A. MICHAEL MULLANE
3rd District Vice President
In accordance with the IAFF Constitution and By-Laws, I respectfully submit a report of my activities as 3rd District Vice President. During this term, I attended all Executive Board and Committee Meetings to which I have been appointed. These last two years have been extremely challenging and the 3rd District membership has been vigilant in meeting these many challenges. We continue to work in fighting against the attacks to reduce our benefits and for a safer workplace for all firefighters. The fight will go on. I thank the entire 3rd District membership for the support in these challenging times. I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to Patty Damigella in the Local 718 office for her help during my entire career as 3rd District Vice President. Patty is always there to assist me in helping 3rd District members.
The Uniformed Professional Fire Fighters of Connecticut continues to provide a wide range of services to its affiliated locals. The state organization is comprised of three Principal Officers, seven District Vice Presidents, three elected Trustees, a Director of Legislative Affairs, a Director of Information and Research, an Executive Secretary and two Executive Assistants to the President. The organization’s office is based at 30 Sherman Street in West Hartford. The organization also consists of five staff representatives, a legal team and lobbying firm, all working in a coordinated level to provide the best service to Connecticut’s affiliated locals.
The state organization meets regularly at quarterly delegates’ meetings and monthly Executive Board meetings all with the purpose of ensuring an outstanding flow of information and service to all affiliated locals in the state. The state organization conducts labor management meetings, bringing together local presidents and fire chiefs. These meetings have proven to be very successful, and have an established labor-management task force comprised of several local presidents and several fire chiefs to assist in any problems. This task force has had positive results.
Also, the state association continues to provide educational conferences each year on timely issues to the fire service and labor movement. Connecticut has made it a high priority to provide education to all of its affiliated locals, which is why the leadership and staff continue to meet with local presidents and rank and file members at local union meetings. A complete PowerPoint presentation on the services provided by the state union is shown and then an informal question-and-answer period takes place concerning issues on the local, state and national levels. The state association not only talks about the services provided by the state and the IAFF, but also provides the information to the rank and file members on their responsibilities of being a good union member. The state association also meets with new recruits along with the Connecticut Career Fire Chiefs at the Connecticut Fire Academy.
The organization’s state convention was held this past year in Danbury and hosted by Local 801. In attendance were the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Comptroller, Attorney General, Secretary of the State, Speaker of the House of Representatives and President of the Senate, in addition to many state and local dignitaries. Also attending were Senator Richard Blumenthal, Senator Chris Murphy, and Representatives Larson, Courtney, DeLauro, Himes and Esty. General President Harold Schaitberger and General Secretary-Treasurer Thomas Miller also attended.
The UPFFA of Connecticut continues to hold seats on the State Fire Prevention and Control Commission, State EMS Council, State USAR Team and several other positions appointed by the Governor and legislative leadership. The State President represents the organization as a Vice President of the Connecticut AFL-CIO.
This past year Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine fire fighters came together for a jointly sponsored MDA Boot Camp at Mohegan Sun which was very well attended by representatives from locals in all five states. Connecticut IAFF locals raised $286,000 in 2012 and $335,000 in 2013. President Carozza serves each year as the MDA Telethon Chairman each Labor Day weekend and hosts state dignitaries and contributors to the event and works with MDA throughout the year.
The state association continues to organize new locals and continues to do an outstanding job in providing service to its affiliated locals under the direction of Secretary Louis DeMici and his staff, who provide quality service to locals in all areas of collective bargaining, despite the growing fiscal problems and huge attacks by towns and cities on issues concerning pensions, medical benefits, wages and manning. Backed up by strong legal counsel, the state association has proven its commitment to providing excellent service to its members. The state association’s servicing staff saves affiliated locals in Connecticut thousands of dollars each year.
The state association also had very successful sessions in the state legislature since our last Convention. Director of Legislative Affairs Paul Rapanault, with his committee and staff, did an outstanding job in the state house tracking hundreds of bills that would have had an adverse effect on fire fighters and public employees. The state association continues to kill anti-fire fighter bills, such as changes to Collective Bargaining and Binding Arbitration, with the help of affiliated local leaders and their members. Without the daily presence of the state association at the Capitol, all Connecticut locals would face very severe problems.
More importantly, the state association was very successful in obtaining and protecting new laws that protect fire fighters in Connecticut such as Ryan White[c1], “Move Over Law,” additional presumptive protections for cardiac disease, protection for retiree health care benefits, and recently adding protection to Connecticut fire fighters concerning hepatitis, meningococcal meningitis, tuberculosis, Kahler’s Disease, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and prostrate or testicular cancer. The state association has aggressively pursued protection for Connecticut fire fighters by establishing a state-wide medical trust and pension system to protect its members.
