Harold A. Schaitberger
54th Convention, International Association of Fire Fighters
Welcome to Seattle for the 2018 IAFF Convention as we celebrate this union’s 100th anniversary and our Century of Progress Through Unity.
It was February 28, 1918 that delegates representing many of the original fire fighter unions affiliated with the American Federation of Labor (AFL) founded the IAFF. As we begin our 54th Convention, we can all be proud of the great union we’ve built together – a union that represents more than 313,000 professional fire fighters and paramedics – and the advances and achievements we have made on behalf of our members in two great countries.
It is an honor to be here with General Secretary-Treasurer Edward Kelly and all our district vice presidents and trustees – and the tremendous staff we have at the International.
Together, our leadership team at the International level, along with our state and provincial bodies and local leaders on the frontline, have built an incredibly powerful and influential union that does whatever it takes to get things done for our members, their families, their careers and this great profession.
It is because of the hard work of our leaders from across the United States and Canada that this IAFF remains such a strong and effective union. While many public employee unions have reported declining membership, the IAFF continues to increase membership and organize fire fighters in both countries.
Our Convention theme, Progress Through Unity, reflects the vision set forth by our forefathers to “better the lot of those we represent, make a difference in their lives and livelihoods and make their job safer.” The actions we take together this week will help provide for a brighter future for our members as we begin the next 100 years.
It’s been a busy two years since the last Convention in Las Vegas, and with our new General Secretary-Treasurer Ed Kelly – who hit the ground running and has been a tremendous teammate – this IAFF has been working steadfastly to provide the best tools and resources to all our leadership – from preventing layoffs and improving staffing levels, to developing programs and services to help make the dangerous work our members do as safe as possible. Our commitment to assisting our affiliates at a level no other union can match has never wavered and, as a result, we have built a union that provides tremendous value to our members.
Even in today’s era of bitter partisanship, ideological extremes and political rancor, we will – as we always have – overcome the acrimony to protect and advance the interests of our members. Even in the current environment that attempts to weaken unions and dismantle organized labor, we will continue to demonstrate our value that belonging to the IAFF provides a significantly better standard of living and a safer working environment.
William H. McClennan, who served as president of the IAFF from 1969-1980, said, “The union of fire fighters has not survived for six decades by crying in a corner when things don’t go just the way we want them to.”
It’s been an extremely interesting few years for our political and legislative agenda. Still, our Governmental and Political Affairs Division, now led by Assistant to the General President Dave Lang (following the retirement of Kevin O’Connor who served our union for decades), has continued to operate successfully despite the political climate.
During the 2016 election cycle, we made a difficult decision to remain neutral in the presidential elections but invested strategically in key Senate and House races with mixed results. Importantly, however, our relationships with House and Senate leadership on both sides of the aisle remain solid because of our principled approach to supporting our friends in congressional races.
In the 2016 election cycle, we also pivoted to focus on gubernatorial and state legislative races, as well as some local campaigns where our affiliates requested assistance. In addition, down ballot elections rendered tremendous wins for IAFF affiliates where the stakes were high. We worked with the Colorado Professional Fire Fighters to assist Westminster Local 2889 in passing collective bargaining rights. Texarkana, TX Local 367 passed a similar measure, and Hagerstown, MD Local 1605 won full binding arbitration rights.
Shreveport, LA Local 514 passed a permanent renewal of a .25 percent public safety sales tax guaranteeing a stable revenue stream for police and fire. And in Virginia, our affiliates defeated a constitutional amendment to permanently enshrine right to work and passed a local option tax exemption for surviving spouses of law enforcement, fire fighters, search and rescue and EMS personnel killed in the line of duty. Similar victories occurred throughout the country, proving that even in the most chaotic of political circumstances, our locals can run strong campaigns.
In 2017 at the gubernatorial level, the Professional Firefighters of New Jersey (PFANJ) backed Phil Murphy, who won in a landslide over Chris Christie’s lieutenant governor, Kim Guadagno, ending the anti-labor, anti-fire fighter era in that state. And in Virginia, the Virginia Professional Fire Fighters (VPFF) invested heavily to elect Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam.
Our New York State Professional Fire Fighters Association (NYSPFFA, working with the Uniformed Firefighters Association Local 94 and Uniformed Fire Officers Association Local 854, led an extensive effort with IAFF support to defeat a Constitutional Convention measure, winning a crushing 4-1 victory over their opponents.
In a special election in early 2018, our affiliates in Pennsylvania’s 18th District backed Democrat Conor Lamb for the open House seat. Unlike many candidates in recent years, Lamb embraced unions and our members openly and won because of that support.
