12th District Vice President
In accordance with the provisions of Article VI, Section 7, of the International Association of Fire Fighters Constitution and By-Laws, I respectfully submit this report of my activity as the 12th District Vice President to General President Harold Schaitberger, General Secretary-Treasurer Edward Kelly, the IAFF Executive Board and all officers and delegates in attendance at the 54th IAFF Convention in Seattle, Washington. This report contains a summary of my activities from April 2017 through to April 2018. I have attended all executive board meetings except one, during which I was assigned and engaged in providing service to the members in the 12th District during the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. I have diligently carried out all assignments given to me by General President Schaitberger.
Welcome to the 54th Convention of the International Association of Fire Fighters. The 12th District proudly represents the IAFF members across Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Puerto Rico and the Caribbean Islands. This past year has been extremely trying for our members and local leaders. We faced devastating hurricanes, wildland fires and horrific acts of gun violence. Yet despite these challenging moments, our affiliates have stood strong, responded with the utmost courage and professionalism, proving time and time again how valuable the work our members do every day is.
In April 2017, DVP Larry Osborne announced his retirement. I would like to extend my sincere congratulations and appreciation to Osborne and his wife Karen, on an outstanding career spanning over 40 years of union service in and around the IAFF. He served on numerous IAFF committees and in various capacities with Local 122 Jacksonville Association of Fire Fighters. His tenure included president of Local 122, and he is honored as a president emeritus of Local 122. He also served as one of the longest standing trustees of the Florida Professional Firefighters. It has been a real honor and privilege working with him throughout the years.
I officially assumed the duties of 12th District Vice President on April 18, 2017 and would like to thank all members of the 12th District for their confidence and support in my election. Since April 2017, I hit the ground running, transitioning into my new position and travelling around the district to meet with local affiliate leaders. The General President has assigned me to various committees of the IAFF, and I continue to serve in those capacities.
With the support of General President Schaitberger, we expanded our 12th District organizing initiatives from Georgia into North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida. The IAFF conducted specialized training and support for the organizing initiatives. Our work continues to show progress with steady growth in several already established and newly organized locals. The exceptional efforts of our state officers, district field service representatives, service representatives, and IAFF instructors have allowed us to build the program. To date, we have added over 2,500 new IAFF members to the district. Continuance of this project will undoubtedly increase our presence in the 12th District and assist in growing the fire fighter brand political clout at the state and local level.
We completed two regional secretary-treasurer training programs. These classes have been widely successful in training the members on the critical needs of running your local union. Special thanks to DFSRs Newton, Wyse and Fatjo for all their hard work and dedication to making these educational programs an enormous success. As of this writing, the 12th District is planning to deliver PEP training to over 100 of our affiliate leaders. We will continue to deliver IAFF training to all areas of the district.
Georgia: With the combined efforts of the IAFF and the Professional Fire Fighters of Georgia we increased membership by more than 400 individuals. In an increasingly difficult right-to-work state, the PFFG has been able to successfully pass cancer legislation recognizing the hazards of firefighting and the link with cancer in our members.
Congratulations to President Mike Dodd and the entire PFFG team on their leadership and enthusiasm within Georgia to improve member rights and benefits. As I write to you the PFFG is planning their annual Ed Bayley Professional Fire fighters of Georgia Convention and Educational Summit. This plans to be and exciting time for fire fighters of Georgia as they prepare their agenda to expand and improve legislation representing our members.
The president of Augusta Local 3357 was terminated from the department in April for allegedly working while out on workers’ compensation after he complained about the fire chief’s misuse of city funds on fire apparatus. With assistance from the IAFF, city commissioners voted to settle all claims and reinstate his employment. Another excellent Guardian case victory.
We have several legal cases pending in Georgia including Cobb County, the City of Savannah, and Henry County. We owe our sincere appreciation for the outstanding legal support and representation we received from Tom Woodley and his associates at Woodley and McGillivary.
