Report of the General Secretary-Treasurer
Thomas H. Miller
52nd Convention, International Association of Fire Fighters
My partner and our General President, Harold Schaitberger, works ceaselessly as the voice of this IAFF and as an incredible leader to the entire organization. His vision lays the groundwork for everything we do in order to continually enhance the programs and services provided to our affiliates. I would like to extend my thanks and appreciation for all that he does on behalf of our membership each and every day.
The work of the IAFF’s 16 Vice Presidents cannot be overstated. These positions have expanded over the years from a part-time policy position to full-service-field operatives charged with providing direct service to our affiliates, including serving as an initial point of contact relating to advice, counsel, education and access to IAFF resources. They are critical for determining the goals and priorities of the IAFF, as well as being organizers for our union. Under their stewardship, this IAFF has continued to grow every year. They have my ongoing appreciation for their efforts.
Since our 2012 Convention, my ongoing mission has been to continue to modernize the various operations under the purview of the General Secretary-Treasurer’s Office by looking for areas where we could be more effective and efficient, reduce costs and improve services to our members.
Many of those new initiatives are outlined under the Finance and Membership Department report, as well as the Human Resources and Mail Center reports. Additionally, there has been a concerted effort to communicate with affiliate leadership on items of importance to their local and state affiliates via email blasts.
Within the last year, a “Starter Kit” for new secretary-treasurers has been implemented. This kit is electronically sent to these new officers weekly, and contains important information related to the various reporting duties of a secretary-treasurer, as well as points of contacts in my office for various issues.
The IAFF’s annual budget is now almost $60 million. This has been accomplished through our success in obtaining additional grant funds and maintaining IAFF membership levels. Overseeing an annual budget of that size carries with it a variety of financial responsibilities, most importantly, ensuring that each and every per capita dollar is recorded accurately and dispersed within approved and authorized purposes.
To this end, we have implemented specific practices and policies to ensure that the highest degree of fiscal integrity and transparency is maintained by the organization. We maintain a “start of the art” accounting system and ever evolving internal controls. We continually strive to fine tune these policies and systems to improve on our efficiencies.
One significant practice toward this goal is the annual audit of the organization’s financial records. Each year, the International engages an independent accounting firm to perform an examination of our accounting records and systems. The audit consists of reviewing evidence supporting the amounts and disclosures in our financial records, as well as evaluating our internal controls and overall financial statement presentation. A review of all federal awards granted is also performed. As a result of these examinations, the auditing firm provides a report, the purpose of which is to describe the scope and results of their testing. This report is presented annually at the February board meeting and reviewed by the IAFF Executive Board and Trustees. The complete report includes financial statements and related notes, encompassing all of the IAFF’s operations, including grant programs and all related charitable entities. We are extremely pleased and proud to report that we continue to receive an unqualified opinion with no audit findings. The current and prior year’s annual audit reports are available on the Convention web site.
The transition to our current firm (Renner & Co., CPAs) continues to provide benefits. The team of CPAs from Renner & Co. is knowledgeable, professional and thorough. They conduct the audit timely and efficiently, and provide valuable additional assistance when requested. Renner & Co. also performs the audit of the IAFF’s 401(k) and employee pension plans.
Secondly, we have expanded the use of our automated system for processing expense reports for IAFF associates and certain consultants to include additional individuals providing support to the IAFF and its members. This system provides a web-based entry and approval interface, along with auto generated email notifications for all individuals. One enhancement to the system that we’ve implemented is a travel module. This module provides the ability for individuals to book airline tickets, reserve hotel rooms and rental cars, etc., with the itinerary being automatically attached to a pending expense report for submission, eliminating the need for additional data entry. The electronic payment options in the system continue to provide speedy processing and payment.
Staying with the theme of electronic processing, we have begun to use prepaid debit cards in place of paper checks for certain disbursements. This practice has been implemented during disaster relief operations to provide funds to our affected members. Members can submit an application for relief assistance, and once approved, a prepaid card is immediately provided. The prepaid cards provide our members with immediate access to funds at a critical time. We are also using this payment method for certain disbursements at this Convention.
