Spokane Fire Station No. 11: Unionizing for the Community

Station No. 11 was another stick cottage-style station for the fire department. It was built in 1910 and located at 2711 S. Grand Avenue. The original station was razed in 1936, with the new station opening up in 1939. The rebuilt station was one of the first horizontal stations emphasizing a larger central bay, and represents the shift from stick cottage-style, and brick and stone architecture, to single-story cement stations more concerned with larger motorized apparatus and equipment than ornate details.

As the fire department shifted in architectural styles, so did their organizational strategies. By 1917, many men were working to organize a union, but a city ordinance forbade firemen organizing. The men all signed a petition and handed it to the city fathers, but to their astonishment, the City Council picked the first name on the list and fired him. One of the firefighters made an attempt to approach his captain about organizing a union, "he was a strict guy to work under. He became chief the same day Hitler took over Germany." And when he approached his chief he was turned down. However, the firefighter went to a judge who was also a friend of the chief. The judge eventually talked the chief into letting the men form a union.

Spokane firefighters had good reason to unionize. Their workweek in 1917 was 144 hours. On April 17, 1917, Spokane firefighters organized their union, with their delegates seated on the Central Labor Council. On February 28, 1918, "City Fireman's Union" was chartered into the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF), and later became known as "Local 29."One of SFD's original union members, Captain William Brown, even helped form the IAFF in Washington D.C.

In the beginning there were only seven members, however, as time passed the firefighters recognized the benefits unions offered. In 1927, the 144 hour work week ended for Spokane firefighters, decreasing to 84 hours a week. In 1946 their work week was decreased to 72 hours; in 1947 it was decreased to 63 hours per week, and in 1980, the work week for Spokane firefighters leveled off at 52 hours per week.

Local 29 officers continue to represent Spokane firefighters locally, in the state legislature, and nationally, and continue to advance the firefighting profession. The union regularly supports the Spokane community. Local 29 sponsors free swim days at community pools, organizes Fill the Boot for children with muscular dystrophy, supports the Isaac Foundation for autism, Meals on Wheels, Coats for Kids, Habitat for Humanity, Bone Marrow registries, operates support stations throughout the Bloomsday course, and the Twin Towers Commemorative 5K which raises money for the Spokane Firefighters Benevolent Fund, Camp Eyabsut, and the Washington National Guard's Minuteman Emergency Assistance Fund.


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