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Black firefighters, union settle lawsuit

The city's organization of black firefighters has settled a 2009 federal lawsuit against the Philadelphia Firefighters Union, in which it derided their local as ""a hostile, anti-minority, and offensive union for African American Fire Fighters. " The agreement, announced Wednesday in a press release, is less a legal settlement than a peace treaty, with Club Valiants, Inc. and Local 22 of the International Association of Fire Fighters each pledging to work together to bridge the divide that has developed between the two organizations. "The parties have agreed to continue to work together to encourage open communication and to foster respect, unity and diversity among their members," read a joint statement from Club Valiants, Inc., the group of black firefighters that has pushed to integrate the department starting in the late 1960s; the NAACP, which joined Club Valiants in the Civil Rights lawsuit; and Local 22. "Club Valiants will encourage its members to participate in and attend the Local’s various committees and monthly general membership meetings and to run for Union office," the statement said. "In addition, both organizations will participate in and promote each organization’s respective annual events and encourage their members to attend the events." The union is to monitor its website, which gave rise to the original litigation when white firefighters using the union online chat room were found mocking black firefighters and using "racially harassing and discriminatory materials and comments," as described in the original complaint. The Valiants settled with the city last year. The city agreed to pay $15,000 in legal fees and "provide additional diversity training" with input from the Valiants and the NAACP.

Black firefighters, union settle lawsuit

The city's organization of black firefighters has settled a 2009 federal lawsuit against the Philadelphia Firefighters Union, in which it derided their local as ""a hostile, anti-minority, and offensive union for African American Fire Fighters. "
 
The agreement, announced Wednesday in a press release, is less a legal settlement than a peace treaty, with Club Valiants, Inc. and Local 22 of the International Association of Fire Fighters each pledging to work together to bridge the divide that has developed between the two organizations.

"The parties have agreed to continue to work together to encourage open communication and to foster respect, unity and diversity among their members," read a joint statement from Club Valiants, Inc., the group of black firefighters that has pushed to integrate the department starting in the late 1960s; the NAACP, which joined Club Valiants in the Civil Rights lawsuit; and Local 22.

"Club Valiants will encourage its members to participate in and attend
the Local’s various committees and monthly general membership meetings and
to run for Union office," the statement said. "In addition, both organizations will participate in and promote each organization’s respective annual events and encourage their members to attend the events."

The union is to monitor its website, which gave rise to the original litigation when white firefighters using the union online chat room were found mocking black firefighters and using "racially harassing and discriminatory materials and comments," as described in the original complaint.

The Valiants settled with the city last year. The city agreed to pay $15,000 in legal fees and "provide additional diversity training" with input from the Valiants and the NAACP.

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A group of African American firefighters and the NAACP have settled their federal lawsuit against the City of Philadelphia over allegations of racist Internet postings made by white firefighters while on duty.

U.S. District Judge Cynthia M. Rufe on Tuesday dismissed claims against the city at the request of Club Valiants Inc., the organization of black firefighters that has battled the Fire Department on issues of race and discrimination for 40 years.

In November, Club Valiants and Philadelphia NAACP president J. Whyatt Mondesire sued the city and Local 22 of the International Association of Fire Fighters, which represents its members. The Valiants alleged that city computers were used to post "racially harassing and discriminatory materials and comments" on the union's own website and another site used mostly by police officers, creating a hostile work environment.

As part of the settlement, the city has agreed to pay $15,000 in legal fees and "provide additional diversity training" with input from the Valiants and the NAACP. The city will also "re-post" the city's policy against using city computers for "discriminatory purposes," said Brian R. Mildenberg, attorney for the Valiants and the NAACP.

City Solicitor Shelley Smith could not be reached for comment, but a city spokesman confirmed the details of the settlement.

Kenneth Greene, former president of Club Valiants and a plaintiff in the suit, praised the city for taking "a positive step. "

"It clearly says that now we can move forward . . . and alleviate any of these problems that might arise for any employee of Philadelphia in the future," Greene said in an interview.

"I am pleased that the City of Philadelphia has agreed to resolve the claims brought in this lawsuit and that the NAACP Philadelphia Branch has assisted in advancing the civil rights of African American firefighters," Mondesire said through Mildenberg.

The agreement with the city does not resolve the larger dispute between the Valiants and Local 22, whose leadership is primarily white. The Valiants' complaint said Local 22 has become "a hostile, anti-minority, and offensive union for African American Fire Fighters. "

Concerned American Fire Fighters Association, or CAFFA, the local organization that claims discrimination against white firefighters in the hiring and promotion process in Philadelphia, was dropped as a defendant in April.

Settlement negotiations between the Valiants and Local 22 are ongoing, sources said.

Local 22 president Bill Gault declined to comment, as did Valiants president Eric Fleming, citing the ongoing litigation.

The postings on Local 22's website and domelights.com, a now-defunct site aimed at city police officers, included derogatory terms including "apes" and frequent mockery of what was supposed to be African American speech, according to the complaint.
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