When Donald Trump became president, Congress spent much of the year on tax reform, and throughout the IAFF lobbied against numerous provisions that would have negatively affected our members, including a 10 percent penalty on early withdrawals from deferred compensation plans – a benefit won through IAFF advocacy – and a reduction in the catch-up retirement benefit for public employees. Another proposal would have taxed specific types of unrelated business income earned by pension plan investments that would have unfairly targeted long-term investments while cutting return rates. We successfully defeated these measures but were not able to stop a partial elimination of the state and local tax (SALT) deduction. However, working with our allies, we convinced lawmakers from high-tax states to oppose the provision. The final compromise provision allows individuals to deduct up to $10,000 of any combination of sales or income and property taxes.
With repealing the Affordable Care Act a top priority for Congress, we seized the opportunity to prevent a provision in the proposed language to cap the employer-provided health care tax exclusion, a key component of the tax code shielding workers’ health benefits from taxation. The initial draft of the bill was made public just as we were holding our 2017 Legislative Conference. Over a two-day period, delegates stormed Capitol Hill wearing “Don’t tax my health care” buttons and with advocacy materials in their hands. The effort killed the momentum for the provision and when the final draft was released, the cap was not included.
Our federal fire fighters continue to come under attack. We have waged a campaign to fight back against efforts to slash federal fire fighter pensions, including proposals in the last two budgets to increase federal fire fighter pension contributions, eliminate retirees’ COLA and supplemental pay for early retirees, and base pensions on the five highest years of earnings (rather than the highest three).
And this year, the White House released three executive orders affecting our federal fire fighter members that undermine more than 50 years of federal sector collective bargaining while at the same time providing agencies with enhanced authority to fire federal employees at will and impede federal unions in meeting their legal obligation to represent each bargaining unit employee fairly. We joined several federal labor coalitions in filing a lawsuit, are voicing opposition to these executive orders and making it clear that they are bad for federal employees and bad for the American people. In addition, we are seeking information on the implementation of the executive orders from the Office of Personnel Management.
We also face regulatory hurdles, including a freeze on all pending regulations. This action delayed the effective date of amendments to the Risk Management Program at the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA). The amendments that the IAFF helped to write would ensure local first responders were informed of regulated substances at industrial facilities, their quantities and risks, and require facility coordination and exercises with first responders. We expect the administration to roll back many of these proposed improvements.
With a reputation as a bipartisan union, our trademark gold and black brand has helped us succeed at the federal, state and local levels.
Even in the current period of congressional gridlock, we were able to secure $750 million for the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) and Assistance to Firefighters (FIRE Act) grant programs over the next six years. This was a top priority as both programs were due to be eliminated on January 2, 2018. In addition, we worked with lawmakers to authorize funding for Urban Search and Rescue (US&R), end wildland fire borrowing, make improvements to the Public Safety Officers Benefit (PSOB) program and delay the Cadillac tax on premium health care plans until 2022.
In a big win, our Firefighter Cancer Registry Act passed by unanimous consent in June, the culmination of several years of work by the IAFF to establish this one-of-a-kind national cancer registry specifically for fire fighters. Under the legislation, the Centers for Disease Control will partner with the IAFF and public health experts to establish the registry to collect detailed data on the occurrence of cancer in fire fighters. This data will provide scientists with the specialized information they need for research to help strengthen our understanding of the link between firefighting and cancer, which could potentially lead to better prevention and safety protocols.
We continue to pursue federal legislation to safeguard and improve our members’ health, financial well-being, job security and families, as well as our long-time legislative priority to pass national collective bargaining. The Public Safety Employer Employee Cooperation Act was nearly passed in 2011 but was derailed at the last minute by partisan politics. We have since reintroduced the bill this year and although the legislation is unlikely to move in the current Congress, we are working to build support and educate lawmakers.
Nothing effects our members’ lives and livelihoods more than the decisions that come out of the political arena. Governors, premiers, state legislators and MPs, mayors, town and city council members and county officials are the one who hire fire chiefs, establish fire department budgets, determine staffing, decide whether our firehouses remain open or closed and take away our collective bargaining. Every decision that affects our members’ careers, safety and retirement security is made by an elected official or someone appointed by an elected official.
Over the last several years, we have been reallocating our union’s political resources to offer more and more assistance to state and local affiliates in local elections, including gubernatorial and legislative campaigns. And, we have been successful on behalf of our members because our political principles are simple, but steadfast. We support those who support us – and the politicians who make the laws know that.
Our biggest resource in the political sphere is through our political action committee, FIREPAC. I am very proud of the growth of FIREPAC over the last two years. FIREPAC is now a $6 million federal PAC, ranking in the top .05 percent of all federal PACs.
Our success is possible in large part because of FIREPAC. Through FIREPAC, we can provide direct campaign contributions to endorsed candidates, conduct Independent Expenditure campaigns, fund field operations and finance other campaign activities. FIREPAC is part of our voice in the political process, and we maintain a level of bipartisanship considered rare in a heavily partisan atmosphere.