In addition to the state association’s strong influence in the state capital, the program that has changed the thinking of many legislators is the Fire Ops 101 program, which is conducted each year before the legislative session for state elected officials. The yearly event is attended by state legislators and members of the press and broadcast media. “This program has proven to be an excellent way to demonstrate what our members face each and every day,” says state President Peter Carozza.
The UPFFA also participated in Fire Service Day at the Capitol, an annual event showcasing Connecticut’s Fire Service. Members from affiliated locals not only set up and operated static displays, but lobbied legislators on the organization’s legislative agenda. In addition to these programs, each year during the legislative session the state association holds a legislative conference, a breakfast and reception, all with full days of education and lobbying by the leadership of Connecticut’s IAFF locals.
Connecticut affiliated locals were represented at the annual Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C. delegates not only met with staff, but also attended a legislative breakfast hosted by the state association. Connecticut’s senators and five representatives attended this annual breakfast. “We were very pleased that our lobbying efforts continue to assist the IAFF and our brothers and sisters across the country,” says President Peter Carozza. The UPFFA continues to schedule follow-up meetings with their representatives back home and makes a point to have these meetings in fire stations across the state so rank and file members can participate. The state association has been and will continue to be very involved in national, state and local elections supporting candidates who support fire fighters.
The UPFFA website, www.upffa.org, continues to be a vital link and avenue of communication with its members. The state association also has developed its own mobile app, Facebook and Twitter pages.
I want to thank President Carozza, the officers, staff and leadership of all the affiliated locals for what they do to protect Connecticut’s fire fighters.
IAFF members have seen a number of changes since our last Convention. On the political front, the overall landscape moved to a more favorable position for the state. In 2010, Republicans gained control of the Maine House, Senate and the Governor’s office.
They came after unions with four Right to Work bills, which we were able to defeat with our friends from the Maine AFL-CIO. However, our Workers’ Compensation statute took a huge hit that affected the most seriously injured workers.
With the strong support and help from the IAFF, the Professional Fire Fighters of Maine (PFFM) put a significant effort into the fall 2012 elections. With boots on the ground and help from all our locals, the Maine House and Senate returned to the control of the majority of Democrats. This gave us a firewall against Republican Governor Paul LePage, whose anti-union stance and rhetoric is well-known nationally. With the help of our friends in the Maine House and Senate, the state was able to push off any legislation proposed by the governor or his allies that would do further harm to our union.
In the fall election, Republican Senator Olympia Snowe decided not to run for re-election. Senator Snowe was a trusted friend of our union. Senator Snowe was a co-sponsor of the IAFF’s collective bargaining bill and was instrumental in gaining passage of the James L. Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. She was always there for us and never wavered in her support. She will be missed.
With the U.S. Senate seat vacant, the PFFM and IAFF supported former Independent Governor Angus King. The PFFM met with the three candidates running, and it was clear that King deserved our support. The PFFM endorsed early in the campaign and was the first union (also one of the few) to get behind his bid. King is a long-time Harley rider and the PFFM Motorcycle Group did a campaign ride up the coast with King at the lead, stopping at IAFF firehouses along the way. In the three-way race as an independent, King won the seat with close vote.
In the upcoming 2014 elections, it is the goal of the PFFM to retain control of the Maine House and Senate and to ensure Governor Paul LePage does not return to office.
Democratic Congressman Mike Michaud is running against LePage and the PFFM and IAFF have endorsed his candidacy. Independent Elliot Cutler is also running, making this another three-way race, which is how LePage won the last time with just over 38% of the vote. The state association will be working hard to ensure Michaud succeeds and a union friend returns to the Governor’s office in Maine. Also, Senator Susan Collins is running for re-election. Senator Collins has been one of this union’s most ardent supporters while in office, and she will have the continued backing of the both the PFFM and IAFF. We will do all that we can to make sure her campaign is successful.
The IAFF came to the assistance of Augusta Local 1650 with the help of the Guardian Policy. In fact finding with the Maine Labor Relations Board, a favorable ruling was received around Mandatory Bargaining issues in their contract. The city refused to honor the rulings and appealed the decision in District Court. The IAFF provided legal representation through Douglas Steele, of Woodley and McGillivary, and the local prevailed at that level. The city still refused to honor the decision and appealed to the Maine Supreme Court. Mr. Steele presented the case before the Supreme Court and Augusta Local 1650 prevailed. This was a landmark decision around the area of a contract’s static status quo. The decision impacted not only Augusta’s contract rights but also any bargaining unit in Maine that has a collective bargaining agreement.
