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IAFF advocates for reinstatement of fire fighter in Florida termination case

July 2, 2024
Palm Beach Florida fire station

Case background and First Amendment implications

The International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) is advocating for the reinstatement of a Florida fire fighter who was terminated for conducting union business.

This case, which originated from contract negotiations in late 2023, is seen as a critical test of First Amendment rights.

Sallee, a member of the negotiation team, recounted the incident: “Our city manager, David Deitch, made his dislike for the union clear, which included threats of terminating jobs.

“People often get passionate during negotiations, so we just continued to bargain in good faith.

“But one night, he said he wanted to speak to me after the meeting and fired me.”

Local 5301 filed a grievance for wrongful termination in December 2023 when the city administration failed to provide a reason for the disciplinary action.

After the grievance was denied, the Local pursued arbitration.

Legal actions and union support

General President Edward Kelly approved the case for coverage under the IAFF Guardian Policy, which offers legal representation to union leaders facing retaliation for union activities or speaking on public concerns.

The IAFF has filed a federal lawsuit alleging that Sallee’s First Amendment rights were violated when he was terminated for advocating on behalf of his union members during contract negotiations.

Niceville officials attempted to block the grievance arbitration and sought a restraining order against Sallee, aiming to prevent him from attending union meetings at the firehouse.

The IAFF, representing Local 5301 and Sallee, moved to dismiss both actions and to proceed with the arbitration.

Court ruling and next steps

The Circuit Court for the First Judicial Circuit in Okaloosa County ruled in favor of the IAFF on June 14, allowing the arbitration to proceed as scheduled in August.

Local 5301 President Travis Zaal commented: “All we want is for our member to be treated fairly.

“The IAFF has been by our side every step of the way, and we know they will be there until this case is resolved.”

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