Each year, the preparation of the organization’s annual budget is a major undertaking. We regularly monitor actual results against the approved budget, and conduct detailed reviews quarterly with each of the department heads. This provides us with the ability to identify and discuss trends and quickly take corrective action, if needed. In an effort to provide increased transparency and additional functionality, we have implemented a web-based “cloud” financial reporting and budgeting system. Budget templates are created that automatically provide budget preparers and approvers with prior year budget and actual figures. This information is extremely useful in creating the budget for the upcoming fiscal year. Budget figures are entered into the system and automatically consolidated into an overall organization budget. This system has enabled us to prepare the IAFF’s annual budget in a matter of weeks rather than months.
We have also been able to design a number of financial reports within this system, complete with drill-down functionality to the original transaction detail. This provides all budget holders and decision makers with real time access to up-to-date financial results at the click of a mouse button. In essence, we are able to provide the information needed to the individuals who need it, when they need it. We continue to enhance the system, adding additional reports and functionality.
Another major undertaking is the effort to become paperless in our organization. We have implemented a document management system in the Finance, Membership and Human Resource departments. We can now access documents electronically in a matter of seconds on any computer, without the need to search through numerous paper files. In addition to increased and improved access to information, the system interfaces with a number of our other finance systems, providing one central repository for historical documents. Our goal is to roll the system out organization wide over the coming year.
In any labor organization, it is vital to maintain current and accurate records on both individual members and affiliate bodies. The staff in the IAFF Membership Department works diligently to maintain computer records for more than 350,000 individuals (including former members) and more than 3,300 affiliates, and are always happy to help with any questions or concerns from local officers.
Customized features have been added to our software to allow the creation of new reports and further automation of important statistical and affiliate information. We continually add information and functions online to improve communications between the Membership Department and local officers. For example, local officers can now download rosters, view per capita statements and grant new executive board members access to online information.
The General Secretary-Treasurer’s office and Membership Department have worked together to develop an online credentialing and registration system for the IAFF’s Convention. The system eliminates the need for multiple colored copies of the old paper credential form and replaces it with an efficient online process. Affiliate officers log onto the IAFF web site to access the system and credential individuals. Once submitted by the originating officer, the other approving affiliate officer is automatically notified via email of the pending delegate and alternate delegate submissions, as well as proxy and alternate proxy submissions (if applicable). Once approved by both affiliate officers, an email is sent to the delegate or alternate delegate informing them of their selection. They are then able to register online for the event. Only your IAFF membership card is needed once you arrive at the Convention site.
Implementing a requirement of the IAFF Constitution and By-laws, the Membership Department ensures that each affiliate is covered by a surety bond with base coverage of $5,000, the premium for which is paid by IAFF.
In addition, it is through the work of the Membership Department that new locals are issued charters, affiliates obtain their seals, and regular membership cards are distributed. New membership cards were designed and issued to all members early in 2013.
Security and confidentiality of the information in the membership database is of paramount importance. Our members can rest assured that strict policies are in place to protect their individual data, and that we do not sell or transfer membership lists to unrelated vendors.
Each year, the Finance and Membership Department budgets monies for manager and staff development. There is a wealth of courses and training opportunities available to ensure our departments are fully equipped to perform at a high level.
We continually explore every opportunity to enhance the functioning of the Finance and Membership Department, whether it be through technology or improved processes. Our goal is to continue to provide both the IAFF and its members the highest level of support possible.
We are continuing to improve our services to our membership while reducing costs by using new technologies in the mail center.
In May 2013, a new, state-of-the-art copier was leased that gives us the capability to print in-house, with union workers, a number of publications that would otherwise go to an outside vendor. There have been numerous benefits to the organization. We order less back-up stock, which keeps costs and storage needs lower, materials more readily kept up-to-date and we provide expedited service to our customers.