The PFFM and IAFF also saw a new charter put in place for Hampden Local 4903. Nine new members were organized within the local, and they were assisted with their first contract by the PFFM.
PFFM Staff Representative Bob Bourgault retired this past January. Bob has served as the labor advisor and contract negotiator for well over twenty years. His knowledge of Maine labor law and skill at the negotiating table were true assets to the organization and our members. He has made our job safer and ensured we get the benefits we deserve when sitting down at the bargaining table. We wish him well in his retirement. The PFFM is fortunate to have former PFFM 1st DVP Michael Crouse now take over the role as Staff Representative. As a former member of Local F-123, IAFF 16th DVP and Chief of Staff for the General President, Michael brings a true range of experience to the job. The PFFM is a full-service organization, and he will be able to handle the many facets required from grievances to contract negotiations.
The PFFM is also embarking on the prospect of a longitudinal cancer study on Maine IAFF fire fighters. The state association is partnering with Dr. Susan Shaw of Blue Hill, Maine, who completed a recent pilot cancer study on 12 San Francisco Fire Department IAFF members. The results showed alarming levels of flame-retardants and other known carcinogens in the blood and urine of the fire fighters after working a fire. From 2002 through 2012, of all the reported line-of-duty deaths to the IAFF, 56 percent are due to cancer. This is unacceptable. It is hoped that this study will show a direct relation between firefighting and the increased rate of cancer among our members. Dr. Shaw has recently applied for a $1.2 million grant from FEMA through the Fire Prevention and Safety Grant application, and the IAFF has written a of letter of support. We are hopeful to receive funding, as this would be the first cancer study approved under this program. Much has happened in the past two years, some good and some bad, but our members have continued to move forward and do their jobs in a safe and professional manner. We honor those sisters and brothers who we have lost since our last Convention and pray for their families and loved ones.
In 2012, the PFFM played a critical role in the campaign to elect U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren. Throughout the state, PFFM members held signs, knocked on doors, and traveled to rallies in the “Firefighters for Warren” bus to deliver the message that she was the right candidate for us. She defeated Republican incumbent Scott Brown, who had a poor labor voting record, including being the decisive vote in the Homeland Security Committee to abolish the SAFER and FIRE Act. Senator Warren credited the PFFM with making the difference in the campaign and commended the PFFM for the groundwork the organization did for the campaign.
Elections: In addition to the success of Senator Warren’s campaign, the PFFM witnessed victories of endorsed candidates throughout the state. Overall, PFFM-endorsed candidates were victorious in 40 out of the 42 elections across Massachusetts. Victories during the 2012 election season included Congressmen John Tierney, William Keating and Joseph Kennedy III. In 2013, a special election took place in Massachusetts to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Secretary of State John Kerry. The PFFM-endorsed, now Senator Ed Markey went up against Republican hedge fund manager Gabriel Gomez. Senator Markey had nearly a 100% labor voting record while in Congress, and has been a friend of the PFFM since his time in the Massachusetts State House. The PFFM was victorious in many municipal elections, including the election of Marty Walsh as mayor of Boston. This victory was a win for labor throughout the U.S. 2014 will be a busy year for the PFFM, as there are contested races for most of the constitutional officers and many friends in the legislature have or are retiring this year. The PFFM will also have a presence at the June Democratic State Convention, as many members were chosen as delegates.
Pensions: The Massachusetts Public Employee Retirement Administration Commission made an attempt to eliminate annual sick time and vacation buybacks from being pensionable. Through the efforts of the PFFM and a coalition of unions in Massachusetts, that effort was halted and vacation and sick buybacks remain pensionable.
Residency: The PFFM was successful in passing amendments to Massachusetts state laws relative to residency requirements for fire fighters. Prior to this success, Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 31, Section SOA stipulated that, for Civil Service Departments, fire fighters must live 10 miles from the border of the city or town they work for to their residence. This law had not been strictly enforced until recently and the PFFM made swift efforts to address this issue. The PFFM drafted language to make the residency requirement subjective to collective bargaining. Through influence in the state legislature, the PFFM was able to get this language into the 2014 state budget and amend the residency requirements.
Narcan Vote: The PFFM unanimously voted to support putting Narcan (Naloxone) on every fire truck in Massachusetts. Narcan is an opioid antagonist drug that is specifically used to counteract opioid overdoses from drugs such as heroin and morphine. This important vote came as a result of a recent surge in heroin overdoses throughout the state. On April 23, the PFFM hosted a Train the Trainer program in the administration of Narcan by our members.
