PAC Report: April 2018
Federal: Firefighter Issues Your Local worked on in D.C. The weekend following our March B’ham Unit meeting, President Glorioso and I spent two days educating members of the 2018 U.S. Congress about issues affecting firefighters around the country. We were warmly greeted by the offices of Congressman Rick Larsen, Congresswoman DelBene, Senators Cantwell and Murray. Below are some of the specifics (info pulled from IAFF). Like much worthwhile legislation, some issues take years to accomplish.
Federal Collective Bargaining
'Fire and police departments benefit from productive partnerships between employers and employees. Studies have shown that communities promoting such cooperation enjoy more effective and efficient delivery of emergency services. Cooperation enables employers and workers to come together to confront difficult budgetary constraints, which proved invaluable as the country recovered from the last economic crisis. The best way to ensure such cooperation is through an established collective bargaining framework. While many public safety officers already benefit from local collective bargaining laws, there are still many workers that have zero rights or whose laws do not provide adequate protection.
Over the years, Congress has expanded the scope of collective bargaining laws to protect private sector employees, transportation workers, federal government employees and congressional employees. One of the few groups of workers not covered by federal law is state and local government employees, including public safety officers. While Congress has historically given states and localities wide latitude in managing their own employees,
H.R. 4846 would give public safety officers basic collective bargaining rights in states that currently do not provide them. The legislation gives states wide flexibility to write and administer their own laws, consistent with the following minimum standards:
• The right to form and join a labor organization and to have that organization recognized through the formation and agreement of a contract.
• The right to bargain over wages, hours and working conditions.
• The ability to find resolutions through binding arbitration, and if an agreement is reached, the right to enforce it in court or through an administrative agency.
The legislation does not allow strikes or lockouts, does not infringe on right-to-work laws and does not interfere with existing state laws and collective bargaining agreements.
[Epilogue: This legislation could not muster sufficient Labor friendly votes needed during this session: It did not make it to the floor.
The IAFF supports S.382, the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act, and encourages Members of the Senate to cosponsor the bill.
Fire fighters are exposed to a wide range of harmful toxins on a regular basis throughout their careers, and scientific studies have consistently demonstrated
a strong link between fighting fires and cancer. Unfortunately, many such studies have been limited by relatively small sample sizes and an under-representation of certain demographic groups, including women and minorities. Many studies have also lacked key data regarding a fire fighter’s employment experiences, such as years on the job and the number and type of incidents responded to throughout one’s career. Such limitations have slowed the progress of research examining cancer trends among fire fighters.
To address such limitations, Representatives Chris Collins (R-NY) and Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), along with Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ), have introduced the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act to establish the first national cancer registry specifically for fire fighters. The registry will require detailed data collection about fire fighters with cancer on a national scale, providing scientists with the specialized information they need for research activities. Such research will help strengthen our understanding of the link between fire fighting and cancer and could potentially lead to better prevention and safety protocols.
[Epilogue: Bill Co-sponsored by Senator Cantwell. Read twice and referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.]
The IAFF supports increased funding for the SAFER and FIRE grant programs and providing $810 million, evenly divided, for the two programs.
The SAFER and FIRE grant programs were created by Congress to help address the significant staffing, equipment, training and health and safety needs of fire departments. SAFER provides funding to help pay the costs associated with hiring personnel to maintain safe staffing levels, while FIRE grants fund equipment, training and other fire department needs. The importance of adequate fire department staffing has been well-documente by independent studies. The NationalFire Protection Association (NFPA), the consensus standards-making body of the fire service, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), have both promulgated standards for the minimum number of fire fighters needed to respond safely and effectively to emergencies. Far too few jurisdictions meet these minimum safe staffing levels.
Similarly, the FIRE grant program allows fire departments to purchase equipment and receive training that such departments could not otherwise afford. Equipment and training funded by the FIRE grant program help fire fighters do their jobs safely and effectively by improving the effectiveness of fire department operations and protecting the health and safety of local fire fighters.
