Hernando County firefighters union stands up for what's right
Hernando TodayThe issue: Union dumps charity fundraiser.
Published: February 25, 2010
Published: February 25, 2010
Our opinion: Hernando County Professional Firefighters Local 3760 shows integrity; other unions need to follow suit.
You can stand up for what's right or try to justify why something patently wrong isn't that big of a deal.
Hernando County Professional Firefighters Local 3760 took the high road last week when members voted to end the union's relationship with a Tampa-area telemarketing company that solicits donations for firefighter union charities.
Why? The telemarketing company - Bay Area Council Inc. - spends about 85 cents of each dollar its collects from unsuspecting donors and then passes on the crumbs of their kindness to the eight area firefighter unions for which it solicits donations.
Representatives of the participating unions, which receive annual checks from Bay Area Council, said they were unaware how little they were actually getting from the telemarketing company's fundraising efforts.
That all changed last December when Hernando Today reporter Tony Holt investigated Bay Area Council's operations. Through records on file with the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs, Holt's investigation showed the pittance Bay Area Council actually gave each year to the firefighter unions it represents.
"We were a little shocked ourselves," Local 3760 President Bobby Rae told Hernando Today.
Representative of several area firefighter unions Holt contacted last December were unconcerned - including the union that represents the Spring Hill Fire Rescue District. The Spring Hill union has since changed its tune and also voted to end its relationship with Bay Area Council.
Good for them.
Local 3760 was concerned from the start.
"We want to be on the right side of this issue, not the wrong side," Rae said following his union's vote to dump Bay Area Council.
After reading Holt's series of stories, a spokesman said members questioned Bay Area Council's practices.
We call those practices a consumer rip-off, and we challenge the other firefighter unions taking part in this fundraising scam to do what Local 3760 did and put a stop to this swindle - one that kicks into high gear before the holidays, when people are more sensitive to giving to good causes.
When someone calls you on the phone to solicit donations representing noble and heroic firefighters, most people feel obliged to chip in to help, just as they would expect their firefighters to race to their aid if their house were on fire or they needed life-saving emergency medical treatment.
Those are the emotions Bay Area Council plays on.
The money Bay Area Council supposedly raises for firefighter charities seems to be little more than a cash cow for its owners, with much of the proceeds going to "fundraising fees" and "salaries." As much as we'd like to talk to the president of Bay Area Council about his organization's operations and where all the money goes, he has not returned any of our reporter's repeated requests for an interview.
We encourage area resident to donate directly to the local charities of their choice, especially in these tough economic times. There are a lot of good folks who could use your help. However, it's never a good practice to send money to someone who solicits donations over the phone.
If the remaining six firefighter unions would do the right thing and drop their association with Bay Area Council, consumers would be better protected and predatory fundraisers like Bay Area Council would be out of business.