Tyler Seddon: The PFFM organized a trip from Massachusetts to Rhode Island to deliver presents to 7-year-old Tyler Seddon who is fighting his second battle with leukemia. Over 80 pieces of apparatus made the trip to Rhode Island and joined up with fire apparatus and police vehicles from that state for a drive by for Tyler Seddon. The event got national press coverage and certainly made the young boy’s birthday.
Line-of-Duty Deaths: Since 2012 there have been 22 line-of-duty deaths in Massachusetts: February 2, 2012- Brother Maurice Zingarelli suffered a heart attack and passed away at the age of 59. Brother Zingarelli was a member of Worcester, Local 1009. February 15, 2012- Brother Bradford Coolidge succumbed to kidney cancer and passed away at the age of 57. Brother Coolidge was a member of Athol, Local 1751. March 8, 2012- Brother Matthew Smith succumbed to skin cancer and passed away at the age of 45. Brother Smith was a member of Danvers, Local 2038. March 24, 2012- Brother Richard Pierce suffered a stroke and passed away at the age of 73. Brother Pierce was a member of North Reading, Local 1857. June 6, 2012- Brother Jeffrey Phelps succumbed to stomach cancer and passed away at the age of 56. Brother Phelps was a member of Dudley, Local 4271. July 7, 2012- Brother Michael Smith succumbed to cancer and passed away at the age of 43. Brother Smith was a member of Gloucester, Local 762. August 28, 2012- Brother James Roy succumbed to throat cancer and passed away at the age of 62. Brother Roy was a member of Fitchburg, Local 3128. October 27, 2012- Brother Donald Young succumbed to prostate cancer and passed away at the age of 65. Brother Young was a member of Framingham, Local 1652. January 27, 2013- Brother Joseph Slattery succumbed to cancer and passed away at the age of 47. Brother Slattery was a member of Natick, Local 1707. February 9, 2013- Brother Patrick Germain suffered a heart attack and passed away at the age of 60. Brother Germain was a member of Worcester, Local 1009. February 10, 2013- Brother Paul Chippendale succumbed to pancreatic cancer and passed away at the age of 37. Brother Chippendale was a member of Fall River, Local 1314. March 26, 2013- Brother Edward Seman succumbed to pancreatic cancer and passed away at the age of 57. Brother Seman was a member of Worcester, Local 1009. May 23, 2013- Brother Christopher Haney succumbed to colon cancer and passed away at the age of 57. Brother Haney was a member of Woburn, Local 971. June 3, 2013- Brother Charles Crowley succumbed to a heart condition and passed away at the age of 56. Brother Crowley was a member of Chelsea, Local 937. June 7, 2013- Brother Clifton DeCourcy suffered from respiratory arrest and passed away at the age of 61. Brother DeCourcy was a member of Worcester, Local 1009. July 8, 2013- Brother John Austin suffered from cardiac arrest and passed away at the age of 37. Brother Austin was a member of Quincy, Local 792. July 22, 2013-Brother David Brier suffered from cardiac arrest and passed away at the age of 50. Brother Brier was a member of Middleboro, Local 3653. December 27, 2013- Brother Albert Ordway succumbed to esophageal cancer and passed away at the age of 59. Brother Ordway was a member of Framingham, Local 1652. January 21, 2014- Brother Joseph Mullen succumbed to pancreatic cancer and passed away at the age of 60. Brother Mullen was a member of Boston, Local 718. January 22, 2014- Brother Francis Flynn succumbed to Lung Cancer and passed away at the age of 53. Brother Flynn was a member of Boston, Local 718. March 23, 2014- Brother Arthur Moscufo suffered from cardiac arrest and passed away at the age of 64. Brother Moscufo was a member of Medford, Local 1032. March 26, 2014- Brother Edward Walsh and Brother Michael Kennedy were killed in the line of duty at a building fire Beacon Street in Boston. Brothers Walsh and Kennedy bravely went in to battle the blaze on Beacon Street and made the ultimate sacrifice to save the lives of brother and sister firefighters and residents of the Beacon Street area. Brother Walsh was 43 years old and Brother Kennedy was 33 years old when they each passed; both were members of Boston, Local 718. March 31, 2014- Brother George Gobeil succumbed to lung cancer and passed away at the age of 67. Brother Gobeil was a member of New Bedford, Local 841.
