4th District Vice President
Pursuant to Article VI, Section 7 of the Constitution and By-Laws of the International Association of Fire Fighters, I respectfully submit the following report of my activities as Vice President of the 4th District to General President Harold A. Schaitberger, General Secretary-Treasurer Edward A. Kelly, the IAFF Executive Board and all officers and delegates in attendance at the 54th Convention of the International Association of Fire Fighters assembled in Seattle.
During this reporting period, I was appointed by the General President to serve on the following IAFF committees: organizing and field services (vice-chair); budget and finance; ad hoc resolutions; communications and media; education and training; government, political, and public affairs; and technical assistance. It is a privilege to serve as a member of the IAFF Financial Corporation’s Board of Directors, our tremendously successful subsidiary that provides supplemental services and benefits to our members.
From my installation in September of 2016 through May of 2018, I had the opportunity and honor to travel throughout Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Delaware, and Washington, D.C., working in support of the 198 locals and four state organizations that make up the 4th District. I have attended state conventions, conferences, Executive Board and committee meetings, and have carried out all other assignments delegated to me by the General President.
It is a historic time to be a member and officer of our great union. It was an honor and privilege to attend and participate in two momentous IAFF events since our last convention.
In March 2017 we celebrated the grand opening of the IAFF Center of Excellence for Behavioral Health Treatment and Recovery. The Center is a one-of-a-kind addiction treatment facility specializing in PTSI for IAFF members who are struggling with addiction and other related behavioral health challenges. Located in Prince George’s County, Maryland, the Center is a place for members to talk with other members who have faced or overcome similar challenges.
Then on February 28, 2018, the IAFF recognized our 100-year anniversary at a special centennial event in Washington, DC. Representatives from many of the original IAFF locals, including several 4th District affiliates, joined the IAFF’s Principal Officers and Executive Board to celebrate a century of progress fighting for the rights, benefits, and safety of our members across the United States and Canada. The event took place at the Marriott Marquis in Washington, DC, the former home of the American Federation of Labor (AFL) and site of the first IAFF Convention in 1918.
It was extraordinary that both events happened in the heart of the 4th District!
We placed a strong emphasis on expanding the educational resources available to our members. In March 2017 the district held our first partnership education program (PEP) event. Over 220 members attended, making it one of the largest district PEP events ever held. Members received training in negotiations, non-collective bargaining environments and current topics in affiliate leadership. The district PEP was immediately followed by a district caucus where attendees received information about paycheck protection attacks, cancer in the fire service and an overview about the new IAFF Center of Excellence for Behavioral Health Treatment and Recovery. Our second district PEP is scheduled for July 2018 and will include nearly 20 information sessions and course modules including the IAFF Peer Support Trainer Program.
Our union experienced several challenges since our last convention. While some of these are new, many have been fought before. In several jurisdictions we are facing staffing reductions, attacks on defined benefit pensions and paycheck deception legislation. Additionally, the upcoming landmark Supreme Court decision of Janus v. AFSCME is certain to test our resolve. Our members should rest assured that no matter what the issue is, your leadership from the local to the IAFF will continue to identify solutions and curb detrimental consequences.
The following is a synopsis of key issues that occurred within our district:
Delaware: The IAFF and the district leadership team continue to provide extensive support to Wilmington Local 1590. Following a triple line of duty death in 2016, Wilmington has a new mayor and a new fire chief. The local continues to battle threats of staffing reductions, rotating company closures (brownouts) and schedule adjustments. Elsewhere in the state our membership is growing through organized efforts in New Castle County, Sussex County and Kent County.
Maryland: The Professional Fire Fighters of Maryland (PFFMD) achieved a longstanding legislative victory during the 2017 session with the passage of the Hometown Heroes Act. Taking effect during the 2017 tax year, the first $15,000 pension income for retired fire fighters and law enforcement will be exempt from taxes.