The growth and size of FIREPAC helps us invest heavily in politics at all levels and direct funds where they will be most effective, including support for IAFF members who launch their own campaigns. We have more than 400 members holding office in almost every level of government – school boards, fire districts, city councils, county commissions, state legislatures and even in Congress. Since the last Convention, FIREPAC has supported more than 80 IAFF member-candidates in 24 states.
In 2018, two campaigns where we have IAFF members in the race are receiving national attention. In Phoenix, Arizona, Local 493 member Daniel Valenzuela – already a city council member, is running for mayor. In Wisconsin, Mahlon Mitchell, president of Madison Local 311 and the Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin, is engaged in a fight for the future of his state, seeking the Democratic nomination for governor against Scott Walker. I am immensely proud of these two brothers, and we are working hard to support them.
Political action is a necessary part of success for this union and our members. Nothing shows how political action pays off better than this union’s relationship with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale. On April 1, 2018, the national line-of-duty death benefit, the culmination of a tenacious 25-year lobby effort, was implemented in Canada. This is a tremendous victory and is confirmation that our political action yields results for our members.
The Canadian benefit will provide a tax-free payment of $300,000 to surviving family members of all fire fighters, police officers and paramedics who die in the line of duty, including deaths caused by occupational illnesses such as cancer, heart disease and post-traumatic stress.
The IAFF has made this and other tremendous advances over the past two years. Canada has continued to take the lead with passage of presumptive laws for diseases linked to the job, including legislation in Newfoundland and Labrador in December 2016 covering 11 cancers. And in January 2018, Alberta became the first jurisdiction to enact cervical and ovarian cancer coverage for fire fighters. Ontario has subsequently added those cancers, as well as penile cancer, while British Columbia became the sixth province to formally recognize post-traumatic stress injury as an occupational illness.
Our Canadian Haz-Mat and CBRNE Training Initiative continues to be a credit to the IAFF while continuing to break new ground. In addition to adding French-speaking IAFF master instructors, we held our first train-the-trainer course in late 2017. Established as a direct result of IAFF lobbying, the training is Pro Board accredited and meets the NFPA 472 standard.
I am extremely proud of the work done by our political and legislative operation in Canada, managed by Assistant to the General President Scott Marks. Overall, our Canadian membership is growing, and our three Canadian district vice presidents continue to assist local and provincial affiliates daily to advance their interests – including advocating for emergency medical services (EMS) – and fighting back against attacks on workers and working conditions.
A great source of pride is the reaffiliation of the Montreal Firefighters Association. Members voted by more than 80 percent to reaffiliate with the International after leaving the IAFF more than 40 years ago. The reaffiliation of 2,350 members and the reinstatement as Local 125 comes following many years of discussions and meetings on the benefits of rejoining the union.
Montreal fire fighters are mainly French-speaking, and the IAFF is publishing a French-language edition of Fire Fighter Quarterly and will be developing more French-language services through the Canadian office in Ottawa. Montreal fire fighters first joined the IAFF in 1918 as Local 125, left in 1931, then re-joined the IAFF in 1948 before disaffiliating again in 1974. With Montreal fire fighters back in the IAFF, we open the door to uniting other fire fighter unions in the province of Quebec.
Nothing matters more than our members’ health. For more than a century, the IAFF has been the leader in every fire fighter safety initiative. I am tremendously proud of the work of our Division of Health, Safety and Medicine under the direction of Assistant to the General President Patrick Morrison. In the last two years, we have made important progress in providing programs, services and resources to address the many dangers and health hazards our members face on the job, including behavioral health.
In 2017, together with Advanced Recovery Systems (ARS), a leader in behavioral healthcare management, we opened the IAFF Center of Excellence for Behavioral Health Treatment and Recovery, a residential treatment facility exclusively for IAFF members. Unlike other treatment centers, the IAFF Center of Excellence, located in Upper Marlboro, Maryland – is the first occupation-specific treatment facility dedicated to post-traumatic stress and co-occurring addictions offered in an environment that is both functional and therapeutic.
More than one year after opening its doors, the IAFF Center of Excellence has helped more than 400 members on their road to recovery from post-traumatic stress, substance abuse, addiction, depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions.
Over the last several years, this union has taken the lead in bringing post-traumatic stress and other mental health issues out of the shadows with a new level of awareness and formal recognition as an occupational disease. In addition to educating members about behavioral health issues and developing programs for increased awareness, we created a peer-to-peer training program to address behavioral health concerns and provide a support network for members with mental health conditions.