OPEB Reform: The legislature could vote as early as this spring, sweeping changes to retiree health care. The PFFM convened a commission that drafted recommendations presented to the legislature to ensure certain provisions for retirees who have given so much to their communities. Current retirees, and those within five years of retirement or who are within 12 months of being vested, or who have completed 20 years of service are exempt from the expecting legislation. OPEB reform would not affect current retirees, but would affect future public employee retirees.
Among PFFM’s recommendations are that retirees shall be required to complete twenty (20) years of service and have reached the age of 60 (group 1), 55 (group 2), and 50 (group 4) in order to qualify for retiree health insurance. The commission recommends that the OPEB Reform be implemented as a comprehensive mandatory package with the Commonwealth resolving any concerns that the inclusion of the change to survivor benefits would potentially create an unfunded mandate by agreeing to reimburse municipalities in the event that the cost of the survivor benefits portion of the OPEB reform offsets 50% or more of the savings.
Boston Marathon Bombings: On April 15, 2013, three people were killed and more than 260 runners and spectators were injured after two bombs went off at the finish line of the Boston marathon. In the days that followed, a police officer would also lose his life related to the attacks and additional law enforcement injured. PFFM members played a significant role in the rescue and recovery at the finish line, including Boston fire fighters that responded but also several dozen PFFM members that were marathon volunteers or spectators and jumped into action to help save lives.
The PFFM joined with Boston Firefighters Local 718 and Boston law enforcement and EMS unions within 48 hours of the attacks to establish the Boston First Responders Fund to aid victims of the marathon bombings and to offer a $50,000 reward to the person(s) who provide information leading to the arrest and apprehension of the people responsible for the attacks. The outpouring of support was phenomenal; more than $220,000 was raised. Earlier this year funds were given to Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital to be used for marathon survivors and their continuing therapy and costs not covered by insurance.
State Death Benefit: The PFFM worked with the Attorney General and Senate President to increase the state death benefit for families of public safety personnel killed in the line of duty from a one-time payment of $100,000 to $150,000. The benefit has not been increased since 1994 and passed April 18.
Smoking Cessation: This fall a local media outlet conducted an investigative report that caught some fire fighters smoking on-duty. State law prohibits fire fighters and police officers from smoking on- or off-duty or using any tobacco products. Under the law, fire fighters hired prior to 1988 or after 1988 under an exam prior to that year, are allowed to use tobacco products on- or off-duty. As a result of the media report, the fire fighters profiled were fired. The PFFM has argued that fire fighters caught smoking should be offered mandatory treatment options instead of the immediate loss of their jobs.
On the morning after Election Day 2012, New Hampshire became a very different place than it had been in the previous two years. The anti-worker Tea Party type that led the New Hampshire House and Senate had been defeated. Democrats took over the House, which was an enormous win having previously been a 3-1 Republican super majority. The Senate, though still Republican-led, became more even at 13-11, as opposed to a 19-5 Republican majority. A new moderate democratic Governor was elected and Governor’s Executive Council became bi-partisan. And most importantly, on November 5, 2012, the Professional Fire Fighters of New Hampshire helped get elected the most members to the State House in its history at 16 members. Our campaign strategy proved to be a successful one, as endorsed candidates from President Obama down the ballot to county races were elected. A strong and well-funded PAC, determined local leadership, and engaged members made New Hampshire’s election strategy a successful one.
No matter what the political make up, certain elected leaders will always make attempts to destroy or weaken organized labor. Time and time again, when attacks happen in the state it is New Hampshire’s Union Fire Fighters that stand at the gates and beat them back.
President Dave Lang and Secretary-Treasurer William McQuillen recognize the Executive Board and Council, local leaders, and members — both active and retired — that stood with them these past two years. Their hard work, refusal to back down to opposition, and willingness to stand up and fight when necessary, has been the pillar of New Hampshire’s union’s strength. I remain proud and thankful for each of them.
The 2012 legislative session began with the first office relocation in nearly 20 years right next to the state Capitol, in order to be closer to the decision makers. Union membership grew by organizing a new local. These two legislative years have been productive for unionized firefighters in New Hampshire. However, the state is still faced with challenges. Both years, Right to Work bills aimed at destroying collective bargaining have come before the legislative bodies. However, the state fought back and this legislation was twice defeated. In February 2013, New Hampshire state officers were joined by General President Schaitberger and myself to see the defeat of this legislation, and meet with members and representatives. The leadership, council and support coupled with the outstanding high quality of IAFF staff aided the state association in these efforts. The IAFF staff continues to be the backbone of our union and IAFF members in New Hampshire. A special thanks is extended to the staff at the New Hampshire State Office: Kayla McCarthy, Casey McCabe, and Ashley MacKinnon. They are joined by the decades of efforts by Attorney Richard Molan. For 30 years he has represented the members with conviction and determination.
