Firefighters from coast to coast are mourning the death of Michael Mullane, a longtime labor leader remembered as a legendary old-school negotiator who fought for the rights of his front-line constituents.
“Mike Mullane was a leader. He was always by my side when I was learning the ropes, and I always looked up to him,” said Rich Paris, president of Boston Firefighters Local 718. “He was a mentor, a great guy and a great friend. He cared about the union and his fellow firefighters.”
Mullane, 68, died early yesterday morning surrounded by friends and family, according to Paris. He was a Boston firefighter for more than four decades. Mullane also represented the International Association of Firefighters in the 3rd District for more than 30 years as vice president.
“He was passionate about what he did, and he was the driving force for a lot of the legislation that protects firefighters’ rights and benefits,” said Boston fire Commissioner Joseph Finn. “He was always concerned about families and making sure they were protected.”
Finn said it’s typical for four or five members of the department’s color guard to take part in funerals for fallen firefighters — though he expects it will be a little different for Mullane.
“In this case, where Mike was so well-known, it’s going to be a big thing,” Finn said.
“You’re going to have people flying in from all over the country. He was a legend nationally in the labor movement and making a better life for firefighters. This is going to be a big deal. You don’t forget a guy like Mike.”
A service has tentatively been scheduled for Thursday, with a Mass on Friday, according to Paris. The exact locations and times have not yet been determined, but they will be open to the public, Paris said.
“There will be so much to say about this extraordinary man. We have already begun the process of assisting with the plans to celebrate and honor Michael’s life and incredible career,” Harold A. Schaitberger, general president of the IAFF, said in a statement.
One of Mullane’s biggest campaigns was ensuring that widows of firefighters receive the benefits they’re owed, according to both Finn and Paris. He was especially aggressive when a widow’s benefits were on the line and was a tireless advocate for the families of firefighters.
“He always cared about the widows of firefighters. That was very, very important to Mike. He wanted to make sure they had their benefits,” Paris said. “He made sure they got their health care and their ?pension. That meant a lot to him.”
Boston Fire Department spokesman Steve MacDonald said Mullane was considered a no-nonsense union official, and earned the respect of firefighters in the U.S. and Canada.