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A statewide union for firefighters in Connecticut is going after the family members of the leaders of a local chapter for allegedly past-due “dues.”

They amount to some $52,000.

The dispute now has been escalated to court, where the Uniformed Professional Fire Fighters Association of Connecticut is fighting a claim from the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 825 that it illegally refused to stop billing the dues when Local 825 members disaffiliated.

And Local 825 members not only want a court to relieve them of the $52,000, they want returned another $96,000 that previously was paid to the state group because the UPFFA allegedly misused that money.

The details come from the Fairness Center, which works in cases involving union dues and representation.

The organization explained: “More than two years ago, New Haven, Connecticut’s, International Association of Fire Fighters, Local 825, ended its membership in a state-wide union, the Uniformed Professional Fire Fighters Association of Connecticut (UPFFA). But since then, Local 825 has continued to receive bills for UPFFA membership dues – bills that now total over $52,000 and for which the UPFFA is demanding payment.”

The report said, “Now, after two years of nonpayment, a collections agency is calling Local 825’s leadership and their family members in an effort to collect [the] alleged ‘back dues.'”

“State union bureaucrats who don’t fight fires are trying to pick our pockets,” said Frank Ricci, president of Local 825. “We left the state union more than two years ago, and they aren’t entitled to a cent from us since then – especially after they betrayed our trust by misusing our money. Because the state union won’t honor our choice to leave, we’re asking the court to step in. We are risking our lives to fight for the community. We shouldn’t also have to fight state union bureaucrats.”

It was Local 825 that went to court when the demands for the dues elevated.

It is asking the Superior Court of Connecticut, New Haven District, to affirm its right to disaffiliate, to order UPFFA to recognize the disassociation, and to stop UPFFA from trying to collect funds.

“Additionally, Local 825 – which recently learned that UPFFA was misappropriating its dues before Local 825 disassociated – will request that UPFFA return a portion of dues from prior years,” the Fairness Center said.

That amount, court records show, comes to about $96,000.

The union local was a “legislative member” of the state group, a category that provides for limited rights but does provide for legislative lobbying services to the local.

After a time, the local “started questioning the value of its affiliation with the statewide union. For one, Local 825 and its firefighters were paying ‘dues’ to be a UPFFA legislative member, and Local 825 believed those legislative membership dues were high for the local union and its firefighters given what they believed to be the low return on their investment. Ricci also discovered that those dues went to support a key UPFFA political position with which Local 825 disagreed,” the center said.

So it notified the state union, but that group, despite acknowledging the decision, continued to send bills for dues.

About the same time, the local found the UPFFA had been “using Local 825’s dues to engage in labor activity completely unrelated to UPFFA’s legislative services.”

Most recently, the state group filed a motion asking the court to strike the complaint, alleging that it doesn’t include the international union as a case participant.

Local 825 contends participation by the IAFF is completely unnecessary.

It explains the international union “allows its affiliates to have its own unique relationship with state affiliate unions and, more specifically, does not require affiliate local unions, including Local 825, to affiliate with UPFFA.”

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