In the last two years, our members have been called to respond to active shooter and mass casualty events – including the Orlando Pulse Nightclub, Mandalay Bay and Parkland, Florida – as well as devastating hurricanes, massive wildland fires and other disasters. One of the most difficult aspects of these types of response is the severe trauma to the victims that our members witness while performing their duties. Even though our members are helping others, it affects them.
Our new online behavioral health training and two-day IAFF Peer Support Program teach members how to provide support to their peers. Launched in 2016, our peer support program is the centerpiece of this union’s behavioral health activities. More than 1,600 peers representing more than 170,000 IAFF members across the United States and Canada have completed training. Several jurisdictions applied for and received FIRE Act grant awards to fund the peer support training. The program will focus next on developing continuing education, including resilience and recovery mentor sessions. We are also developing an online training course for clinicians who need to understand the fire service culture before working with fire fighters and paramedics.
Our members throughout the United States and Canada experience the cumulative effects of the toxic environments in which they work. Multiple studies have demonstrated that fire fighters have statistically higher rates of cancer compared to the general population. Our success in passing legislation establishing a national cancer registry will help strengthen our understanding of the link between firefighting and cancer and allow us to continue to develop tools to protect our members and prevent this disease in the future. Our online cancer awareness, prevention and education program includes a comprehensive review of information on recognizing and preventing occupational cancer and an interactive multimedia curriculum to address exposures.
In addition, we held our first Cancer Summit in 2017 in San Francisco. IAFF leadership, researchers, physicians, epidemiologists and other subject matter experts convened to review the current state of fire fighter cancer research. During this Summit, world-renowned physician Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong provided insight into the new research on the fight against cancer and an innovative, advanced treatment protocol for those battling cancer called Genomic Proteomic Spectometry (GPS Cancer™), a unique molecular test offered by NantHealth that helps to determine individual treatment protocols. We are currently working with NantHealth in an effort to offer this treatment to our members.
We subsequently held a second Cancer Summit in 2018 to bring together many of the fire service’s leaders in the fight to reduce cancer in the fire service. The Summit covered numerous topics, including the science linking cancer and firefighting, firefighting exposures, current research on the effects of these exposures and new research in the fight against cancer. The Summit was also an opportunity to discuss various topics and helped identify gaps in fire fighter cancer research.
We will continue to support research on cancer related to firefighting. This research provides valuable insight on occupational exposures, which has led to improved personal protective equipment and preventive measures.
Meanwhile, this union scored a significant victory in a long battle to protect fire fighters from exposure to flame retardants commonly used in upholstered furniture. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Standards Council voted in April 2018 to halt standards development of NFPA 277, Standard Methods of Tests for Evaluating Fire and Ignition Resistance of Upholstered Furniture Using a Flaming Ignition Source. The vote effectively stops further development of an open flame standard for testing the flammability of furniture, a standard that would have allowed for the continued use of large amounts of flame retardant chemicals. We are also urging Congress to pass legislation to require the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to adopt a federal flammability standard.
In addition, the IAFF, along with 10 other consumer, healthcare and science organizations, successfully lobbied the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to grant a petition to begin the rulemaking process to ban the sale of four categories of consumer products if they contain any organohalogen flame retardant – children’s products, mattresses, electronic casings and furniture. The vote was an exceptional victory and marked the first time a federal agency had moved to prohibit an entire class of toxic flame retardants in order to protect Americans from chemicals linked to cancer and other health problems. The move is also a step forward in protecting fire fighters from the hazards posed by this class of flame retardant chemicals.
One of our most successful health and safety programs is our Fire Ground Survival (FGS) training program. Developed to ensure the highest degree of survivability when things go wrong on the fire ground, the FGS training has expanded across the nation with 26 mobile training apparatus stationed strategically across the United States and Canada to maximize the number of participants who can benefit from the training. More than 44,000 members have completed the online component and are certified at the awareness level.
As new and emerging threats have challenged our members, this union has been the leader in every fire fighter safety initiative for 100 years. With the increasingly complex issues surrounding the wildland fire fighting environment, training for responding to these fires is one of the most important issues facing our members. Almost 40 percent of the eastern United States is considered developed Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) with over 70,000 communities, 98 million people and 43 million homes at risk of an Urban Interface event.
Our new Responding to the Interface training program will provide locals with the fundamentals for fire fighter survival when faced with an interface event. This class is specifically designed for the structure fire fighter, as set forth by resolution 50 passed by delegates at the 2016 IAFF Convention. The 10-hour online training is supplemented with a two- day hands-on field verification class.
To do the critical work our members have entrusted all of us with, we continue to look for smart, creative and innovative ways to communicate with our members. To this point, technology has become fundamental to our communications efforts, headed by Assistant to the General President Jeff Zack. Our Communications, Media and Information Systems Division is a sophisticated operation that uses every news, social media, internet, video, audio, print and electronic medium available to get our message out and connect with our affiliate leaders and members in the most efficient and effective ways.
