1st District Vice President
In accordance with Article VI, Section 3 of The International Association of Firefighters’ Constitution and By-Laws, I respectfully submit this report of my activity as the 1st District Vice President to the General President, General Secretary-Treasurer, the IAFF Executive Board, and all officers and delegates in
attendance at this, the 52nd Convention of the IAFF being held in Cincinnati, Ohio. This report contains a summary of my activities from August, 2012 through June, 2014.
Since the 51st Convention, I have attended all Executive Board meetings and have fulfilled all assignments given to me by the General President. At the discretion of the General President, I have served on the following committees: the Health and Safety/Redmond Foundation (Chairman), the Employee Benefits and Human Resources Committee, the Budget and Finance Committee, the Pension and Health Care Resource Committee, the Government and Political Affairs Committee and the Organizing and Field Services Committee (Vice Chairman). I have served on numerous occasions as a member of the IAFF Executive Board Pre-Trial Review Board.
I have attended and represented the IAFF 1st District at numerous wakes and funerals of our IAFF membership during these last two years as a mark of respect. They include, but are not limited to Boston, Peekskill, Prescott, Houston, Yonkers and many others.
I have attended all committee meetings and discharged all duties required by virtue of these assignments. Since the last IAFF 1st District Convention Report, the International has issued charters to seven new locals in the 1st District. The locals that have joined our IAFF family are Local 4907, Fishers Professional Fire Fighters Association (NY); Local 4924, Colonie Professional Fire Fighters Association (NY); Local 4928 Pleasantville Fire Officers Association (NJ); Local 4954, Plainsboro Professional Fire Fighters Association (NJ); Local 4959, Uniformed Fire Alarm Dispatchers Benevolent Association (NY); Local 4971, MacArthur Airport Fire Rescue (NY); and Industrial 0091, Knoll Atomic Power Laboratory Professional Fire Fighters (NY). With the assistance of my state field representatives and my state associations, these locals have been helped during the early stages as members and our District continues to grow, despite the constant battles that continue to plague our profession and the middle class in the 1st District.
There continues to be a climate of attacks on our pensions and health care benefits. It is for this reason that we need to remain vigilant in our efforts to be part of the discussion on possible solutions to our municipal struggles. It was said before and will be said again: if you are not part of the solution, you are perceived to be the problem! It remains important to engage your departments and local leaders at the earliest possible time. I appreciate the efforts of our local leaders who have engaged their retiree groups to assist them in these fights as their benefits remain at risk also.
I have championed the IAFF to take a more active approach to letting our affiliates be aware of the proliferation of tax exemptions and tax abatements that are crippling our municipalities’ ability to pay our pensions and health care. These programs are handed out to those who continue to make political contributions with no regard to the financial consequences that are put on the middle class to make up for these shortfalls. Of course, there is that obnoxious and arbitrary 2% cap that increases the pressure for continued layoffs and freezing of wages, even though our own expenses continue to rise, led by energy costs due to the long, cold winter we have just experienced.
It was my desire to address our critics face to face that led me to set up meetings with EJ McMahon from the Empire Center, which is a right-wing think tank. The objective was to educate him about our issues, pay and benefits. Since I have a background in accounting, and did personal tax returns for over 30 years, I brought a unique prospective to these meetings. The first thing we agreed on was the need for there to be more dialogue between the municipalities and the labor leaders throughout the state. There are areas where we agreed to disagree, but I believe the exchanges have helped to change his thoughts on the constant attack on our pensions and health care, or at least give him a different perspective. This relationship will continue to be of help to all our affiliates.
Both of my state organizations continue to work with me and are extremely active in fighting the attacks on our pensions and health care benefits. New York State Professional Fire Fighters Association (NYSPFFA) President Michael McManus is a longtime union leader and great friend. Under his and his Executive Board’s leadership, our statewide leadership continues to participate in state-sponsored health and safety educational seminars, labor studies classes and legislative conferences geared on supporting their efforts at the state offices in Albany. They also work closely with the New York State Public Employees Conference (PEC), AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento and all the New York police unions in an effort to form a needed coalition to fight some of these mean-spirited legislative attempts to attack us. They continue to provide legal advice as needed to locals who might not have the means to hire their own attorney. President McManus’s daily interaction with my office and his vigilance with his legislators on Capitol Hill allow the NYSPFFA a distinct advantage when dealing with the problems facing all of our locals.
In New Jersey, Professional Fire Fighters Association of New Jersey (PFFANJ) President Dominick Marino continues to be the guiding force behind the PFFANJ and his Executive Board. He continues to face coordinated efforts and attacks from his governor on our members’ pension and health care benefits. However, he has kept the lines of communication open with many of the legislators who try and support our initiatives. The governor is once again attempting to balance the state budget on the backs of the working class families, by neglecting to make his agreed-upon contribution to our members’ pension fund. President Marino has done an outstanding job of battling this blatantly anti-labor governor by pressing legal action and legislation which can address these unacceptable demands on our members and their families. He has built coalitions with our other labor leaders as one of the best ways to fight against these draconian cuts. It is my hope that his leadership will see the wisdom and work to get all of our New Jersey firefighters together as one. He has the full support of my office and the IAFF.
My District Field Service Representatives and my State Representatives have been invaluable to me while assisting me in running the District for my first two years. They do a great job in the field and continue to service the needs of our members in their respective regions, while also actively organizing new locals for the IAFF. They help keep me connected to what is happening in the field and see to it that our members’ needs are being taken care of. They are a valuable part of our IAFF Leadership Team, and I appreciate their efforts.
Let us not forget that it is the local leadership that continues to serve the needs of our members while sacrificing time away from their own families. It is often a thankless job, as many of our members don’t understand what the union can and cannot do for its membership. It gets even more complicated with our new members who are often distracted due to all the new technologies they have. However, remember that without your efforts, all of us would suffer severely. Not everyone has the ability to step up and lead. Without your leadership, our members’ health, safety, rights and futures would not be protected. Many hard decisions have to be made, and it is your memberships’ futures that you strive to protect and preserve. It is very much appreciated that you embrace your leadership role and help lead us through the present and into the future.
I would be remiss if I did not take the time to properly thank and show my appreciation for our extremely capable IAFF staff. I have never worked with a more diligent group of individuals who work with me to timely address our affiliates’ needs and requests. They do a great job in quickly and efficiently answering any calls for assistance. Whether it is a legal question, a Municipal Financial Analysis, a GIS Study, a health and safety question, or a question about a SAFER Grant, they always answer the bell, and our membership is better off due to their efforts. Their dedication is second to none. I look forward to working with them for all our members’ needs.
Finally, I would like to thank the IAFF Executive Board which continues to persevere through these difficult times with a commitment and dedication unparalleled. Led by General President Harold A. Schaitberger and General Secretary-Treasurer Thomas Miller, along with our 16 District Vice Presidents, we have been able to address the variety of issues facing our locals across the United States and Canada. I have learned a lot and will continue to learn from these unique labor leaders who come from so many backgrounds and have such diverse circumstances to address. We always remain focused on the memberships we serve. The General President has and continues to do all that I request for the 1st District. Whether it was writing a letter to a governor or showing up in Buffalo to give support for the quest for an overdue contract, he has always answered the call. This leadership team has also been instrumental in securing funding for the SAFER Program which has saved many of our members’ jobs. I look forward to working with all these great labor leaders now and in the future.
To all the delegates and attendees at this the 52nd IAFF Convention, I hope you have an enjoyable and productive week as we work together to do what is in the best interest of our members and their families. Stay well, and stay safe.