2024 Irish Labor Awards

Richard MacKinnon Jr.

Richard MacKinnon Jr.

Current Company and Position: President of the Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts; Firefighter/Paramedic Whitman Fire Department.

First Job: My very first job was a dishwasher at St. Joseph’s Manor in Dorchester. It was a Catholic nursing home in Dorchester, MA. I was 13 years old. The schedule was one week on and one week off. Monday to Friday was 5-9 pm and on Saturday and Sunday we worked breakfast, lunch, and dinner with breaks in between. 

I liked working and having my own money. It was also a good group of people to work with, some were my age and a lot were older. The cooks were a diverse crew as well. Tim was a WWII Veteran that was also a cook during his time in the military. Another woman Barbara, was a mother from our neighborhood and her children all worked part time there too. Then there was Al, a very large scary man that didn’t say much but when he did was profound. He was Jamaican and very strict and stern but always fair. He was the head cook. I remember him having a big white Cadillac with Gucci interior. I thought that care was great! St. James Francis was the Boss, with a capital “B”! She ran everything and was good at it. I loved interacting with the elderly residents and listening to their stories. I eventually moved up to become waiter which I am proud to say was the first male on the wait staff. I worked there for several years.

What it taught me: My first job taught me how fortunate I was to be working at a young age. 13 was an unusual age and was a little young than the normal staff at the nursing home. My father knew Sr. James Francis well so she made special accommodations so I could be hired. I was grateful to have the job and it was a great experience early on in life. The job taught me to listen and be empathic toward others. It also taught me to respect elders and that so much can be learned from them. Having a job that young also taught me the responsibility of work. There were events and things I could not do because of work. Since that first job I have had many others but I have never not had a job or multiple jobs since then. I am now 51 years old and doing what I was meant to do. I love the profession I am part of and the first job as a dishwasher help create the foundation and structure to be successful.

Best advice you could give someone starting out: is to take care of yourself first. That doesn’t mean be selfish. It means take care of yourself spiritually, mentally, physically, and whatever else is needed to take you the best person you can be. If you aren’t well, then you will not be able to take care or serve anyone else. Take time for yourself, schedule it in to your daily calendar if you need to. I learned the hard way having a heart attack at age 50. I was lucky and caught things early and thanks to that I am currently in the best shape of my life. 

I would work literally from the time I got up to the time I went to bed. My union job would take up most of my time or I would allow it to, and I was still working shifts on the firehouse which I love. I look at things differently now and take the time to pray, mediate and workout and if I am better I can better.

I would also tell someone starting out to stay real and not take things or yourself seriously. Be empathic, you never know what someone is dealing with or going through. I try living by the four agreements: Be impeccable with your word, Don’t take anything personally, Don’t make assumptions, and Always do your best.

Never be afraid to change or make decisions. You will make wrong ones but go with your gut and make them. You will never please all people but do what you think is right and respect everyone until they give you a reason not to.

Who is your hero and why? My hero is absolutely my dad. I admire so much about him and strive to be like him. He is where I learned my spirituality, my work ethic, and a lot of who I am. He set a great example of what it means to have faith in God, faith in people, and how to be just a nice guy. Growing up he always worked 2 or 3 jobs to support our family of my mom and 3 siblings. He would go from one job to the other often with no sleep. He worked as a Boston Firefighter which meant working nights and days, and then work at funeral home and wash windows. He never complained, just worked, and at the same time making time for us. My strong faith is directly from him. The taught us put God first and everything else will come. God, family, work was what he lived by. I remember him telling me he offers everything up to Mary the Blessed Mother and she always takes care of him. He prays the rosary every day and takes part in regular adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Through his example it caused me to strengthen my faith and relationship with God. I have a greater appreciation for what I learned when I was younger, like the importance of prayer in my life and surrendering to God. I knew from a very young age that I wanted to be firefighter. When we were kids my mother would bring us into the firehouse to see him when he would double and triple shifts knowing that would be the only way for us to see him for the couple days. I remember the “big thing” was when I turned 13 years old he would allow me to spend the night at the firehouse and go on the runs. It was a natural fit for me, I loved every second of it. The men we worked with in the firehouse were family and still are to this day. Then when I got on the job I couldn’t stand on the side and watch things that I knew were wrong go by. That is why I got involved in the union and haven’t looked back since. The union is about taking care of people and I thank God every day I get to do it.

Biography:  Rich MacKinnon Jr. is a third-generation firefighter, serving 24 years as a Firefighter/Paramedic in the town of Whitman. He was elected President of the Professional Firefighters of Massachusetts (PFFM) on October 22, 2016.

MacKinnon has served in an elected capacity within Whitman Firefighters Local 1769 since 2001. In 2001, he was elected to the Bargaining Committee, and as an At-Large Member. In 2009, he was chosen to serve on the Whitman Fire Department Ambulance Committee on Rules and Regulations. From 2010 – 2016, he served as Union President.

In 2011, Rich was elected to the PFFM Executive Board as the District 1 Vice President, servicing 32 locals within the organization’s 12,000 membership. While on the PFFM Executive Board, he has served on several other boards. In 2011, he was appointed by Governor Patrick to be one of two PFFM representatives on the state Joint Labor Management Committee (JLMC) where he represented labor on arbitration panels to settle contracts. He also serves on the PFFM's EMS Committee as the sitting E-Board Member and is Co-Chairman of the PFFM Constitution and By Laws Committee. In 2013, MacKinnon was named Chairman of the Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts Funeral Committee which assists locals in the handling of line of duty deaths, active member deaths, and retiree deaths across the state.

In 2011, Rich was appointed to the IAFF Standing Committee on EMS representing the Third District of the IAFF which includes Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. In 2012 and 2013 he was selected to serve as the IAFF Principal Member on the NFPA Technical Committee on EMS and the NFPA EMS 450 Standard Committee. He continues to be active in the IAFF on a variety of committees. 

In 2021, he was appointed to a five-year term on the Public Employee Retirement Administration Commission (PERAC) and serves as a commissioner. He currently also services on the Massachusetts Fire Services Commission, the Massachusetts AFL-CIO Executive Board, the Massachusetts Fallen Firefighters Memorial Board, the Governor Maura Healy Labor Advisory Council, the Advisory Board of Mascon Medical, and the Board of Directors for On-Site Academy. 

2024 Irish Labor Awards