In the months following convention, we will review, revise and expand our 12th District organizing initiatives into different counties and cities across Georgia. We will be union strong in the South once again.
South Carolina: The City of Charleston Local 61 welcomes in a new fire chief, Daniel Curia from Durham, North Carolina. Local 61 has been working hard with the new mayor to increase Charleston fire fighter wages and benefits. This new relationship will hopefully foster better relations and improved working conditions for Charleston fire fighters.
The South Carolina Professional Fire Fighters Association, under the new leadership of President Roger Odachowski, is making substantial progress in organization and representation within their state. In another strong right to work state like South Carolina, Roger and his team are making good strides in fostering relations with new local affiliates. Look for South Carolina to grow over the next few years.
North Carolina: Our work in North Carolina continues to show progress with steady growth in several established and newly organized locals. The exceptional efforts of our PFFPNC officers, service representatives, and IAFF instructors allowed us to build the membership. To date we have added over 130 new IAFF members in North Carolina. Continuance of this project will undoubtedly increase our presence in North Carolina.
Thomas Brewer, the president of the Professional Fire Fighters and Paramedics of North Carolina, helped lead the charge in representing and organizing our membership. His team is working effectively in the state legislature to change the culture and enact new legislation to protect and improve member rights and benefits.
As another strong right to work state with a prohibition against public sector collective bargaining, North Carolina has been the subject of multiple IAFF Guardian cases. Fortunately, Greensboro has been a much different story. Under the leadership of Local 947 President David Coker, Local 947 reached 90 percent IAFF membership and is still growing. Over 600 members strong and in concert with strong active political action and public relations programs, the members of Local 947 have enjoyed increased pay and benefits.
Florida: In September 2017 Florida experienced one of the worst Category 5 hurricanes on record. Storm costs exceeded $100. Damage was recorded from the southernmost point up to Jacksonville. In the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, the IAFF offered immediate assistance to our members in the form of generators, chain saws, tarps, water, food, tetanus and Hepatitis A vaccines, gasoline, member financial support and much needed behavioral health counseling. As soon as the storms were over, the IAFF was on the ground establishing command and providing this essential support.
In support of the IAFF disaster assistance, Local 2424 Cape Coral President Eric Chudzik and Local 1403 Metro-Dade County President Omar Blanco stepped up and helped to establish our IAFF disaster relief command centers. IAFF staff, DFSRs, local membership and local officers from both affiliates helped to provide much need relief to our members in the 12th District. A real team effort was put up by all.
February 14, 2018 forever changed the 12th District. We suffered a horrific act of violence in Parkland at the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School. IAFF members from several agencies responded in exemplary fashion and did an incredible job treating and transporting the victims. Within hours of the incident the IAFF responded and provided behavioral health support and counseling to our members in the stations. I would like to thank General President Schaitberger, General Secretary-Treasurer Kelly and the entire IAFF staff for their unwavering support and assistance to the 12th District during the trying times. A special thank you to 9th District Vice President Ray Rahne, the incident commander for the Columbine shooting, for joining us on the scene in Parkland and visiting with our incident commander. Your guidance and support is truly appreciated. Thank you to Local 1365 Orlando President Ron Glass for immediately dispatching their peer support team to Coral Springs. Thanks to the amazing work of the IAFF, we will continue to be there for our members and support their needs in the months and years to come.
All these relief efforts are supported by the IAFF disaster relief program and the generous donations from IAFF members across these two great nations. From the 12th District, thank you!
Orlando fire fighters continue to battle the wrongful termination of one of their members, the imposition of a contract that changed long-standing job policy and a fire chief who lost the confidence of the Brothers and Sisters delivering public service. We continue to support the efforts of Local 1365 in this battle.
Indian River County, FL Local 2201 has been battling the department fire chief over the lack of a light duty policy for pregnancy. The department has forced women to continue working until full term. We are currently working with the local president to pressure the department into adopting a safe and reasonable maternity policy for our members. It is unconscionable that in 2018, some fire departments still do not recognize the health and safety issues that female fire fighters encounter during pregnancy.
