2nd District Vice President
The last two years in the 2nd District have been extremely busy and challenging. It has been a true pleasure to have had so many opportunities to work with the affiliates and state organizations. I feel the district is working very well together to overcome our challenges throughout our four states. With a collective effort and a tremendous 2nd District staff we will continue to fight the concerns presented to us by the lasting economic downturn starting years ago. To date, we have largely been able to avoid significant proposed cuts and anti-labor legislative challenges that seem to be the radical agenda seen throughout the country.
At the time of this writing, the Iowa legislature has not yet adjourned for this year, and as far as last year, we really suffered no loses. It appears we may have escaped any serious harm, in particular our pension system. Although some bills were introduced that would have had an impact on the system, it is unlikely they will get through the legislature. Having said that, momentum is building for changes in our system, which is currently a defined benefit system.
When it comes to our locals, a few of them are battling reductions in manpower. Many are fighting contract issues with the IPFF assisting not only with manpower, but with the use of our legal defense fund. This year in particular we have seen an increase in requests from our locals for money to help fight these battles. President Scofiled would like to offer a huge thanks to the 2nd District and the IAFF for all the help and resources they provided in these battles.
Lastly, but certainly more important than any issue we are facing, we lost one of our local Presidents this year. President Tom Peart, Fort Madison Local 622, died unexpectedly of a heart attack this last March. Tom was a strong union leader and will be greatly missed.
Since the last Convention, Nebraska has continued to see growth in the IAFF. Papillion Local 3767 was contracted to take over fire and EMS for an adjoining city, La Vista, Nebraska. This added 12 members to Local 3767 and it is expected that the local will see additional personnel to keep up with the needs of the community. The NPFFA organized our first EMS organization. Hamilton County EMS Association was organized as IAFF Local 4956. The county board challenged whether the captains should be included in the bargaining unit and Local 4956 prevailed. After a vote of the proposed members, the Nebraska Commission of Industrial Relations certified them as a bargaining unit. With the assistance of 2nd District Vice President Mark Woolbright and the IAFF, Bellevue Local 4906 was awarded a much needed SAFER grant to increase its personnel.
The NPFFA is continuing to work on changing the Fire Fighter First Class Retirement from a defined contribution plan to a defined benefit plan. In 1984, the state changed the retirement plan from a defined benefit plan to a defined contribution plan, essentially promising those covered by the plan the same if not better benefits. After years of experience, it has been proven that this plan is not performing close to the previous defined benefit plan, and change is necessary. Other legislation that is being pursued is increased penalties for persons who assault fire and EMS personnel while performing their duties, as well as opposing legislation that decreases workers’ compensation benefits. The Nebraska legislature has 17 open seats as a result of term limits this year. The NPFFA is committed to being engaged in these elections and working to elect candidates endorsed by the NPFFA.
During the 2013 legislative session, we saw increased pension benefit for Kansas Police & Fire (KP&F) members from 80% maximum to 90% maximum of final average salary.
In 2014, we saw increased pension benefit coverage regarding presumptive heart, lung, and respiratory coverage for KP&F members.
Although, not to be fooled, 2014 saw teachers lose all due process rights regarding discipline and termination issues. Kansas teachers will not receive an investigative hearing for termination if Governor Brownback signs the bill.
Lastly, this year the Kansas fire fighters continued to have held their own regarding continued attacks on workers’ compensation laws.
Missouri saw a change in the leadership in both the House and Senate. This has resulted in not only a large amount of ALEC bills being filed, but the bills actually moving through the House of Representatives. “Right to Work,” “Paycheck Protection” and “State Pension Plan Reform” are some of the most notable. Labor has taken a new (and effective) approach to their lobbying effort on these issues, due in large part to the guidance of District Vice President Woolbright and MSCFF Legislative Director Mark Habbas.
While a significant amount of time has been allocated to the fights and defensive posture, a great success was achieved for all MSCFF members in the 2013 session. The “Firefighters’ Political Freedom Bill” was passed and signed into legislation by the governor. This bill guarantees our members the ability to run for elected office and be politically active without fear of losing their jobs. Many Hatch Act provisions in many jurisdictions previously limited this ability, and several members were threatened with termination for simply speaking to an elected official.
The 2014 session has been volatile with the anti-labor agenda in the House. “Right to Work” was debated in the House, and the bill had enough votes for “perfection.” As of this time it still does not have enough votes to be “truly passed.” “Paycheck Protection” passed the House and currently sits in the Senate. Making improvements to and renewing the line-of-duty death benefit are the priority for the session.
Outside of the legislature, the Missouri Supreme Court handed down a large decision in favor of public employee collective bargaining. This decision came at the end of 2012. The end result has been that a vast number of our affiliates that previously did not have the ability to collectively bargain, now do. This has meant that a lot of contracts are being negotiated simultaneously, some which required court action to bring people to the table. The progress has been substantial and continues to move forward.
Lastly, we unfortunately lost Rolla Local 3905 President Steve Huffman due to a vehicle accident.