Miami firefighter union agrees to defend fired members

Men accused of bullying black co-worker want their jobs back

By Tim Swift - Local10.com Digital Editor

MIAMI - Miami's firefighters union agreed Tuesday to help six members -- fired after they were accused of "sexually explicit and racially offensive conduct" -- get their jobs back.

The men had filed grievances with the union contesting their terminations. The matter will now go to the city and then, most likely, to arbitration.

In September, Lt. Robert Webster, who is black, found a noose made of twine placed over his belongings at work. Several of his family photos on his desk had also been defaced with sexually explicit symbols.

The Miami Department of Fire Rescue launched a investigation and in November the city fired six of Webster's colleagues -- Capt. William W. Bryson, Lt. Alejandro Sese, David Rivera, Harold Santana, Justin Rumbaugh and Kevin Meizoso.

The union's executive board made the decision Tuesday after a hearing at the Miami Firefighters Union Hall. Board members interviewed Webster and the six men who were fired. 

The union said the purpose of the meeting was to determine whether each firefighter's discipline was just or excessive.

"The victim is not just myself and my family," Webster told reporters at outside the hearing. "It's the people in the community who look like me and my family, because, if this is what they feel about me, who wears the same uniform that they wear, how do they truly feel about the people whose homes they're welcomed into at the time when they're most needing someone to care for them?"

Jackson Deglace, the president of the Professional Black Firefighters’ Association, said his members were "disappointed" with the union's decision. 

"I understand the union is taking the grievance process and accepting them," Deglace said.  "I didn't anticipate them accepting all of the firefighters' grievances, especially the ones most involved in the incident." 

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