The IAFF Human Resources Department, under the leadership of the General Secretary-Treasurer, serves the needs of the union by building and sustaining partnerships with the other critical managers and departments of the IAFF. The Human Resources Department is committed to advancing the needs of the union, serves as an advocate to ensure that policies are relevant, and key staff is aware of concerns and issues facing the union and its personnel. The Human Resources Department implements, administers and monitors operating systems that affect employee relations and personnel services.
An integral part of the internal management team, the Human Resources Department serves as a strategic and cooperative partner, sharing responsibility between employees and management. The Human Resources Department focuses on the development of programs that enhance employee growth, provides education and develops innovative solutions on staff and management issues.
The IAFF Human Resources Department objectives are established to enhance manager and employee growth. The systems outlined are designed to help the union and its most important asset, its human capital, to succeed and contribute to the success of the union. The programs and systems have been established and instituted to coordinate recruiting efforts, provide orientation to new staff, oversee the hiring process, develop and implement performance and appraisal systems and develop career planning, succession and employee development programs. The Human Resources Department oversees, monitors, and administers the comprehensive employee benefits programs, which include health insurance, life insurance and retirement programs. The department also develops, monitors and ensures compliance and adherence to IAFF Human Resources policies and procedures, and the IAFF/OPEIU, Local 2 collective bargaining agreement, as well as ensures compliance with federal and District of Columbia laws and regulations.
These systems and functions empower the Human Resources Department to help managers in the establishment of employee ownership in the union and in the establishment of the organizational culture and climate. Human Resources ensures that the staff has the competency and commitment to serve our membership effectively by ensuring employee development opportunities are made available and that problem solving and regular ongoing communications about the union, its programs and operations take place.
Since the last Convention, the Human Resources Department has worked to accomplish the Department’s objectives while at the same time working to foster a productive work environment in which employees are pleased to perform.
Since the last Convention, the Human Resources Department has continued working with Keating Advisors (a human resources consulting firm), Office and Professional Employees International Union and Local 2 to update employee job descriptions and develop performance evaluation procedures for IAFF employees.
Over the course of the project, representatives from Keating conducted a complete analysis of every position at the IAFF, during which they identified the responsibilities and minimum qualifications for each employment position. The analysis was based on information Keating received directly from employees, who completed detailed job survey questionnaires describing several components of their job. From those survey results, Keating created draft job descriptions prior to scheduling meetings with each IAFF manager to discuss the draft descriptions for each manager’s employees. Managers were provided the opportunity to suggest edits to the drafts, and during those meetings each job description was finalized. Keating representatives met with the Principal Officers and senior staff to review the final job descriptions and present their plan to deliver the job descriptions to individual employees.
Keating also created position responsibility criteria which establish objective standards for measuring responsibilities associated with particular grade levels in the IAFF pay scale. By using the new criteria, we can objectively measure where a position should properly be graded (e.g., Grade 2, Grade 4, etc.) based on the responsibilities associated with a particular position. The same criteria can also be used for an employee’s career development. For example, an employee in a particular grade position can identify areas where he or she can improve, train, earn certifications or expand their responsibilities with the goal of ultimately being promoted to a higher grade level. The importance of the new criteria is that it provides both management and the union with objective standards on which to base grade classification decisions and career development strategies for employees.
New job descriptions were delivered to employees in April. Every manager met with his or her employees individually to discuss the job description, review responsibilities of the position, and identify the expectations for the position moving forward.
Human Resources will continue working with OPEIU, Local 2 and Keating Advisors to develop evaluation and promotional criteria.
Since the last Convention, the IAFF has continued our partnership with COPE to provide services for our Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for IAFF staff. The EAP was developed through a labor-management initiative between the IAFF and Office and Professional Employees International Union, Local 2. Employees have access to a range of services, including counseling, referrals, mediation and a vast array of other services. The services are available to all IAFF employees and their family members. Through the first two years of the program, COPE has proven to be a very good partner, and the EAP has become a valuable benefit to employees.