For Fiscal Year 2017, SAFER and FIRE grants were funded at $690 million — $345 million each. Although the programs have received small funding increases in recent years, funding remains down from an historical high of $810 million. Unfortunately, costs to adequately staff and equip fire departments continue to rise, causing shortages that have long faced fire departments to worsen. Such shortages not only threaten fire fighter safety, they undermine emergency response and pose significant threats to public safety and local preparedness.
Funding for Fiscal Year 2018 was not completed by the last Congress, which passed a continuing resolution to continue current funding levels through March 23, 2018. Funding for the remainder of the fiscal year is expected to be completed this spring.
Funding for SAFER and FIRE grants for the upcoming Fiscal Year 2019 will be addressed as part of the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2019.
The House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees on Homeland Security will consider the Fiscal Year 2019 appropriations bills in the spring of 2018.
The below action was taken by Congress following our lobbying in Washington DC….
'Big Wins for Fire Fighters in Federal Budget-from the IAFF
Following a drawn-out process punctuated by a brief government shutdown and numerous delays, Congress has passed legislation to fund the federal government and its programs for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2018. The bill provides substantial funding for fire fighters and includes a number of long-time IAFF legislative priorities, including – most significantly – a fix to the problem of borrowing to fund wildfire suppression.
The Assistance to Firefighters (FIRE ACT) and Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grants each received a small increase under the bill to $350 million each, a $5 million increase over Fiscal Year 2017. Additionally, the bill restores the waiver allowing fire departments to use SAFER grants to retain fire fighters. The IAFF worked with Representative Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) to restore this important provision.
“Fire fighters won big with this bill,” says General President Harold Schaitberger. “I am pleased with the increases in funding for the SAFER and FIRE Act grant programs, and am particularly happy that our locals can once again use SAFER money to prevent layoffs. I am also pleased that the bill includes a fix to the problem so that our members facing catastrophic wildfires can be assured more stable funding.”
Other programs that provide funding to the fire service were also well-funded. The State Homeland Security Grant Program (SHSGP) received an increase of $40 million to $507 million, the Urban Assistance Security Initiative (UASI) grant program received an increase of $25 million to $630 million, and the Urban Search and Rescue Response System received essentially level funding at $35.18 million.
The bill also includes a provision extending Pell Grants to the children of fire fighters who die in the line of duty. Based off the Children of Fallen Heroes Scholarship Act sponsored by Bob Casey (D-PA) in the Senate and Representative Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) in the House, this benefit will allow children of the fallen to receive nearly $6,000 in grant aid for college, regardless of income. The IAFF had endorsed the bill and worked with its sponsors to secure its enactment.’
Meanwhile, back in our home state, there will be mid-term elections this November. To retake the majority in the House, Labor friendly candidates need a net gain of 24 seats. Considering the energy in D.C, this may be within Labor's grasp. This includes the following two Washington State Congressional spots:
U.S. Congress: Washington’s 8th Congressional District Now Open (from the Seattle Times, April 2018))
Washington Republican Dave Reichert announced Wednesday he won’t seek re-election to the 8th District, opening up a top takeover opportunity for Democrats next year.
“After spending time during the August work period with family and friends, reflecting on the past, discussing the future, and celebrating another birthday, I have decided this will be my last term,” Reichert said in a statement. The seven-term lawmaker has been a strong supporter of trade and defender of the Export-Import Bank.
“Early on, the importance of trade to the region was clear. From serving on President Obama’s Export Council to battling to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank to leading the fight to pass the U.S.-Korea free trade agreement, I have always fought to give our exporters the chance to sell their goods and services around the world,” Reichert said in his statement.
He hasn’t been afraid to buck his own party, voting against the GOP health care bill earlier this year.
The former sheriff has been a tough incumbent to defeat. First elected in 2004, he won re-election last fall by more than 20 points, while Hillary Clinton carried the 8th District by 3 points.
Democrats were already targeting this seat in 2018, but Reichert’s retirement should give them a better shot. A crowded field of Democratic contenders has already emerged, including pediatrician Kim Schrier and attorney Jason Rittereiser. Perennial GOP candidate Dino Rossi may take a look on the GOP side. Many more candidates, on both sides, will be eyeing this seat now that it’ll be open.
