CPF District 2 represents the counties of Kern, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles - with the exception of United Firefighters of Los Angeles City, Local 112 and Los Angeles County Fire Fighters, Local 1014.

Downey Firefighters Send Message with $3.7 Million Settlement

Photo by Daniel Piedlow

Photo by Daniel Piedlow

After enduring years of retaliatory attacks for union activities, members of the Downey Firefighter’s Association, Local 3473 have come out on top of a $3.7 million settlement.

The settlement, which comes roughly four years after the unanimous “Vote of No Confidence” that Local 3473 leveled against its former fire chief, makes members whole after years of denied promotions, unwarranted disciplinary investigations and direct retaliation at the bargaining table. 

“We were ready to go to court on this,” said former Downey President Steve Davis, who led the local during the legal fight. “We basically caught them with their hand in the cookie jar, so city leadership wanted to sit down and get this thing settled.”

The lawsuit, which was filed on behalf of Local 3473 and 14 individual plaintiffs, charged that former Fire Chief Lonnie Croom and other city officials retaliated against members who had exercised their 1st Amendment right during the “Vote of No Confidence” taken back in 2013. At the time, the city of Downey was considering contracting with Los Angeles County for fire services, but backed away from the option despite Local 3473’s backing of an agreement that likely would have provided better service at a lower cost. 

The settlement also saw two firefighters reinstated back to paramedic status with full pay, removed all disciplinary files resulting from the city’s retaliation about union members and has allowed several members to promote into positions from which they were previously barred. Chief Croom has also left the department, after he was placed on administrative leave in 2014. 

In addition to its financial and professional implications, the settlement also sends an important message to management.

“Throughout the whole process, we were all united. We all had the same fight and the same cause,” said former Downey President Steve Davis, who led the local during the legal fight. “We weren’t going to let these guys push us around. We showed what can happen when everybody sticks together.”

For the time being, the outlook in the city of Downey is a positive one, as both sides look to mend fences now that the long fight has come to an end. 

“We’re trying to build a relationship with our current fire chief, and things are going well trying to do that,” Davis said. “Our city leadership has also expressed interest in meeting with the board and starting fresh.”

With contract negotiations set to begin in the coming weeks, it should be clear immediately whether city leadership is serious in their efforts to turn over a new leaf. 

“That’s going to be a good test right there,” Davis said. “We’re hoping things are going to get better.”