Still reeling from the damage of the 2011-2012 session, the state has kept its heads down and drew out battle plans to attempt to repair some of the damage done. First up for the 2013-2014 legislative session was committee assignments. Post-election, it was announced that fire fighters would be assigned as an Assistant Majority Leader, Chairman of Labor, Chairman of Fish & Game, and Vice-Chairman of Transportation. With members in high- ranking positions, the state association was able to tackle legislation and information with a bit more ease. The state has continued to see its fair share of battles: Right to Work was back both years, and pension-destroying bills were back on tap. However, they were able to fend off some legislation while working on passing a few important reforms. They stood proudly at the bill signing ceremony on legislation involving critical incident-stress management and crisis intervention, and again legislation was passed that will track and report data to help understand where, when, and why negotiations break down, and how to solve it. The state is on track to pass Senate Bill 204, which expands the list of medical conditions covered by workers’ compensation, and they are also set to pass a bill that gives veterans preference in public employment.
The health of every single member is very important. Unfortunately, over the last two years we have said goodbye to members who have lost their courageous battles with cancer. But from this devastation, the state began working with the New Hampshire Fire Academy on a solution. The union worked to develop a cancer awareness curriculum, which 1200 fire fighters have taken. Additionally, it is now part of FFI curriculum for all new fire fighters. We are extremely proud to say that the state is the only one in the nation where this curriculum is required. We took this a step further by working on legislation that would make certain types of cancers compensable under the workers’ compensation law. This proposition is on track to be studied this summer, where we hope strong legislation will be developed to make this a reality for New Hampshire fire fighters.
Much of the previous two years have been spent fighting to see a return of surplus dollars from management controlled risk pools. The work paid off; cities, towns and employees began to see refund checks. The total of $104 million of risk pool surplus funds was returned over three years. This money, which was returned to deserving retirees, active members, cities and towns, helped close a chapter on a 12-year battle. However, the war will not be over until every single citizen who is owed money is made whole, and the law is changed to ensure that this type of situation can never happen again. With the cost of health insurance always on the rise, it is commonplace across this country to blame public employees and use health insurance as a reason to not hire new employees. However, through data gathering and many questions, it was found that sometimes employee rate increases are not because of “trends,” but because these risk pools are simply charging too much and holding on to unnecessary surpluses. We are proud of our work, but we must continue to keep a close eye on these insurance pass-through organizations throughout the whole country.
When it came to pension reform issues, the state association worked tirelessly with the New Hampshire Retirement Security Coalition (NHRSC), which was established in 2008. The NHRSC falls under the umbrella of the National Public Pension Coalition (NPPC), which the IAFF is a strong partner. The NHRSC is made up of both union and non-union groups that work together on issues pertaining to the New Hampshire Retirement System and the 76,000 active and retired fire fighters, police officers, teachers, and state and local employees who rely on the system to provide a reasonable and secure retirement that was promised to them at the time of their employment. The coalition provides up-to-date information to their members regarding what proposals, changes, or impacts the New Hampshire legislature votes on that would affect members’ retirement benefits. The partners of the NHRSC work simultaneously to advocate retirement issues to the members of the New Hampshire House and Senate, as well as provide the media and public with fact-based information from a variety of sources. Fruits of the New Hampshire Retirement Security Coalition can be viewed atwww.nhretirementfacts.com.
Members of the NHRSC worked hard this year to try to pass SB364, a bill that would help the newest members of our union. Fire fighters hired on or after July 1, 2011, will receive a significantly lesser benefit due to the changes that were made in 2011under HB2. In fact, according to the New Hampshire Retirement System’s own actuarial projections, after a 25-year career, a fire fighter will retire with only $34,000. By current New Hampshire standards, this would qualify them for social services. SB364 would have made one simple change to the benefit structure for these newly hired members by changing their multiplier from 2% to 2.5%. It would have left all other 2011 changes in place, but by making this one simply change it would have allowed fire fighters in 30 years to retire with dignity and a livable benefit. Unfortunately, the GOP controlled Senate did not believe this to be a worthy legislative change and killed SB364 12-11 down party line. This is still crucial and needs to be changed to protect all of our members. The state association will continue to fight for these newest members using the legislative process and believe that the state’s work in the 2014 election cycle will prove fruitful for this endeavor.
