Pac Report: March 2019
Brothers and Sisters.
This has been a most politically active 'off-season’. Your Local is engaging government leaders on your behalf at the Federal, State and Local level in order to improve hours, wages and working conditions for Union Firefighters. This report will focus on State and Local activities as we will be heading to D.C. later this week.
Washington State: In case you didn’t get this recent news from the WSCFF. There is a proposal in the Washington State Legislature to merge the LEOFF 1 and LEOFF 2 Plans. The WSCFF is monitoring the situation and we will keep you informed as to any progress. Currently, there is no action is being requested of our members.
Why is this important? You may know, there is currently a LEOFF 1 surplus. That is to say, there is more money in the LEOFF 1 Pension fund than will be used to pay for all of the benefits, including into the future, for LEOFF 1 members. The law states that this money can ONLY be used for benefits and pensions of LEOFF 1 members. The state has tried to 'raid' this account in the past and has been thoroughly stomped by both the WSCFF and the Retired Firefighters. A compromise might include: LEOFF 1 Firefighers getting a 'bonus' of some kind towards their benefits, LEOFF 2 might get a bump in our retirement benefits and the State may get a bite as well. That said, and looking at the below, it seems the deal does not have IAFF support as of now.
Here is what you need to know:
- The WSCFF did not participate or provide input in the development of this proposal.
- The Retired Fire Fighters of Washington was the first group to be notified by Senator Van De Wege.
- The Washington Council of Police & Sheriffs (WACOPS) lobbyist and WSCFF President Dennis Lawson were asked to attend a meeting with Senator Van de Wege on Thursday, February 28, 2019. At that time we were notified of the proposed LEOFF-1 / LEOFF-2 merger.
- The WSCFF Board and Legislative Team convened via conference call on Monday, March 4, 2019. At that time the board was briefed on the proposal and had the opportunity to ask questions. The Board, through a motion, provided authorization for the WSCFF Legislative Team to work with other stakeholders on this issue.
- The WSCFF and WACOPS have jointly signed a letter which has been sent, via email, to Senator Van De Wege notifying him we can’t support this proposal.
- In 2016, both the WSCFF and WACOPS adopted resolutions setting forth ten principles that a merger deal must protect if it is to gain our support – the current proposal violates those principles.
- A meeting will take place on Thursday March 7,2019, between the WSCFF and the Retired Fire Fighters of Washington to discuss the issue.
Meanwhile, we have been working to move legislation through Olympia . Keep in mind the WSCFF has a 3 person Legislative team which is focused on monitoring and lobbying for tens of bills which benefit our members. As we look at these bills, it is worth keeping in mind that several of the sponsors of our bills are legislators whom we have previously endorsed. Further, some of legislators are actually LEOFF 2 members.
For a chart which shows all of the bills that the WSCFF is monitoring and working on, see:
Mental Health and L&I Confidentiality: House Bill (HB1909) and its companion bill, Senate (SB 5844). This is a follow-up bill from last year. You may recall we supported a PTSD bill which was passed last year. The allows PTSD to be ‘countable’ as an accumulative industrial injury. That is to say, it needn’t be PTSD attributed to one specific event, but PTSD based on an accumulation of events. The problem which occurred was the reality that as a PTSD ‘injury’ the employee's Fire Department would be privy to the notes between patient and mental health caregiver. Not Cool. Therefore, we went back to Olympia this year to 'fix' this oversight.
This ‘fix' has passed out of House of Representatives (HB1909), and is still in committee in the Senate (SB 5844) On the Senate side, the bill was sponsored by Senator Dhingra, our endorsed candidate from the Eastside. I have highlighted the most impactful changes below.
If the employer or the employer's duly authorized representative reveals information in a claim file regarding a mental health condition or treatment to any person other than a duly authorized representative, the employer is subject to a civil penalty of one thousand dollars for each occurrence.
The department must investigate a complaint and must issue a notice of assessment if it determines that the employer or the employer's duly authorized representative violated this subsection.
Presumptive Coverage: This bill picks up where our last Presumptive coverage bill left off. To recall, presumptive coverage simply states that, unlike the way L&I usually does business, a firefighter, cop, or fire inspector will have the presumption that a covered illness was caused by the workplace AND that if an employer wants to challenge the L&I coverage, the employer will carry the burden of proving the illness should NOT be covered due to scientific reason.
