative Day in Albany sponsored by UFA. attended by several dozen members.
- Major UFA victory is won with the elimination of the Home Visitation and PMLA programs through a federal lawsuit.
- The Compensation Accrual Fund (CAF), or annuity, is converted into a self- directed plan. Members have direct control over their investment funds.
1997-8 - UFA negotiates five-year contract which includes chauffeur pay and restoration of several key provisions lost in disastrous 1987-90 arbitration decision:
39 hours vacation leave, increased longevity and annuity pay. In addition, the contract included provision for a Safety Committee comprised of department and union officials, which resulted in additional five-man engine companies, bringing UFA-negotiated number up to 66 five-man engines. UFA negotiates and members ratify CFR-D agreement, including a 3% pay differential, retroactive pay, training for ladder company members, and a voluntary feature that ultimately makes the program optional for all firefighters. Unfortunately, the civilian pattern that included two years of zero, was part of the deal.
2000 - Present
2008-10 - Contract two 4% raises over 24 months, with additional benefits, including a longevity escalator, with automatic increases and compounding of all existing longevity steps. For the first time ever, firefighter longevity pay will increase and compound at the same percent rate as all future base salary increases.
- Terrorists attack World Trade Center. The UFA in partnership with the IAFF established the 9-11 Fund, and dispensed millions to our families in need. Click HERE for the UFA's September 11th Tribute.
- The years of persistence through political efforts and the courts wins the UFA and PBA the absolute right to arbitrate impasse contracts through state PERB-removing us forever from the City's tilted system.
2002-3 - UFA harnesses the newest communication technology. Launches instantaneous telephone, fax and e-mail broadcast systems to firehouses, delegates and entire membership, providing instantaneous information to the field. UFA Web site enhanced to include the most up-to-date information about union initiatives.
- An LOD Funeral Fund was established to provide for members to travel to firefighter memorials and funeral services nationwide.
- Unified, more than 10,000 firefighters & police rally in sweltering summer heat in Times Square. The results were contracts that eliminated six months of zeroes.
- Historic first PERB award granted to PBA. Leveraging that award, the UFA negotiated contract which exceeded the uniform coalition pattern established by civilian unions.
2004 - Pension loans legislative win allows retiring members to borrow up to 90% of contributions.
- Major UFA legislative win to expand of the Cancer Bill to include cancers involving the neurological, breast and reproductive systems as presumed LODI.
- UFA efforts through public rallies and successful lobbying stopped the closing of two of the eight firehouses Mayor Bloomberg had on chopping block.
UFA reactivates legislative/lobby day program (May 10, 2005) in Albany with bus loads of FFs to push for WTC Presumptive Illness bill's passage.
WTC Presumptive Bill signed into law on June 15, 2005. This Landmark Bill, which was secured because of the tireless lobbying efforts of the UFA and its members of Fire PAC, allows for firefighters who become injured as a result of the work performed at the attacks and later on, the clean-up, at the World Trade Center to be eligible for accidental disability pension, even if already retired.
New contract overwhelmingly ratified by the membership. Four-year contract is retroactive to 2002 and provides a compounded 17.5% raise for NYC firefighters. Civilians agreed to 4% over three years.
- The 2005 contract extends the roster staffing agreement another five years and increases the number of engines operating citywide with five firefighters, a critical win for New York's firefighters.
- Stroke Bill Signed by Governor Pataki. UFA is successful in its lobbying efforts of the State Assembly, Senate and Governor's office. UFA members who suffer from strokes are protected with LODI pensions. The Bill retroactively covers 4 members.
- WTC LOD Death Pension. UFA is successful in getting this bill signed into law. Families of members who die as a result of a WTC presumed illness will now receive full LOD pensions - even if the death occurs after the member is retired. This law retroactively applies to families of all members who died prior to its signing into law.
- WTC LODI Prescription Drug Card approved. UFA is successful in convincing the City to provide LODI drug cards for all members who are ill as a result of exposure at WTC. Members no longer use UFA SBF money, or cash out of their own pockets.
- The UFA led the Uniformed Unions in setting the CBA pattern by settling its contract first. For the first time ever, the contract contained re-opener language for the current and previous contracts. This contract was ground-breaking because it secured a 12% increase in the base pay for special assignment duty to Haz-tech companies, the Squads, and Rescue Companies (a total of 17 Companies). This increase was at no cost to our members. The contract also eliminated Extra-Departmental Employment filing requirements.
- Contract Reopened - The UFA was successful in getting the 2004-06 contract reopened and increased by 3.48% retroactively the base salary of all first-grade firefighters. The re-opener was achieved due to unique language the UFA negotiated in the 2006-08 contract in order to maintain parity with the PBA if the PERB arbitration award exceeded the UFA agreement for the same period. Thus, the parity that has existed between firefighters and police for 140 years remains.