The two were awarded the Professional Fire Fighters and Paramedics of North Carolina Emergency Services of the Year Award for 2009 at a recent ceremony in Kitty Hawk.
The awards come as both sides of the lawsuit filed by 10 current and former Rockingham firefighters against the City of Rockingham await the approval of a federal judge on their negotiated settlement, which reportedly won’t return Barber and Gandy their jobs.
Barber remains the president of the local chapter of the International Association of Fire Fighters, the union to which at least eight current Rockingham firefighters belong.
Gandy is the chapter’s secretary-treasurer.
Both of their dismissals came weeks apart in the two months following the filing of the lawsuit.
PFFPNC President Dave Anders cited the two men’s work organizing the union chapter in late 2008, and signing up all but two of their fellow firefighters.
“I could not think of any other fire fighter or paramedic in the state who were more deserving of this recognition,” Anders said in a press release. “Both fire fighters persevered against odds that most people would have run away from.”
“I never seen this coming,” Barber is quoted in a union press release. “This award was a surprise to me. We are so thankful for the encouragement we have received from all the firefighters across the state.”
“We were so pleased that both men conducted themselves as gentlemen during some very difficult times,” Anders said. “They quietly educated themselves and their members about potential Fair Labor Standards Act claims and always had the welfare of their community as a primary concern. They truly deserve these awards.”
North Carolina is an employment-at-will state, which precludes the employees of local governments from engaging in collective bargaining.
Staff Writer Philip D. Brown can be reached at (910) 997-3111 ext. 32, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.