5th Congressional District – Heading into the election the incumbent is Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R), who was first elected in 2004. Former Washington Legislator Lisa Brown will be her challenger from
Washington's 5th Congressional District is located in the eastern portion of the state and includes Asotin, Columbia, Ferry, Garfield, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Spokane, Stevens, and Whitman counties and parts of Walla Walla County.
Lisa Brown spilled what may have been the worst kept secret in Washington politics, announcing her intention to run for Congress in 2018.
“I’m just ready to go,” Brown, a former state lawmaker and most recently chancellor of Washington State University in Spokane, said Wednesday afternoon. “And I know a lot of people are ready.”
Brown has been spending her summer meeting with groups throughout Washington’s 5th Congressional district, which hasn’t put a Democrat in office since Tom Foley was ousted by voters in 1994.
Brown’s pitch for office against longtime Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers has the hallmarks of Foley’s opponent in that race 25 years ago when Republican George Nethercutt argued Foley had been in Congress too long. Nethercutt’s campaign led to a shocking upset of Foley, the sitting Speaker of the House of Representatives.
We had a successful 2018 Legislative session in Olympia. The following bills passed both houses to be signed by the governor:
- EMS Lev Co. Wide: any EMS renewal is a 50% renewal.
- Veteran: Clarified who is a Veteran, allowing a greater
- number of FF’s
- McNeal Island Firefighters: Finally into LEOFF
- Time off to Serve: Reservist only charged 1 work day for a 24 hour shift
- PTSD: Allows members L’n’I for PSTD. After 10 years, it is a presumptiv
- Bans sale/manufacture of Class Bfoam, and must be disclosed that when it’s carcenigic components are used in other applications.
Presumptive Coverage for Additional Cancer Coverages bill is already being written for 2019 session, working with those in opposition.
WSCFF Early Endorsements: There was no oppostion from our Local on the below early endorsment request from our leaderhsip at the WSCFF
State Supreme Court Justice, Position 8 – Justice Steve Gonzalez
5th Congressional District – Lisa Brown…way over by Spokane. Hot race for sure!
Oppose and Decline to Sign – Initiative I-1608: Increasing the transparency of collective bargaining involving government unions and public employers. This would essentially make all negotiations open to the public. In negotiations, both parties are better suited to have their ongoing work
Pleased to report that our Airport Firefighters are all settled into LEOFF. Thanks for the courage to take on Goliath, David.
Met with Pinky Vargas. She is excited to want to serve you as a Senator. We spoke with her about bunker gear…still @ 50% funding :(
In the same race, we met with Tim Ballew, also running for 42nd District Senator against incumbent Doug Ericsen.
There is an pening in the 40th…Representative Kris Lytton is leaving office. Alex Ramel, a B’hampster, has thrown his hat in the race. So has Rud Browne, currently on the County Council. Tom Pasma from Skagit Co. and Debra Lekanoff. We will be interviewing over the next couple of weeks. Please LMK if you'd like to help with interviewing.
As always, thank you for supporting me in trying to represent your interest with elected folks. Also, ALWAYS looking for members who'd like to be active on the political action COMMITTEE.
Colin Lowin, PAC Chair
PS: WHY NOT THE BELOW FOR LOCAL 106?
Knoxville City Council Recognizes the IAFF’s 100th Anniversary
The Knoxville, Tennessee, City Council has passed a “Resolution of the Council Commemnding the International Association of Fire Fighters and Knoxville Local 65 on Their 100th Anniversary.”
As the 100th anniversary date of February 28 approached, Council member Andrew Roberto contacted Local 65 about the resolution.
“We are honored that the Knoxville City Council has chosen to recognize this important anniversary,” says Local 65 President Kevin Faddis. “Local 65 members have worked hard to solidify our relationship with the City Council. Today, we are able to work together on solutions to issues facing our members.”
The resolution begins by recalling that L.G. Lewis of Knoxville was one of the delegates attending the first IAFF Convention in 2018. It also recognizes how far Local 65 has come and all of the commendable community service Knoxville members engage in today.