Since the last Convention, the Human Resources Department organized two Health & Wellness Fairs for our employees. The events were sponsored by United HealthCare and held in partnership with Office and Professional Employees International Union, Local 2 and the Ironworkers International. The fairs focused on several health-related areas such as a blood pressure checks, screenings for cholesterol, high density lipoprotein and glucose testing, measuring Body Mass Index (BMI) and Body Composition levels, information on healthy eating habits from a licensed nutritionist, vision screening and seated massage. The onsite United HealthCare Wellness Team provided information regarding United HealthCare products and services.
The Human Resources Department organized two annual flu shot clinics with Passport Health to provide flu shots and H1N1 vaccines to participating employees. Human Resources arranged for United Healthcare to cover 100 percent of the clinic cost as an in-network event for employees covered under the plan, so there was no cost to either the IAFF or to our employees. In October 2013, Human Resources organized a third flu shot clinic for IAFF employees who were unable to attend the first clinic that year due to scheduling conflicts. CVS Pharmacy supplied the vaccine and staff to administer the vaccines onsite at IAFF Headquarters. United Healthcare covered 100 percent of the cost of the clinic.
The Human Resources Department worked with the trustees of the IAFF employees’ 401(k) plan, General President Schaitberger and General Secretary-Treasurer Miller to approve an amendment to the 401(k) plan to allow employees of E-18 Media, LLC to participate in the plan. That amendment was effective October 1, 2013. The trustees directed the Human Resources Department to finalize the amended plan documents.
Since the last Convention, Human Resources worked with representatives from Morgan Stanley, Nationwide and American Pension Advisors to complete the transition of the IAFF Employees 401(k) plan from Merrill Lynch/Ascensus to Nationwide, and the IAFF Deferred Compensation 457(b) plan from Merrill Lynch/FACTS to Nationwide. The trustees of both the 401(k) and 457(b) plans decided to transition to Nationwide because the Nationwide investment platform provides a more diverse group of investment options at a lower cost to the IAFF and participants. Nationwide also provides a more user-friendly web site for plan participants, which allows participants to monitor and change their Nationwide investment choices conveniently at any time from any device with Internet access.
The Human Resources Department has worked with the IAFF’s insurance broker, Schoenfeld Insurance Associates, Inc., to maintain our commercial liability coverage, which includes the Fiduciary Liability Policy covering the IAFF’s retirement plans, the Directors & Officers Liability Coverage, commercial liability coverage, workers compensation and commercial automobile coverage. The department worked with our broker to rewrite our general liability coverage to eliminate the need for most special event coverage by including regularly occurring IAFF events under our standing liability coverage. Prior to these rewrites, events required us to purchase additional riders to our commercial coverage specifically for those events. Now, those events are covered under the commercial policy.
In 2013, we added a Media Liability policy to our insurance portfolio. The media policy protects the IAFF against claims arising from media content in all publications and productions produced or disseminated by the IAFF, including content on all web sites owned or operated by the IAFF. The policy provides liability coverage up to $1,000,000 for defense costs and damages.
Since the last Convention, the Human Resources Department completed several compliance tasks required by federal law. Those included:
In addition to personnel-related responsibilities, the Human Resources Department is also responsible for the general administration of the IAFF and headquarters facility located in the United Unions building. Since the last Convention, the Department conducted an inventory on the Automated External Defibrillators (AED) that are stationed throughout the United Unions building. The inventory included checking each unit to confirm that it is operational, and replacing any components that were defective or near their expiration date.
The Human Resources Department is also assigned the task of ensuring there is an adequate number of people in the building who are properly trained to administer first aid if necessary. In April 2013, the Human Resources Department organized CPR/AED training and certification classes open to all employees within the United Unions building. The classes were conducted by representatives of the Fairfax County Fire & Rescue Academy over two days. Thirty-two individuals received full certification which is valid for two years. The Human Resources Department will organize a similar training session in the spring of 2015 when the current certifications are scheduled to expire.
As you can see, across the Office of the General Secretary-Treasurer we have been busy with not only day-to-day operations but identifying and implementing initiatives and innovations that better serve all IAFF members. We never forget that we are working for you – the almost 300,000 members of the IAFF that are paying the freight – and we constantly strive to be responsible stewards of your money and this great union.View as PDF