Ogdensburg Firefighters Local 1799 is happy to welcome back two members who had been unnecessarily laid off Jan. 1by city leaders. While we are glad to see firefighters Aaron Charlton and Timothy Stevenson return to duty, we are still disappointed one of our brothers remains unemployed at the hands of city administration, firefighter Jacob Thornton.
Let’s begin with a history lesson. On Nov. 1, 2019, Local 1799 was comprised of 28 men. After the retirement of firefighter Thomas Beauchamp, membership was reduced to 27. Less than three weeks later, our union signed a contract that promised not only to never replace FF Beauchamp but also agreed to sacrifice the next three vacant positions via attrition.
For our union, the agreement represented a first-of-its-kind, contractually agreed upon concession of more than 14% of union workforce. While some of city leadership has lambasted our union for “not giving up enough in our current contract,” we disagree. This was a significant sacrifice on the part of our group.
Fast forward to present day. Even with the welcome readditions of firefighters Charlton and Stevenson, we still remain at 21 employees — three members shy of the contractually agreed upon 24. Less than 14 months into a six-year contract, we’ve lost 25% of our workforce.
Combined with the mass exodus of employees citywide, it’s incomprehensible that the city cannot afford to reinstate the lone remaining laid-off firefighter. It is our belief the city needs to do the right thing and bring back FF Thornton.
The son of former Ogdensburg firefighter/Capt. Jefferson Thornton, firefighter Jake Thornton was hired in July 2018. His desire to serve our city was clearly illustrated as he left another good, civil service job to follow in his father’s footsteps.
FF Thornton’s devotion to the department and to serving the city of Ogdensburg was immediately apparent. Being a hard worker, quick learner and excellent teammate are just a few of the qualities that Jake brings to the workplace. Not only is he a model employee of the city, Mr. Thornton also is a dedicated husband to his wife, Brittany, and proud father of two.
On behalf of Local 1799, we graciously thank residents for their continued support and ask you to tell city management to bring firefighter Thornton back to work. The department and emergency service in Ogdensburg will be better for it.
Jason T. Bouchard
The writer is president of Ogdensburg Firefighters Local 1799.