And, by working hand-in-hand with our in-house, full-service video and broadcast production company, E-18 Media, we can provide real-time communications to broadcast webcasts and report on events as they happen. In the last two years, we have used video extensively as part of our communication efforts and to promote our union’s events and programs. E-18 Media, led by Executive Producer Marty Sonnenberg, has also allowed us to increase our affiliates’ ability to enhance their internal and external messaging, public relations efforts, political campaigns and public education/community outreach programs. Video has become a key piece in affiliate campaigns on numerous issues.
We also rely heavily on email and digital communication platforms to promote the work we do on behalf of our leaders and members. As news breaks, we use email blasts to inform our members on important issues. Our email marketing efforts are also successful in promoting events, programs, resources and services. Email blasts remain the preferred medium among affiliate leaders for receiving information from the International.
Even with so many news sources competing for attention, Fire Fighter Quarterly magazine is still widely read. For 100 years, our flagship publication has reported on every major issue facing the union and our members. And, with the reaffiliation of the Montreal Firefighters Association, we now also produce a French edition.
Our main IAFF website also remains an important part of our communications operation. In addition, the Division has worked to create other websites and webpages, including the IAFF Financial Corporation website. Staff also serve as the gatekeeper for the IAFF Center of Excellence website, hosted by Advanced Recovery Systems. And we developed and now maintain the 2018 Convention website, providing ongoing updates and news leading up to the event. The site will feature reporting on Convention activities and action throughout the week of Convention.
Our popular and ready-to-use toolkits are one way we help our affiliates enhance their own external communications programs. Issue toolkit topics include active shooter incident response, opioid response protocols, EMS response staffing and other fire department deployment standards based on scientific study and data that can be used in negotiations or to educate elected officials and other decision-makers about the importance of maintaining support for fire and EMS systems. Our public safety campaigns are designed to help affiliates promote safety in their communities and demonstrate the value of professional fire fighters in keeping the public safe. Materials include sample press releases, infographics, suggested social media posts and public service announcements that can be shared on social media or to generate earned media. Several of these are also available in French for our Montreal members. We also have a library of infographics for promoting safety and continue to add new campaigns and infographics.
In February 2018, we unveiled our online history developed in tandem with our 100th anniversary. We have been repurposing content from the online history for daily posts on Facebook and Twitter to highlight achievements the union has made over the last century. The online history chronicles our union’s past and the many improvements and benefits that today make the IAFF a leader in the fire service and labor movement. Additional sections provide a more comprehensive overview of major trends and events, such as September 11, our partnership with MDA and the evolution of fire-based EMS, among others.
Social media in particular plays a prominent part in all of our communications. Our Facebook page now has more than 225,000 followers, and we have almost 35,000 followers on @IAFFNewsDesk Twitter. We also have more than 5,500 followers on our IAFF Canada Facebook page, and @IAFFCanada Twitter account has more than 7,150 followers. Our social media presence also extends to YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, Flickr and others, including a Facebook page for the Center of Excellence.
Through social media we have raised our union’s profile and enhanced the image of professional fire fighters and the role our members play in communities in the United States and Canada. In addition, social media is an ideal platform for video and infographics that highlight news, information and events affecting our members.
In the two years since our last Convention, we initiated several Facebook campaigns, including a Flashback Friday featuring past IAFF events, activities, advances and photos. We also implemented a Facebook campaign to post weekly history facts and trivia questions to drive traffic to the online history page.
After launching the IAFF Frontline app four years ago, we refined and redesigned the app for optimizing functionality for IAFF events, adding features such as speaker bios, the ability to find rooms with an interactive map, easy access to the presentations and a connect feature that allows attendees to message one another via the app. In addition, attendees at events can receive their event certificates on the app. Because the app is also integrated with our membership database, it pulls event information directly from that database and keeps a record of past events. The app updates every five minutes so any new information entered into the IAFF membership database is seamlessly delivered to the app automatically. This version of the app works on iOs, Android devices and newer Blackberries running the Android software.
In the two years since our last Convention, our Communications and Media Department has worked extensively with the IAFF Foundation. Earlier this year, we produced a short Year in Review video to provide a quick look at the work of the Foundation in helping our members and their families in 2017. It was a year that included back-to-back hurricanes, active shooter mass casualty events and incredible wildfires.
We provided significant support during these series of disasters, reporting on our members’ response while ensuring those who were affected had the resources they needed, such as financial relief or other assistance (food, clothing, medical screenings, etc.) and behavioral health counseling through our peer support program.
