Prior to January 9, 1918, Dallas firefighters became members of a local union, affiliated with the American Federation of Labor. Upon organization of the International Association of Fire Fighters, the Dallas firefighters affiliated with the IAFF as Local #58. They were listed as such in the first IAFF publication along with other Texas Locals, EL Paso #51 and Dennison #69.
On January 9, 1918, the mayor and commissioners demanded that the firefighters withdraw from the union or be discharged. N.J. McNatt, J. Boyce and others brought suit (McNatt et al v. Lawther, Mayer, et al) for reinstatement. The Court of Civil Appeals of Texas, Amarillo, June 19, 1920, ruled in favor of the city and the firefighters failed to regain their jobs
On March 13, 1939, the firefighters reorganized as Local #617 of the IAFF. On November 8, 1939, the city manager proposed, and the council approved, the retaining of Article 403 of the revised Code of the City of Dallas – It shall hereafter be unlawful for any member of the Police or Fire Department to become member of any labor union or organization which might in any way conflict with his duty to the city.
He proposed that by November 23, 1939, firefighters choose between the union and city employment. The IAFF sent Vice-President Peris and Secretary-Treasurer Richardson to Dallas to attempt to mediate the situation. On November 15, 1939, the U.S. Department of Labor sent in Joseph S. Myers, a conciliator who had effect on the city’s position. A public meeting was held and nearly 1,000 citizens attended and backed the firefighters.
On November 22, 1939, a final plea was made before the city council, but to no avail. Secretary-Treasurer Richardson then revoked the Charter of Local #617 on the grounds that the laws of the State and City ordinance had always governed the IAFF. From November 22, 1939 until 1957, Dallas firefighters were not organized, nor affiliated with the IAFF.
In 1956, the members of the fire department felt the need for an employee group. Two firefighters filed suit (Beverly Gilliam v. the City of Dallas) against the city for the right to organize. The suit was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, where the firefighters received a favorable ruling. On March 8, 1957, Local #617 was re-chartered with the IAFF.
In 1990, Local #617 petitioned the IAFF to receive the original Local #58, and it was granted. Since 1957, it has been the goal of this Local to improve the economic and working conditions of Dallas firefighters.