Ponce Inlet Fire Fighters Local 4140 experienced first-hand the supremacy of the IAFF Guardian program when the town manager terminated the local president after a grievance was filed against the fire chief for creating an intimidating and abusive work environment. The IAFF Guardian program provided immediate representation for the local president and ultimately won a settlement whereby the town awarded him back pay and full reinstatement to his position.
With a big push from the Florida Professional Fire fighters, the Florida Legislature unanimously passed important PTSD legislation covering fire fighters diagnosed with PTSD as a line of duty injury. In these trying political times, I can’t think of a single piece of legislation affecting 26,000 professional fire fighters in Florida that has been passed by Florida legislators by a unanimous vote. This is a huge step in the right direction for treating the behavioral health needs of our members. Kudos to FPF President James Tolley, his team and all the members of Florida who worked so hard to pass this important legislation.
Florida is now facing a political battle like no other that may ultimately decide who controls the United States Senate. Senior Senator Bill Nelson is currently being challenged by Florida Governor Rick Scott.
Puerto Rico and The Caribbean Islands: While Puerto Rico continues its slow recovery from the destruction of Hurricane Maria, people are still dealing with the effects of that storm. More than 135,000 Puerto Ricans have left for the mainland in the six months since Hurricane Maria pummeled the island in September. Families changed their home addresses and enrolled their children in Florida, Texas, or New York schools. They’re still struggling with a shortage of clean water, housing and electricity.
In the coming months we plan to review and expand our 12th District organizing initiatives into Puerto Rico and the Caribbean Islands. The IAFF is committed to providing the best possible service and representation to our members. Fire fighters in both regions have either previously enjoyed IAFF representation and/or considered joining the IAFF. As we continue to improve and expand our programs, these fire fighters will undoubtedly see the value of joining the IAFF.
In September the IAFF faced many disasters throughout the country including Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, a shooting in Las Vegas, and the California wildfires. Scores of IAFF member were affected by these events and our great International Union stepped up to the plate.
During Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, we offered immediate assistance to our members in the form of generators, chain saws, tarps, water, food, tetanus and Hepatitis A vaccines and much need financial support. As soon as the storms were over, the IAFF was on the ground providing this much needed support. Within hours after the active shooter event took place IAFF peer counselors were visiting with our members and providing behavioral health support. In California the IAFF assisted members with emergency supplies and locating temporary housing. These efforts were supported by the IAFF Disaster Relief program and generous donations from IAFF members across these two great nations.
In my short time as a DVP, we provided behavioral health assistance to many IAFF members. The 12th District strongly supports the IAFF Center of Excellence and all our behavioral health initiatives. Sadly, we are learning everyday how important this initiative is to the wellbeing of our members.
As your district vice president, I attended multiple line of duty death funerals throughout the district and Pennsylvania for a multiple fire fighter fatality memorial service. While I was unable to attend the IAFF Fallen Fire Fighter Memorial in 2017 because of to the hurricane, I plan to attend this year to honor all our fallen Brothers and Sisters.
Thank you to Dominick Barbera, the 12th DVP Emeritus for attending the executive board meeting in Hollywood, FL and for spending time with all of us. It was a real pleasure to have such an amazing individual who did so much for the IAFF present during our deliberations.
The 12th District was well represented this past February 28 in Washington, D.C. at the IAFF 100th Anniversary. Joining me in representing the 12th District was Matthew Thompson, president of Charleston South Carolina Local 61 and Steven Azzarella, the vice president. Local 61 is one of the originally chartered IAFF locals dating back to 1918.
It is a real honor and privilege to represent the 12th District as your Vice President. In my travels throughout the district, I look forward to meeting with you and your membership to discuss the district’s future. Together we can continue to achieve greatness for the 12th District and the IAFF. Good luck on a successful convention.