With the help of our recently endorsed representative Debra Lekanoff, House Bill (HB 1913) has moved on and is being shepherded through the Senate by our sponsor Senator Kuderer from Pierce Co.(another L106 endorsed Legislator.) (SB5849) These bills also now cover Fire Inspectors and Law Enforcement Officers.
The presumption established in subsection (1)(a)(iii) of this section shall only apply to the following cancers:
1.Prostate cancer diagnosed prior to the age of fifty, Primary brain cancer, malignant melanoma, leukemia, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, bladder cancer, ureter cancer, colorectal cancer, multiple myeloma, testicular cancer, kidney cancer, mesothelioma, stomach cancer, non-melanoma skin cancer, breast cancer in women, and cervical cancer.
There is an additional section relating to a new board which will be made up to follow the science surrounding these diseases.
Bellingham: We have seen the challenge of working with a mayor who refuses to see the value of including her professional firefighters in any type of decision making. This past week she purposefully bypassed her city council and firefighters to attempt to shut down the Iron Street training facility for an alternate use. This is unfortuante considering we have no other in-city training facility. We need a mayor who isn’t spiteful and understands the value of hearing from those who actually do the work on the streets.
To those ends, your PAC Committee has been meeting with candidates vying for the upcoming opening. We have met with April Barker, Pinky Vargas, Mike Mcauley and Garret O’Brien. The first two are current Council Members. They have seen the challenges of working with the mayor. She has kept them in the dark on so many issues which face us.
Further, the Council has been made to deal with under-requested budgets. In our case, the Chief’s initial budget included 18 NEW FTEs. The Mayor slashed this to 4 and the Fire Chief buckled under her pressure. Because the Mayor is in charge of budget requests, the Council is left at a loss: They approve funding, not come up with desired number of FTEs. In our case, one of the Council members stuck his neck out by adding to the FTEs without adding to the budget. This is not ‘standard operating procedure’, to say the least.
Mr. O’Brien speaks from a position of an outsider: He is choosing to NOT be affiliated with either Democrats or Republicans…an Independent. He is a business owner/contractor who feels the planning process is too cumbersome and expensive. He would like the FF endorsement and is willing to learn our interests and concerns.
Mike McAuley os a former Port of Bellingham Commissioner. He was instrumental in securing LEOFF 2 inclusion for our Airport Firefighters. He seems to be poking around, more than announcing his candidacy.
There are several COB council positions up this fall: The 5th Ward which is currently held by Terry Bornnemann. He has been a strong ally of our’s for literally decades. Most recently, he carried our concerns about the training facility to the Mayor. Before that, he added 50% more Firefighters FTEs than were requested by Mayor, after meeting with our Fire Chief. We will miss Terry. We have an inkling as to who will be running in his stead.
April Barker will be giving up her seat to run for mayor. Hannah Stone, who saved the additional 2 FTEs with her December tie breaking vote, appears to be headed to run for April’s ward, thereby giving up her At Large position. Who will run for this, or Michael Lilliquist’s spot is up in the air. You can be sure your local will only back candidates who have a clear record of supporting our members…and our local.
We had an opportunity to meet with Co. Executive candidate Karen Burke recently. She is the current Executive Director of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Service (DVSAS) of Whatcom County. Suffice to say, that organization does wonders for so many folks in Whatcom County. I wish it didn’t need to exist. She is very energetic and charismatic.
We are waiting to see if anyone else seems up for the job….or at least running for it.
South Whatcom: There are two Commissioner positions coming up. These are important spots to secure as so many decisions are validated by this group. It is my understanding that the Geneva/Sudden Valley spot is up. To be clear, a former Bellingham Firefighter Jim Peeples currently holds the position. He unfortunately sees a greater future role for part-time firefighters vs. career firefighters. WE understand the value of career/Union firefighters and need to make sure others do as well.
If you can think of someone who might just ‘fit’ there, please let me and Brother Melilo know so we can put our feelers out.
North Whatcom: There are also openings in the North Whatcom Commission this fall. We understand that there may be some IAFF members who could fill the vacancy.
Likewise, if If you can think of someone who might just ‘fit’ there, please let me and Brother Cunningham know so we can put our feelers out.
As always, thank you for your support in allowing me to do my job on your behalf. Thank you Joslin for stepping up to do Union Relief as I poke and prod our U.S. Congressional Representatives.