16th District Report


James Johnson
16th 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 to the membership.

As the Vice President of the 16th District, I attended executive board meetings, conferences and other IAFF functions as required. I am presently serving on the following IAFF Executive Board Committees: chairman of the Information and Technology Committee, chairman of the Communications and Media Committee, vice chair of the Occupational Health, Safety and Behavioral Wellness Committee and member of the Government and Political Affairs, Education and Training, Budget and Finance, and Emergency Disputes Fund committees. I also serve as Board Member of the IAFF Financial Corporation. In October 2017, I attended the AFL-CIO Convention as a Delegate.

Since our last convention I continued to focus on educating our district leaders, lobbying for the IAFF legislative agenda and providing advice and technical assistance to our federal affiliates. The last two years posed many challenges for the 16th District. Nonetheless, we accepted the challenges and continue to move the district in a positive direction despite the obstacles. Many of the obstacles we encounter are political, whereby political appointees that look unfavorably upon organized labor impede our efforts to achieve safe staffing and funding. In addition, threats to reduce or eliminate bargaining rights are always present as are representation rights in the federal sector.

Our team of district field service representatives and service representatives within the district are vital in providing onsite assistance and training for our local affiliate leaders. They also assist with meeting the many political challenges we face. Their extensive experience and years of service as labor leaders is invaluable. Although as professional fire fighters their experience ranges from that of fire fighter to chief, their dedication to learning the craft of labor leader, mediator and negotiator has benefited us all.

At the 2018 Affiliate Leadership Training Summit (ALTS) we provided training for our federal leaders that is specific to the federal sector. Turnout for the ALTS was a record for the district. Also in 2017 the district held a district caucus in Atlanta which included two days of training focusing on federal sector topics. This was our second caucus, and it was so successful and well received by district leaders that we anticipate holding another caucus in 2019.

The IAFF and the 16th District continue their work on Capitol Hill with Congressional staff through the IAFF Governmental Affairs Department. Obviously, there are many attacks on federal employees arising out of Congress and the White House. Attempts to reduce or eliminate official time used for representational purposes continues. Legislators also seek to increase retirement contributions or eliminate some retirement provisions. The IAFF is actively involved in opposing these attacks, which not only impact all federal employees, but IAFF federal members directly.

The 16th District continues to participate in several federal employee forums such as the Federal Postal Coalition, the United Defense Workers Coalition and the Federal Workers Alliance. We are providing valuable input regarding federal employee issues and policy. In 2017 and 2018 we worked with these groups to counter anti-labor policies and promote protections for federal employees and their union representatives.

As we approach 2019, federal fire fighters are threatened with potential staffing cutbacks resulting from funding reductions to federal fire departments. Despite budget increases for some federal agencies, many agencies do not prioritize fire protection, and therefore funding is often allocated to other programs. Although many federal agencies want to assume risk and reduce safe practices on the backs of our members, this district will remain steadfast in our position of maintaining safe staffing and response criteria. We were successful in arbitrating such matters on several occasions.

The 16th District that I proudly represent on the IAFF Executive Board remains ready and willing to protect the interests of federal fire fighters. Despite constant attempts to repeal the contracting prohibition that protects federal fire fighters who work for the Department of Defense, we will continue to do all we can to maintain the contracting prohibition.

Through my office the district has presented issues before the Federal Labor Relations Authority such as negotiability appeals, unit clarification petitions and other issues before the Federal Service Impasse Panel. In several unit clarification issues, we were successful in including previously excluded employees into the IAFF bargaining units.

Overall, the past two years witnessed many changes and produced both successes and setbacks. Having served for many years on the job as a federal fire fighter, I know that every tangible benefit we fight for and ultimately obtain is the result of hard work throughout the district. Because of support from district members the 16th District is a respected voice in the federal employment arena. Much of the credit for this and other successes we achieved goes to affiliate leaders in the district who sacrifice their time and effort for their locals and the entire district. In addition, the support, leadership and guidance we received from General President Harold Schaitberger, General Secretary-Treasurer Edward Kelly and the IAFF staff has been tremendous.

It continues to be an honor for me to be your representative and to serve on the executive board of this great International Union as your 16th District Vice President. The experience is rewarding and educational, and I look forward to continuing to serve the district as we celebrate the IAFF’s 100th anniversary.