In conjunction with our centennial we launched a fundraising campaign asking every member to support the IAFF Foundation by donating $100 for our 100 years. The Gold and Black 100th Anniversary Gala during this Convention also raised money for the Foundation through sponsorships. As part of this effort, we produced a Centennial History Album commemorating our 100 years of progress.
Our Communications and Media Department assists affiliates with many issues. Over the last two years, the volume of requests for assistance has continued to increase. In 2017 we retained two strategic campaign consultants: Doug Stern (a member of Cincinnati, OH Local 48) and Kent Grosse (a member of West Metro, CO Local 1309) — who have increased our ability to help hundreds of affiliates across the United States and Canada. Coupled with help from Tricom Associates, our public relations consultant through E-18 Media, we can serve as a full-service public relations and audio-visual resource for affiliates big and small.
The department assisted members with strategic campaigns for affiliates who are fighting battles with municipal officials, locals facing internal membership issues and others seeking to enhance their public image. Staff also helped members prepare media releases, messaging, letters to the editor, local election campaigns, ballot initiatives and social media efforts. A complete summary of the many, many ways we assisted our affiliates in the United States and Canada is available in the Communications and Media report.
In other strategic initiatives, we worked to help all affiliates strengthen their communication and interaction with members and stakeholders through training that provides guidance for leaders in how to continuously show their value to members to ensure member engagement, particularly leading into the Supreme Court decision in the Janus v AFSCME Council 31 case.
The focus on strengthening leaders and engaging members became the genesis for a strategic initiative in Georgia to increase membership. Since our last Convention, membership in the state increased significantly by almost 50 percent. The success of our efforts in Georgia has led to similar growth through initiatives in North Carolina and South Carolina.
In addition to the strategic assistance we provide to affiliates, working with IAFF-MDA Coordinator Roger Lopez of San Antonio, TX Local 624 and MDA staff, we developed strategies for enhancing affiliates’ efforts in support of MDA and to promote the value of participating in MDA campaigns through social media and other internal communications, including providing online resources for affiliates to use in their MDA campaign work. To encourage greater participation in MDA Fill the Boot drives, we worked with E-18 Media to produce a series of short video testimonials from affiliate leaders about why it’s important to support MDA.
Our Communications and Media Department also manages the annual Media Awards Contest, which recognizes affiliates’ internal and external communications programs and honors reporting and photography that best portrays the work our members do every day in communities across the United States and Canada. The contest has been an effective tool for building relationships with reporters and media outlets.
Our Communications and Media Department is a constant hub of activity as we deliver a growing list of communications products and services. As a result, our members are more plugged in than ever to how we are working every day to provide news, information and resources in ways they want to receive it.
The resources and delivery systems that we provide to train, instruct and educate our leaders and members also continue to grow and improve. Over the last two years, under the direction of Assistant to the General President James Ridley, we’re expanding and revamping the curriculum available to our members.
Educational opportunities are developed and delivered to members in a variety of ways that include curriculum development, planning and conducting seminars and conferences, FIRE OPS 101 events and train-the-trainer programs. In addition, the department continues to seek out and offer post-secondary educational opportunities, administers all IAFF scholarships and provides ongoing assistance to the Elected Human Relations Committee.
The annual Affiliate Leadership Training Summit (ALTS) remains our number-one education program, offering pre-conference events, workshops and networking opportunities. The 2017 ALTS in Anaheim, California, attracted 1,787 registrants, the highest attendance in the event’s history. And in 2018, we combined ALTS and the Human Relations Conference into a single event held in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. Highlights included a keynote address from Vi Lyles, the mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina.
This event also included a Union Strong 5K Fun Run to raise money for the IAFF Foundation. More than 175 attendees and staff participated in the run, raising over $5,000. In addition, we received $8,000 in sponsorships for the run from the IAFF Financial Corporation (IAFF-FC) and Kaplan University.
Our Partnership Education Program (PEP) provides an opportunity for affiliate leaders to develop union leadership and labor relations skills to better represent their members. PEP seminars also address many of the bigger issues facing the fire service, such as post-traumatic stress. Designed to help local leaders and members understand and manage rising challenges in an easily accessible location, there are now more than 65 modules available. We’ve also offered several district PEP events.
Across the United States and Canada, our FIRE OPS 101 program has been extremely effective for educating lawmakers and decision makers about the inherent dangers of firefighting, the physical strength required and the importance of adequate staffing, proper equipment and ongoing training. Affiliates throughout the IAFF have used FIRE OPS to demonstrate the complex nature and challenges our members face while doing their job protecting citizens every day in communities across the United States and Canada.
Our FIRE OPS program has evolved over the years as active shooter events, extreme weather conditions, acts of terrorism – as well as everyday emergencies — continue at high levels. We’re working with other organizations representing elected officials – including the U.S. Conference of Mayors – to hold FIRE OPS 101 events in conjunction with their national meetings.
