3rd District Report


Jay Colbert
3rd District Vice President 

Pursuant to Article VI, Section 7, of the Constitution and By-Laws of the International Association of Fire Fighters, I am submitting this report for the activities in the 3rd District for the period between September 1, 2016 and April 1, 2018, to General President Harold Schaitberger, General Secretary-Treasurer Edward Kelly, all IAFF Executive Board members, officers and delegates in attendance at the 54th IAFF Convention in Seattle. I attended all the executive board meetings and carried out all the assignments given to me by the General President.

I was appointed by the General President and am serving on the following committees: Budget and Finance, Canadian Affairs, Communications, Media and E-18, Emergency Disputes Fund and Legal Services, Fallen Fire Fighter Memorial, Health and Safety and Behavioral Wellness; and Information and Technology Systems.

It has been an honor and a privilege to serve as the IAFF 3rd District Vice President representing 23,000 fire fighters across New England for the past two years. I was involved in numerous activities in and around the district including legislative issues, arbitrations, state meetings, local meetings, state conventions, retiree meetings, political campaigning, legal inquiries and member representation.

Following the last convention in Las Vegas, the 3rd District had some notable losses from state leadership positions. In April 2017, Ken Donnelly, the longtime Massachusetts Secretary-Treasurer and State Senator, passed away from brain cancer. Ken was a tireless advocate for fire fighters for more than 40 years and is sorely missed. In August 2017, the Godfather of RISAFF, Frank Montanarro, succumbed to injuries suffered in a car accident. Frank was an emeritus president of both RISAFF and the RI AFL-CIO. He was highly respected across the IAFF and received the IAFF 3rd District’s Distinguished Service Award in August 2016 in Las Vegas.

The 3rd District also enjoyed several “first in the nation” legislative successes. Vermont passed a post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) bill, providing Workers’ compensation for fire fighters diagnosed with job-related PTSD. In Maine, a bill was passed prohibiting the use of flame retardants. Both bills were the first to be passed in the United States. Kudos to both state associations for their hard-fought legislative victories.

Massachusetts: There were plenty of changes in state leadership ranks for the Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts since we last convened. Edward Kelly, our esteemed President, was elected to be IAFF General Secretary-Treasurer. Massachusetts’ loss is the IAFF’s gain. Ed did a tremendous job leading the PFFM for over six years, and we are proud of his accomplishments. We are happy to see Ed hit the ground running in DC—with fresh eyes and innovations in the GST shop. Rich Mackinnon was elected to serve as president and working alongside newly elected Secretary-Treasurer Billy Cabral, he has done an excellent job leading the PFFM.

In this legislative session, the PFFM doubled the State PSOB benefit from $150,000 to $300,000 for members killed in the line of duty. They also stand a good chance of securing passage of two cancer bills. One bill would cover our current cancer presumption until the age of 70 regardless of retirement age while the second bill would ensure that occupational cancer is covered as IOD from the time of diagnosis.

At the last PFFM Convention in 2017, the district designated money to support several health and wellness programs, not just physical health, but mental and behavioral health as well. This increase in funding allowed them to build out a phenomenal employee assistance network to reach members who are suffering from a wide range of issues.

Boston Fire Department Local 718 spearheaded an awareness program on occupational cancer that influenced departments across the United States and Canada. Local 718 President Rich Paris and Commissioner Joe Finn have demonstrated what effective labor-management relations can accomplish.

Rhode Island: Newly-elected State President Joe Andriole and the RISAFF team have had their work cut out for them these last few years. Attacks against fire fighters and collective bargaining emerged in several communities across the state. In East Greenwich the Local 3328 president encountered multiple obstacles including the collective bargaining process and other issues that prompted multiple grievance arbitration hearings and Superior Court battles.

RISAFF was successful in settling a long-running municipal bankruptcy case in Central Coventry. Central Coventry Local 3372 faced a tough battle but recently entered into a five-year collective bargaining agreement.

RISAFF has a substantial presence inside the state house and has enjoyed legislative wins in flame retardant legislation (second in the nation), out-of-state residency issues, and district FD mergers. They also advocated for a heart presumptive bill which passed through both houses but was vetoed by a Democratic governor.

Providence, the state’s largest municipality, had one of the most notable victories in the district. Members of Local 799 saw an increase in their work hours from 42 per week to 56 based upon a unilateral decision by the mayor. The members struggled with a heavy work load and understaffing for more than 18 months. A series of court victories reversed the move and rewarded the members with a return to their 42-hour work schedule, increased staffing and back pay for FLSA violations.