The state remains diligent in furthering legal cases through the court system as a majority partner in the New Hampshire Retirement Security Coalition Legal Team. Currently there are three ongoing cases. The first dates back to changes made by the New Hampshire legislature in 2008, most importantly changes to the definition of earnable compensation, the special account that funds COLAs, and the medical subsidy benefit. In this case, the Superior Court found that employees do not have vested rights in their COLAs and no right to challenge the defunding of special accounts. The judge also repeated his findings about a 10-year vesting period for other aspects of the Retirement System. The state, the Retirement System, and the coalition have all appealed to the Supreme Court. The parties just received the scheduling order for the submission of briefs; the state and NHRS briefs are due May 25, 2014, the state’s brief will be due June 19, 2014, and they will have one more chance to respond on June 21, 2014.
On July 1, 2011, the state filed the first part of challenges to HB2. The lawsuit sought an injunction due to the increase in employee retirement rates (fire went from 9.3% of payroll to 11.8 %). In this case, the Superior Court found that the recently imposed rate increases were substantial and were not justified by any particular public policy requirements. The rate increases were, thus, improper for any employee vested in the Retirement System under the contract clause of the New Hampshire Constitution. The contract clause prohibits the state from breaching its contracts. The judge, however, found that employees do not become vested in the Retirement System until they complete ten (10) years of service. The Retirement Coalition appealed to the New Hampshire Supreme Court because it believes employees become vested upon achieving permanent status, not at ten years. The State appealed because it claims employees do not ever vest or do not vest until they actually retire. On February 24, 2014, the state association filed a Supreme Court brief, and now awaits a hearing schedule. The position remains that vesting begins upon permanent employment status (upon completion of probation) and remain positive that all members will win in the end.
On February 29, 2012, the state association filed the second part of the lawsuit challenging the changes in HB2. These include all of the remaining changes that affect earnable compensation, average final compensation calculation, changes to minimum age, years of service, and the change in our multiplier. In this case, the Superior Court found that employees vest in the Retirement System upon achieving permanent status. The judge ruled, however, that she could not tell without a trial whether definitional changes made by the Legislature to factors such as what constitutes “earnable compensation” are substantial enough to have violated members’ rights. Over the state association’s objection, the Hillsborough County judge stayed proceedings in this case pending the outcome of the Supreme Court appeals. As a result, there is no pending activity in this case.
Through research and lobbying efforts, the state has also worked hard to ensure that members are able to complete the IAFF Fire Ground Safety and Survival class, ensuring that our members go home safe at the end of their shift. To date, 565 of members have completed this course. Local unions continue to lead the way in raising money for various causes. Locals raised $226,150 to benefit MDA, held a successful 4F Golf Tournament to benefit families of the Fallen Fire Fighter’s Family Fund, did tremendous fundraising for breast cancer in October, grew mustaches for “Movemeber” challenges, and will begin a new program, Coats for Kids, this year.
As the state association prepares for the 2014 election, IAFF members remain determined and motivated. An aggressive election plan has been assembled. The PFFNH stands proudly with those who stand with them.
Just as we prepare ourselves in our departments through training, our union has been preparing for this fight for decades. The PFFNH built our union to withstand attacks such as these through every law that we passed to every contract article we negotiated. President Lang and Secretary-Treasurer McQuillen are extremely proud of the New Hampshire members. It is their strength, passion and refusal to back down that will win the day.
The legislative agenda forwarded by Legislative Agent, Paul Valletta, has resulted in major victories. The Central Coventry Fire District through mismanagement and strong anti-union sentiment has emerged from being totally disbanded to receiving a five- year timeline to financially right the district, maintain union fire fighter jobs, prevent privatization of EMS and continue to serve the citizens of their fire district. This legislative win, coupled with favorable results of contract continuation and the killing of all anti- fire fighter legislation, marks a positive legislative session.
The pension systems for fire fighters in the state of Rhode Island are either run by individual municipalities or the state of Rhode Island. The municipal plans have historically been under-funded, which was a prime reason for the city of Central Falls to enter into bankruptcy. Two plans–one in the city of Pawtucket and another in the town of West Warwick–were considered in crucial status. Due to recognition of our members preserving equitable pensions, it appears these plans are now actuarially sound with strong contractual language in order to prevent these communities from not living up to their obligation to fund the pension plans. Further, these negotiated pension plans were the catalyst for maintaining core economic benefits for long-term collective bargaining agreements. These positive results are a testimony to Pawtucket President Bob Neill and West Warwick President Bill Leahy and their Executive Boards for their hard work. The results for our members in the state plan were status quo, meaning very poor. The unnegotiated pension reform initiated by our General Treasurer remains in effect. The results are more years, age requirement, non-guaranteed COLA, etc. Federal mediation lasting 15 months broke down, resulting in the positive mediated items becoming null and void. The economic effect of this breakdown is a hardship for all fire fighters in the state system. This unfavorable outcome will be the prime focus to legislatively change these pensions going forward.