Since the last IAFF Convention, and in an effort to streamline all education and training curricula development within the IAFF while maintaining consistency and quality, we developed and implemented a new Instructional Design Department (IDD) under the Education, Training and Human Relations Division. The Instructional Design Department designs, develops and maintains all IAFF curricula, ensuring collaborative efforts and exclusive IAFF branding of training programs. The Communications and Media Department developed a comprehensive IAFF Brand Book for internal IAFF use to help ensure our branding is consistent across the organization, throughout our communications and in all education and training programs.
A major project since our last Convention for our Technical Assistance and Information Resources Division – led by Assistant to the General President Dr. Lori Moore-Merrell – is the development of the National Fire Operations Reporting System (NFORS), a fire service analytical system for capturing accurate and real-time information to help fire service leaders assure adequate fire resources, optimize fire operations, reduce fire fighter injury and death, minimize civilian injury and death and reduce property loss. For our members, NFORS is a personal data diary providing a detailed history of their work in a private, encrypted, secure online environment, all on a mobile device. NFORS was created in parallel with FireCARES, a system designed to help community leaders better understand how safe their community is based on a risk score, a performance score and a safe grade that compares the fire department to industry operational standards. FireCARES helps affiliates work with their fire departments to have more science-based discussions on how to address resource needs compared to risks.
We are continuously creating better and more customized technical assistance programs to give our affiliate leaders the best science and the best strategies to assist in representing our members. From cutting-edge GIS studies and the most complete and thorough municipal financial analyses to fire and EMS operational modeling and health care delivery systems, we are providing information to our affiliates to compete against the forces that want our members to do more with less.
We also broadened the capabilities of our Major Incident Awareness and Tracking tool, which provides real-time information on large-scale weather incidents in the Unites States and Canada. The National Weather Service and ESRI system, in conjunction with our WebGIS server, includes mapping so our affiliates can see where incidents are occurring and the potential risk to members. These maps can also include member contact information for disaster relief follow up.
It is through the work of this Division that we have developed other WebGIS resources – such as a tool that allows affiliates to conduct their own basic GIS deployment evaluations – and serves as a full resource center providing EMS system analysis, municipal financial analysis and assistance in fighting back against the continuing battle to defend and protect our members’ hard-earned and well-deserved pension benefits.
Our Grants and HazMat/WMD Training Division, led by Assistant to the General President Elizabeth Harman, helped hundreds of affiliates prepare applications for federal grants that fund fire service programs, training, equipment and safety and prevention programs, including SAFER and FIRE Act grants, answering questions and facilitating communication between the local, fire department and municipality throughout the process. Our HazMat/WMD training is also funded with federal grant dollars.
Our First Responder Operations course and Technician program are now accredited by the Pro Board Fire Service Professional Qualifications System (Pro Board). In addition, the IAFF recently completed Emergency Response to HazMats (ERHM), which is certified at the Awareness level. The IAFF has applied to offer certification for its newly updated Confined Space Rescue (CSR) course. And we expect approval from the Pro Board in 2018 to certify successful students at the Awareness, Operational and Technician level.
Pro Board certification from the IAFF is an indisputable mark of performance recognized by fire departments when seeking advancement in the fire services. The credibility of the IAFF is enhanced by having its members certified to a national consensus standard. Since the program’s inception, 44,076 certifications for first responder operations were submitted to the Pro Board for inclusion in the national registry.
Soon we will be launching our HazMat Training Licensing Program to allow fire departments and training sites to use IAFF hazardous materials training programs to train their own personnel. For more than 20 years, we have relied on federal funding to fulfill hazmat training needs for our members and their fire departments. Allowing affiliates to train their own personnel will free up funds to help us serve more departments in areas that have scarce and outdated training.
Historically, our IAFF Foundation has been focused on securing new funding opportunities to finance the programs and activities administered through the Foundation. In 2018, I named Assistant to the General President Jeff Zack Interim Executive Director as we turned our focus to ensuring that the IAFF Foundation’s mission – to help our members and their families in the times of need – serves members in the most effective way possible. The Foundation provides aid following natural and man-made disasters, offers assistance for treatment and care of burn injuries for members and their families, awards scholarships to the children of fallen IAFF members and maintains the Fallen Fire Fighter Memorial.
We experienced an unprecedented year in disaster relief assistance in 2017 as tens of thousands of IAFF members were affected by Hurricanes Irma and Harvey. Others needed assistance following the numerous wildfires in northern and southern California and after the mass shootings in Clark County, Nevada, and Parkland, Florida.
