The San Antonio Firefighters first organized in 1918 under the International Firefighters Association. This local was short lived as city officials passed an ordinance that made it illegal for firefighters to belong to a union. Ninety-two firefighters were fired in May of 1920. It was not until 1947, when a Civil Service law was introduced in the state legislature, that firefighters and police officers were provided the rights and benefits they deserved. The SA Firemen’s Welfare Association led by Chief L.E. Mason, obtained 10% of qualified voters’ signatures to call for an election to adopt the Civil Service law. In 1958, the Firefighters of San Antonio joined the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) as Local 624.
The City responded by not granting pay increases for the next five years.
The Local 624’s greatest achievement was the passage of the Collective Bargaining Bill in 1973. San Antonio Firefighters worked tirelessly to bring this local option bill to a vote in San Antonio.
This watershed moment came after hard grassroots efforts in lobbying, block walking, rallies and signature collections from citizens who sought to look after their first responders. In 1975, San Antonio Firefighters signed their first contract with the City of San Antonio.
The benefits we enjoy today were never part of the employment package before we won the approval of San Antonio's citizens for Collective Bargaining. We never forget the efforts of those who came before us, both members and citizens.
Today, we continue to safeguard the wellness and livelihoods of our firefighter and paramedic members, in addition to ensuring the safety of San Antonio's citizens remain a top priority to the City's leadership.
* With gratitude to Hector Cardenas, Chair of Fire Museum Society.