Maine: President John Martell and the PFFM recorded two significant legislative victories this past year. The PFFM was not only the first state in the country to pass a flame-retardant prohibition bill in June 2017, but also the second state to pass PTSD legislation. The PFFM passed the PTSD bill despite the governor’s veto. The PFFM worked to secure a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate to override it. Maine now has presumptive language for cancer, heart, lung, infectious diseases and PTSD.

The PFFM is hoping to elect a more favorable governor who supports fire fighters after the next election cycle. Governor Paul LePage, who took strong positions against labor and unions, reached the end of his term and will be replaced in January 2019.

Vermont: PFFV President Brad Reed had a notable first term in office. The PFFV was successful in passing the nation’s first PTSD legislation. Brad and all the PFFV members worked incredibly hard to ensure its passage and showed what can happen when a strong commitment and dedicated advocacy efforts are joined together.

The PFFV also enjoyed some good political victories including a notable win in Rutland City where a candidate the union supported defeated a mayor who did not support fire fighters. The anti-union fire chief was also removed. In Brattleboro Local 4439 had a favorable, precedent setting, fact finding report, that should have positive ramifications for collective bargaining across the state.

Finally, after members participated in the IAFF Peer Support training class, the PFFV built a state-wide peer support team to mobilize in times of need.

Connecticut: The UPFFA of Connecticut has been under fire from several groups pushing anti-labor agendas. Right-wing think tanks and anti-union elected officials have declared war on both working people and struggling municipalities. State budget woes precipitated multiple bills that are hostile to collective bargaining, binding arbitration, pensions and health care. The introduction of such bills required President Pete Carozza and UPFFA members to make a strong case to protect longstanding benefits for all Connecticut fire fighters.

A municipal finance bill, which makes it easier for the state to take oversight responsibility in struggling communities and restrict or decimate collective bargaining, has passed. This law establishes Hartford and West Haven as tier three communities. A municipal review board has the authority to review and offer advisement on all CBAs and budget plans.

A bill mandating that municipalities follow NFPA 1911, concerning fire apparatus safety and testing was signed by the governor. This bill will remove DOT exemptions with respect to maintenance, inspections and repair of fire apparatus. The UPFFA was also instrumental through its lobbying efforts to stop a planned closure of the UCONN Health Center Fire Department.

Finally, IAFF Service Representative Lou Demici helped organize both the West Haven Dispatchers Local 5127 and the Northwest Telecommunications Local 5146 which added more than 60 new members to the UPFFA and the IAFF.

New Hampshire: Major changes occurred over the last two years in the PFFNH leadership. State President Dave Lang is now an Assistant to the General President. He is doing great work in the IAFF Government, Political, and Public Affairs Department. Bill McQuillen took over as state president, and Jenn Myers became the first female Secretary-Treasurer of the PFFNH.

The PFFNH had a strong year politically, statewide and in the municipalities, during 2017. Fire fighter friendly mayors, backed by unions, were elected in Manchester and re-elected in Portsmouth. We are optimistic that a newly-elected Board of Aldermen that supports fire fighters in Nashua will maintain safe staffing levels. In t the state legislature, the PFFNH had 14 IAFF members from both parties elected to office.

A Republican governor and a Republican-dominated Legislature tried to enact several bills that would have been harmful to our members. The PFFNH was successful in defeating most of them, including multiple Right-to-Work bills and a paycheck deception bill which would have outlawed automatic payroll deduction of union dues.

Despite the partisan attacks on fire fighter benefits, the PFFNH obtained valuable feedback from many elected officials. Other bills that would provide presumptive cancer funding and a flame-retardant prohibition were introduced, but the outcome of these efforts is uncertain.

I want to thank DFSRs Matt Reddy, Bob McCarthy and all the state service Representatives, for doing great work around the district during the past two years. I would also like to thank all six state presidents for their assistance in preparing this report.

I would like to personally thank General President Harold Schaitberger and General Secretary-Treasurer Edward Kelly, for their continued support and commitment to the wants and needs of all the fire fighters in the 3rd District.

I would be remiss if I did not recognize the tremendous assistance that the IAFF staff provided for the district these last two years. Whether it is legal assistance, GIS studies, municipal financial analyses, peer support classes, PEP seminars or grant writing, your unwavering support of our members is an invaluable asset to not only the 3rd District but to the entire IAFF.

To the delegates assembled here at the 54th IAFF Convention, enjoy your time in Seattle. Do not forget the importance of your role in charting the course for our union as we enter our next century of “Progress through Unity.”