5th District Vice President
In accordance with the International Association of Fire Fighters Constitution and By-Laws, Article VI, Section 3, I respectfully submit my report as 5th District Vice President to General President Schaitberger, General Secretary Treasurer Miller, the IAFF Executive Board and all officers and delegates to this 52nd Convention being held in Cincinnati, Ohio. This report contains a summary of activities in the 5th District from August 2012 through April 2014.
In 2012 at the IAFF 51st Convention held in Philadelphia, PA, I was honored to be elected to the office of 5th District Vice President of the IAFF in a very close election. Shortly after the convention and election, my opponent, former 5th District Vice President Joseph Conway Jr., filed an “appeal and complaint” with the General President regarding the election, citing alleged violations of election procedures with regards to the election of delegates and delegate proxy carriers. Additionally, a complaint was made regarding the position of observers witnessing the tabulation of votes. After an exhaustive and thorough examination of all laws, policies, records and documents pertaining to IAFF elections, the General President determined that he did not have the authority to consider and decide the “appeal and complaint” filed by Mr. Conway as it would usurp the “supreme authority” of the International’s Convention-who are the delegates, according to the IAFF Constitution and By-Laws.
Subsequently, Mr. Conway filed a complaint and election challenge with the United States Department of Labor (DOL). The DOL launched an extensive investigation into the election procedures used by 5th District affiliates to elect delegates or delegate proxy carriers. The result of the investigation proved there were technical violations of election procedures used by some affiliates. Because of these violations and the closeness of the election, the DOL recommended to the IAFF that a new election be held for the office of IAFF 5th District Vice President. After careful consideration of all the findings, facts and arguments, the IAFF entered into a “Compliance Agreement” with the DOL and ordered a new election be held and supervised by the DOL. The results of the closely supervised election were tabulated at the DOL offices in Milwaukee, WI on July 30, 2013, and I was again elected to the position of IAFF 5th District Vice President, this time by a larger margin. I was, and still am, honored by and thankful to the members of the 5th District for allowing me to serve in this position.
This was a contentious, exhausting and expensive ordeal for the IAFF, the members of the 5th District and me, but many valuable lessons were learned by the entire organization throughout this process. This has led to positive changes in credentialing and election procedures for the future. The wounds of this experience are healing, and the 5th District is moving in a positive direction in true union fashion.
Since being elected (twice), I have had the privilege of representing the IAFF members in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin. I serve at their will to the best of my ability and always with their best interests in mind. I have attended all IAFF Executive Board meetings and completed all tasks and assignments given to me by the General President. My specific Executive Board committee assignments from the General President include: Chairman of the L/EAP committee, Chairman of the Legal Services committee, Vice Chairman of the EMS committee. I am a member of the: Pension & Health Resources committee, Information & Technology Systems committee, Communications, Media / Public Affairs committee, and Employee Benefits & Human Resources committee. I have also attended all IAFF conferences in the past two years and unfortunately too many Line of Duty Death memorials honoring our lost brothers and sisters.
In the district, I have traveled to all four states representing locals on a variety of issues as well as offering counsel and advice to many more. I have attended several state, district, caucus and local meetings and State Conventions.
As the economy continues to improve, locals are beginning to see modest improvements to wages and benefits. Staffing levels are beginning to slowly improve as well. Many locals are taking advantage of the many services available to them from the IAFF’s Technical Assistance & Information Resources department, such as Municipal Financial Analyses, Geographical Information System studies and contract comparables to assist them in negotiations. Pension Resources, also part of this department, has been a tremendous help as we continue the battle to maintain our pensions.
Locals in the 5th District have used virtually every department available to them from the IAFF. The legal department has assisted with FLSA issues, wrongful termination and disciplinary cases, first amendment rights’ violations and many others. The Education, Training & Human Relations department has provided us with top quality instructors from the Partnership in Education Program at State Assn. sponsored events. Governmental, Political & Public Affairs department continues to work with our state and local affiliates to help get the right people elected to public office which are often our own members. We have two members running for the State House in Minnesota and North Dakota for the first time and several others seeking re-election for public office. We had two members from the 5th District attend the Political Training Academy and one member attend the new Collective Bargaining Training Academy in Memphis. Many of our locals are getting HAZMAT/WMD training from IAFF Master Instructors made available from the IAFF through grants. They are also getting assistance applying for grants such as SAFER and FIRE from this department. The Health, Safety & Medicine department has provided volumes of information and resources to 5th District affiliates regarding, PSOB claims, presumptions, LODD, medical opinions, CPAT, fire codes and so much more. The Media, Communications & IT department has assisted many locals with media development including video, radio, social and print media. Two of our locals have already taken advantage of the new E-18 Media studio with messages developed by this department for political elections. I will continue to educate and make aware the affiliates of the 5th District the many resources available to them through the IAFF.
Organizing in the 5th District is going very well. We have added six new locals and four existing locals have added additional bargaining units to their locals since our last convention in Philadelphia. I am currently working with three more groups that will likely affiliate with us this year.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank 5th District Field Service Representatives Jerry Biggart and Mike “Woody” Woodzicka for the extraordinary work they do in the district. Their expertise saves locals a lot of money in attorneys’ fees. I would also like to recognize 5th District Service Representatives Jose Carbajal, Mike Eliason, Jamie Garvey, Tom Johnson, Derek Matykowski, Greg Sikora, Lance Tryggestad and Scott Vadnais for their work and willingness to assist locals in the 5th District. We have a great team available to help locals with all of their issues.
Since our last convention, we have lost far too many of our brothers and sisters, many of whom were great union leaders. One that stands out for me is 9th District Vice President Randy Atkinson. I did not have the chance to serve with him for long on the Executive Board, but I knew him well as we both served as State Presidents. He was a good man and a great union leader. He will be sorely missed by many.
As a freshman District Vice President, it has been a truly enlightening and energizing experience to be part of this Executive Board. I would like to thank General President Schaitberger, General Secretary-Treasurer Miller and all of the District Vice Presidents for their counsel, advice and guidance during these first two years of serving on this truly incredible board. I would also like to thank the unbelievably talented staff at the IAFF for their support. Their knowledge and expertise is unparalleled. Last but not least, I would like to thank my wife Cathy, my sons Kyle & Cody (who are both Fire Fighter/Paramedics and IAFF members) for their steadfast patience and understanding, and for allowing me to spend the time needed to do this work.
This report is a summary of the last two years in the 5th District. The local leadership is the backbone of this organization. The work they do at the local level every day is where the rubber meets the road. The members of the IAFF make it financially possible for us to deliver the services and resources available to them to make sure their jobs are safe and secure, and for that I am grateful.
I wish all gathered in Cincinnati a productive, successful and enjoyable convention.