In 2017, our Disaster Relief Fund raised $720,528.10. In total, $462,500 was distributed in the form of $500 debit cards directly to members who lost their homes. Other aid included operation centers that provided food, water, clothing, fuel, generators, tarps, and chainsaws. We received 649 disaster relief applications, conducted 345 emergency home repairs and peer support teams visited 4,775 members. We provided $380,000 in Hepatitis A and Tetanus vaccines for members who were exposed to toxic water from the storms. After the mass shooting in Nevada, 16 peer support teams provided peer counseling for the more than 200 IAFF members affected.
Fundraising initiatives this year include our 100th Anniversary Gold and Black Gala, to be held during this Convention and the $100 for 100 Years campaign. While these fundraising efforts are underway, staff is developing a plan to engage potential donors for long-term, sustained giving activity.
Our Foundation is part of GuideStar (guidestar.org), a service specializing in reporting on U.S. nonprofit organizations. It is one of the largest and most respected sources of information for potential donors. In 2018, the IAFF Foundation achieved GuideStar’s gold level charity status.
Our IAFF Financial Corporation (IAFF-FC), which provides financial services, insurance, retiree health care and deferred compensation plans for our members, also provides additional revenue streams back to the IAFF to support critical services and programs for all members. We created the IAFF-FC to build and develop programs with financially strong companies that value having professional union fire fighters as customers and are willing to stand by their products. Owned and operated by E-18 Media and under the direction of Chief Operating Officer Carrie Tucker, the IAFF-FC is a success story that other unions want to emulate.
We started the IAFF-FC with only a $900,000 line-of-credit, and by the second year of operation the IAFF-FC turned a profit. Four years after that, the debt was retired in full. Every year since, the IAFF-FC has returned revenue back to the IAFF to build new programs for this union that we didn’t have to fund through per-capita increases – including E-18 Media. I am especially proud of the incredible growth of the IAFF-FC’s FrontLine Deferred Compensation program, which has reached more than $8.1 billion in assets as of March 2018. Additional information on the continued growth and success of the IAFF-FC is in the IAFF-FC report.
Over the last two years, our legal operation, led by IAFF General Counsel Tom Woodley and in-house Legal Counsel Doug Steele, worked with affiliates on cases involving our Legal Guardian, Frontline and EDF programs. Our legal assistance is handled in Canada by Legal Counsel Sean McManus. During the two years since our last Convention, our General Counsel’s office has assisted with a number of court cases and other matters to protect our union and safeguard the rights of our leadership and membership.
The Legal Guardian Policy provides financial support and direct legal representation for cases in which union leaders and activists have been subjected to retaliation for engaging in union-related activities or speaking out on matters of public concern affecting union members and for cases expected to have a precedent-setting effect on other affiliates and members.
Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the IAFF can award a $10,000 grant to pay for initial litigation expenditures in pursuing a court action to enforce the overtime rights of our members. When these cases are favorably concluded through a court decision or settlement, the $10,000 is reimbursed to the International.
Finally, our Frontline Policy provides legal assistance to members and their families when a member is killed or injured in the line of duty because of defective products or the negligence of a third party.
The IAFF has prevailed in many of these cases. An extensive and detailed summary on all the fights we’ve undertaken on behalf of our affiliates and leaders since the last Convention is in the General Counsel’s report.
Fred Baer, our General President from 1919-1946, said, “Improvements in working conditions for fire fighters have never just ‘happened’ – and they will not ‘happen’ in the future. We must continue to work, as we have in the past, for conditions and salaries to which we are entitled.”
As we convene for our 2018 Convention, let’s continue to work together to better the lives and livelihoods of members so that 100 years from now, a future generation of fire fighters can look back with pride at what we have achieved.
I also want to recognize Underwriting sponsors (IAFF-FC, MSA Safety, Nationwide, TenCate Protective Fabrics and Fairfax County Professional Fire Fighters and Paramedics Local 2068), Signature sponsors (FII Marketing, Woodley & McGillivary, CAL FIRE Local 2881 and Edmonton Fire Fighters’ Union Local 209) and all our generous sponsors for their support for our Foundation and our 100th Anniversary Gold and Black Gala. Please say thank you to these important IAFF partners in the Exhibit Hall and at the Gala on Thursday, August 9.
For the past 18 years, I have dedicated all my effort to working on behalf of our members across the United States and Canada to protect and improve their lives and livelihoods. I thank you for the honor of leading this great union and for the opportunity to serve the more than 310,000 members who dedicate their lives to keeping our communities safe and who work tirelessly on the frontlines every day.
I am so proud of our incredible affiliate leadership whose work has shown what we can accomplish when this union is united for a better future. Only by standing together can we continue to grow to improve the lives and livelihoods of our members and keep the communities we serve safe.
Each of the IAFF Division reports provides a more detailed accounting of the products, services and accomplishments this International has brought to our members in the last two years.