The results of the outstanding work of the state organization’s Vice President Joe Andriole and Staff Representative Bob Neill working with local leadership have resulted in a vast majority of our locals securing collective bargaining agreements. These agreements protect our core economic benefits with reasonable increases while mitigating the rising costs of medical health insurance.
Over the past two years, the state office has participated in 83 rights grievances resulting in arbitrations covering the full spectrum of possible issues. Our record for favorable results is in the high 70th percentile. Up to this point, interest arbitrations have been focused on one community, North Kingstown, with the possibility of four interest arbitration cases being heard by different arbitrators in the same time frames. The town of North Kingstown has unilaterally imposed a 56-hour work week. At tremendous cost, the local has been successful in court and at the State Labor Relations Board, whose decisions have been appealed by the town. This work schedule, with an inability to retain personnel, has destroyed morale and created a fatigued workforce. As of now, there is no end in sight in resolving the number of hours worked and other contested issues that have been arbitrarily instituted by the town of North Kingstown.
The state association has been successful in organizing three fire districts in the town of Burrillville and is in the process of negotiating this local’s first contract.
Both the General Officers and the General Assembly races are benchmark events. The gubernatorial candidate, Angel Tavares, is running against General Treasurer Gina Raimondo, the designer of the contested pension. Her changes, as reported, created a huge problem for all retired and active fire fighters. If elected, she would further complicate the lives of all fire fighters in our state. Electing labor-friendly candidates to the General Assembly would enhance the state’s ability to maintain issues and possibly correct pension problems.
The state association has successfully prevented [c2] Central Coventry Fire District from being dissolved and continued to fight the 56-hour work week issue in North Kingstown. This could not have been accomplished without the help from the IAFF, which provided funding, legal assistance and total support when requested. These factors and the work done by Vice President Andriole, Staff Representative Neill, Legislative Agent Valletta and Secretary-Treasurer Hanos, has allowed the state association to meet, resist and prevail against our many enemies.
The past two years have been full of success and change for the Professional Fire Fighters of Vermont. After 15 years as a member of the PFFV Executive Board and serving seven years as President, Matt Vinci left the PFFV to become the Director of Education and Human Relations at IAFF headquarters in Washington, D.C. He will be missed by all in Vermont and will prove to be a great asset to all in the IAFF.
The PFFVs legislative operation has had some great successes over the past two years. The state has been able to push legislation that will protect members’ benefits, provide for training, make jobs safer and cover members if they contract an illness due to the job.
Governor Shumlin signed into law additional presumptions under workers’ compensation to protect fire fighters and EMS personnel. This new law covers the presumptions of lung injury or illness as well as infectious disease.
The state association has worked hard to expand the laws that protect members and the public from the exposure to harmful flame retardants. Governor Shumlin signed into law legislation that will ban the use of chlorinated Tris as a flame retardant. This is an expansion of previous legislation that banned brominated flame retardants in upholstered furniture and electronics. The PFFV also secured a surcharge on specific lines of insurance, ensuring a dedicated source of funding for emergency medical training. Lastly, a lot of work was put into lessening the negative impact and ensuring the security of a healthy retirement for our members in the state-administered municipal retirement system.
During the last election cycle, the PFFVs political operation was instrumental in the re-election of fire fighter friendly candidates to office. Governor Peter Shumlin was re-elected with the strong support of the PFFV. He currently serves as the Chair of the Democratic Governors’ Association. The state association worked hard to continue to have a Democratic majority in both the Vermont Senate and House. This was all accomplished by engaging the members and hitting the ground in a grassroots campaign supporting our candidates.
The PFFV has also worked closely with our locals. The PFFV has helped on ballot initiatives in Burlington, Montpelier and St. Johnsbury by turning out PFFV members from all over the state in support of their needs. The state association continues to assist with the ongoing pension issues in the city of Burlington and continues to provide full service assistance to all locals during collective bargaining and on grievance issues.
Sincere thanks and gratitude is extended to former State President Matt Vinci for his dedicated service to the members of Vermont. The PFFV looks forward to the future and building on its successes of the past and fighting for IAFF fire fighters all across Vermont.