Many firefighters and paramedics in St. Louis County’s Monarch Fire Protection District spent Labor Day Weekend collecting donations for the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) and preparing for a Memorial Stair Climb to raise money for families of firefighters who died at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

Monarch firefighters and paramedics who could not participate in those charitable activities because they were on duty Labor Day Weekend responded to dozens of urgent calls for emergency medical assistance and fire suppression, working often in perilous situations to save lives and property.

Few citizens know the extent of community service, volunteerism and charitable fund-raising activities that Monarch firefighters and paramedics — and those in other fire service districts — embrace as part of their commitment to community service whether on duty or off duty.

That’s because the brave men and women who risk their lives as first responders don’t raise money and volunteer their time for any recognition – they simply do it to help other people.

Charitable Commitments

Monarch firefighters and paramedics are members of the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) Local 2665, which serves much of St. Louis County, Missouri. In addition to putting their lives at risk as first responders, they manage the Monarch Firefighters Community Outreach Fund, a not-for-profit charitable organization inspired by a mission to help people and families who have suffered injury, illness, or disability.

In recent years, Monarch firefighters and paramedics have donated thousands of hours of their off-duty time to raise tens of thousands of dollars to support many non-profit organizations and worthy causes. These include the Backstoppers, the Muscular Dystrophy Association and Multiple Sclerosis Society, plus local breast cancer awareness and support programs; Honor Flights which pay tributes to military veterans; the Wings of Hope poverty intervention and medical care programs; and many more, including the Wounded Warriors Project.

This charitable tradition dates to IAFF origins in 1918 in Washington, D.C., and IAFF’s St. Louis County origins in 1934 when firefighters joined what was then known as Local 398. In 1978, Local 2665 was chartered to serve St. Louis County communities as the “Professional Fire Fighters of St. Louis County.”

In addition to far-reaching charitable support, Monarch firefighters and paramedics participate in Federal Emergency Services Task Force programs when floods, tornados and other natural disasters threaten people across Missouri and elsewhere. For example, soon after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, Monarch firefighters and paramedics were on the scene rescuing flood victims and aiding in the region’s recovery.  Monarch firefighters also were on the scene after the Joplin tornado and the World Trade Center disasters.

“We recognize that many difficulties arise as a result of tragedies that occur every day in our community and other regions,” asserts Brent Coleman, Captain at the Monarch Fire Protection District and IAFF Local 2665 Shop Steward.  

“We try to do whatever we can to help improve the lives of people we serve, and we support organizations and relationships that we believe make our community great.”

“We consider this a commitment as first responders and as human beings. Some people call us heroes, yet we are not. We are hard-working men and women who happen to work in a dangerous, high-risk occupation with families and responsibilities outside the workplace, Many professions share that description, yet our relationships with our community and local residents sets us apart.  Each of us chose this profession so we can help people.”

On Sunday September 13, Captain Coleman and a team of Monarch firefighter/paramedics will participate in the 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb by climbing the equivalent of 110 stories in the Pierre Laclede Tower II in Clayton, Missouri. Wearing full gear, each team member will honor a New York City firefighter who died in the World Trade Center terrorist attack. This fundraising event supports the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, which assists surviving families and co-workers of firefighters killed in the line of duty, including the 343 firefighters who made the ultimate sacrifice on September 11, 2001.

To financially support this effort by Monarch Firefighters Community Outreach, visit the website…

Right to Work

A few days after the 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb, Missouri lawmakers in Jefferson City will meet in a special anti-veto session to try to override Governor Jay Nixon’s veto of controversial “Right to Work” legislation.

The bill that Nixon vetoed prohibits union membership as a condition of employment. The original bill passed in May after Republican leadership applied a rarely-used tactic to end debate on the matter.  Nixon, a Democrat, vetoed the bill in June, calling it a threat to Missouri workers and wages.

In his four-page veto notice, Nixon said the bill would neuter unions, lead to lower wages and ultimately produce a less-skilled workforce by denying people training opportunities provided by labor organizations. “The ‘right to work’ moniker is a misnomer,” Nixon wrote. “‘Right to work’ laws create a less skilled workforce, drive down wages and directly interfere with a business owner’s right to contract.”

Training opportunities available to local firefighters for the benefit of the community by the IAFF, Local 2665 and the Monarch Shop are precisely the type that Nixon referred to.   IAFF sponsors hazardous materials and weapons of mass destruction training in addition to fire ground survival and code enforcement education.  Local 2665 and the Monarch Shop provide frequent opportunities for firefighters to enhance their leadership skills, along with health and wellness programs and sponsorships for seminars and national conferences.

The Right to Work bill, Nixon said, is “wrong for workers, wrong for business owners and wrong for Missouri.” Your local firefighters and paramedics concur.

It is well-documented that the anti-veto effort and related lobbying to reinstate the original bill is supported by national Republican political action committees and out-of-state corporate interests, as well as wealthy conservative businessmen.

Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show that “right to work” laws reduce income for working people. “Right to work” states have lower rates of health insurance coverage, plus higher poverty and infant mortality rates. Data indicate that “right to work” laws hurt public education by lowering funding on a per-pupil basis. And “right to work” laws are proven to be unsafe for working people – the rate of workplace deaths is 54.4 percent higher in states with these laws, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

At Monarch, union membership is not a condition of employment – Local 2665 is an “open shop.” Qualified firefighter/paramedics can be hired whether they join IAFF Local 2665 or not, though all are expected to pay their fair share to administer the Local’s contract with the District, which “Right to Work” would prohibit. To date, no Monarch firefighter/paramedic has chosen to not join the union.

To learn more about Monarch Firefighters and Paramedics, visit http://www.monarchfirefighters…