International Association of Fire Fighters, Local 365 v. City of East Chicago, Indiana, No. 22-1708 (7th Cir. 2022)Annotate this Case
The plaintiffs, firefighters and their union, alleged retaliation for protected First Amendment activity. Mayor Copeland, a former firefighter of 26 years, had implemented cost-cutting measures, including freezing the firefighters' salaries and benefits. During Copeland’s reelection campaign, the firefighter’s political action committee endorsed Copeland’s opponent and other candidates who opposed Copeland’s policies. Copeland was reelected. Several firefighters protested at Copeland’s inauguration. Copeland vetoed an ordinance to restore some of the benefits and directed Fire Chief Serna to develop a new schedule. An 8/24 schedule, whereby a firefighter would work eight hours and then be off 24 hours was proposed. No other fire department in the country has adopted that schedule, which assigns firefighters to different shifts every day. In a secretly-recorded conversation, Serna said: “You can call it retaliation.” The defendants proposed to give up the schedule in exchange for the Union giving up its right to lobby the Common Council. The Union rejected the proposal; the city implemented the 8/24 schedule. The Council later returned the firefighters’ to a 24/48 schedule. Copeland sued the Council, alleging that the ordinance violated his executive power. The state court agreed with Copeland and struck the ordinance—leaving the 8/24 schedule in effect.
The Seventh Circuit affirmed a preliminary injunction, ordering the city to immediately begin reinstating the old work schedule. There was no evidence that the 8/24 schedule would result in cost savings; the firefighters would suffer irreparable harm without an injunction.