The PFFMD also successfully lobbied and passed enabling legislation to allow for a $2,500 annual property tax credit for fire fighters and police officers. Since the end of the legislative session, several jurisdictions proposed ordinances to facilitate property tax credits for our members. Maryland also continues to enjoy expansion and improvements in collective bargaining laws for our affiliates. The leadership team accomplished this with a Republican governor and a Democratic-controlled General Assembly, illustrating how our members can work effectively with both parties.
Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania Professional Fire Fighters Association (PPFFA), with support from the entire labor community, defeated Senate Bill 166, which was characterized as a “paycheck protection” bill that would have prohibited voluntary political contributions through payroll deductions by union members in Pennsylvania. In March 2017 Allentown Local 302 had a tremendous precedent-setting victory in state supreme court regarding minimum staffing. The Court ruled unanimously that the union can negotiate the minimum number of fire fighters on a shift because it has a direct impact on safety. Pittsburgh and Allegheny County affiliates were instrumental in the special election for the 18th District where Conor Lamb narrowly defeated anti-labor candidate Rick Saccone for Congress.
Virginia: At the end of 2016 the Virginia Professional Fire Fighters (VPFF) defeated an anti-union referendum that would have enshrined the state’s right-to-work status in the state constitution. Virginia has had a right-to-work law on the books for decades, but the ballot measure would have effectively made it permanent. The VPFF also led the effort to elect Ralph Northam as Governor. This victory along with several others in the General Assembly will help the VPFF improve cancer and post-traumatic stress presumption legislation in the future.
Our members continue to realize the benefits achieved following the FLSA victory in Fairfax County (VA) Local 2068. The U.S. Court of Appeals issued a finding that the captains employed in Fairfax County are covered under the overtime provisions of the FLSA. Specifically, the appellate court examined the duties and responsibilities of the captains and determined that they were not “executive” or “administrative” employees exempt from the FLSA overtime pay protections. The Court concluded that the captains are first responders who are responsible for firefighting and rescue services like their crew. Following that ruling, several other affiliates took legal action resulting in additional awards and settlements.
Washington, DC: IAFF Local 36 continues to fight on behalf of its members for improved wages, benefits and safety. Local 36 leadership has spoken out against challenges with communications (dispatch), the metro transit system and unrestricted growth in the southeastern area of the city.
West Virginia: In 2017 the Professional Fire Fighters of West Virginia (PFFWV) hosted a successful inaugural education conference that provides West Virginia affiliates with several offerings in union administration and health and safety training. During the 2018 legislative session the PFFWV secured a tremendous benefit when they became the 43rd state to obtain cancer presumption protection for fire fighters. The new law covers fire fighters diagnosed with leukemia, lymphoma and multiple myeloma.
During the past two years we had the pleasure of welcoming several new locals into the 4th District. The addition of Southern Chester (PA) Local 5102, County of Orange (VA) Local 5103, Pittston Township (PA) Local 5109, Sussex County (DE) Local 5121, Kent County (DE) Local 5144, Martinsville (VA) Local 5166 and Penn Hills (PA) Local 5167 helped our district continue to grow.
Our leadership team continues to evaluate and improve our organizing efforts across the district. Our focus is geared toward chartering prospective affiliates that have growth potential and that we can effectively service to ensure their success.
I want to thank General President Harold Schaitberger, General Secretary-Treasurer Edward Kelly and their outstanding staff and all the IAFF departments for their service and assistance to our members. I also want to extend my personal appreciation to District Field Service Representatives John Gardell and Paul Hebert, our IAFF Service Representatives, and State Association Presidents Michael Rund, Robert Bragg, Brian Jones and Art Martynuska for all they do on behalf of members in the 4th District.
I would be remiss if I did not personally thank the entire leadership in the 4th District who do the work, day in and day out, in the trenches and on the front lines to deliver critical services to our members when they need support from their union the most. We depend on a strong team to accomplish our goals and achieve results. We cannot do this without each of you. It is the greatest honor of my life to represent and serve you and our members.
To all delegates, alternates and guests at this 54th IAFF Convention in Seattle, I hope you have an outstanding and productive week as we begin to chart the next “Century of Progress” for our members and their families.