PAC Report: March 2018
Washington State Legislature: This has been a tremendous year for Union Firefighters in Olympia. Due to our statewide political action work, there is a labor friendly House of Representatives, Senate and Governor. As such, we made some progress this year. I would like to thank those of you who wrote letters and went to Olympia on behalf of the WSCFF to educate our legislature on our issues. We were heard.
Below are the bills we focused on. SB stands for Senate Bill and HB for House Bill. Though I show only the SB or HB, it takes both houses to pass a bill.
SB 6213.E: Presumptive Disease Add On: Appears to not be moving on but still has a ‘heart beat'
States that, there exists a prima facie presumption, with regard to public employee fire investigators who are covered under the state industrial insurance act, that the following are occupational diseases: Respiratory disease, heart problems, cancer, and infectious diseases.
HB 1655-S : PTSD as Occupational Disease: On Governor’s Desk
States that claims made by a member of the law
enforcement officers' and firefighters' retirement system, based on mental conditions or mental disabilities caused by stress, fall within the definition of "occupational disease.”
WSTH passed Senate. All of our Representatives in the House in the
40th and 42nd voted in favor. Still looking to see where Senator Ericksen
landed on the issue.
HB 2851: Military Leave Reduction: On the Governor’s Desk
Requires an officer or employee to be charged military for leave for only the first calendar day, if he or she is scheduled to work a shift, for the state, county, city, or other political subdivision, that begins on one calendar day and ends on the next calendar day; and if he or she is scheduled to work a shift that begins on one calendar day and ends later than the next calendar day, he or she will be charged military leave for each calendar day except the day on which the shift ends.
HB 2786: McNeil Island Firefighters LEOFF Inclusion: On the Governor’s Desk:
Concerning membership in the law enforcement officers' and firefighters' retirement system plan 2 for firefighters employed by the department of corrections or the department of social and health services and serving at a prison or civil commitment center located on an island:
SB 6413 Prohibits a manufacturer of class B firefighting foam: Passed House and now on to the floor of Senate for final vote.
Prohibits a manufacturer of class B firefighting foam from manufacturing, selling, offering for sale, or
distributing for sale or use in this state class B firefighting foam to which PFAS chemicals have been
Requires a manufacturer or other person that sells firefighting personal protective equipment to a person, local government, or state agency to provide written notice to the purchaser if the equipment contains PFAS chemicals and the reasons why the chemicals are added to the equipment.
Authorizes the department of ecology to: (1) Request a certificate of compliance from a manufacturer of class B firefighting foam or firefighting personal protective equipment; and
(2) Assist the department of enterprise services, other state agencies, fire protection districts, and other local governments to avoid purchasing or using firefighting agents containing PFAS chemicals.
What are PFAS chemicals? In a nut shell, they are really bad for us:
HB 2701: Persian Gulf Veteran Definition: On the Governor’s Desk
Designates the end of the Persian Gulf War as February
28, 1991, or ending on November 30, 1995, if the participant was awarded a campaign badge or medal for that period.
Includes in the definition of "combat veteran" a period
of military service that would qualify for a campaign badge or medal.
HB 2627: EMS Levy Simple Majority: On Governor's Desk
Permits taxing districts to continue an existing emergency medical services (EMS) levy with simple majority ballot approval, regardless of whether the tax rate changes.
Changes the large-city approval requirement for countywide EMS levies from 100 percent to 75 percent.
SB HB 2751: Union Dues Deductions: On Governor's Desk
Provides that, if a union security provision exists in a collective bargaining agreement, written authorization from the employee is not required in order for the employer to enforce the union security agreement by deducting the required dues or fees from the employees' pay and transmitting them directly to the union.
Federal Issues: What we will work on next week in D.C. (from the IAFF)
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 wayto 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,ensuring that public safety officers have basic collective bargaining rights is consistent with the increasing role of the public safety community in protecting our nation’s homeland security.
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.
The Firefighter Cancer Registry Act: The IAFF supports this legislation 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 ona 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.
Increased funding for the SAFER and FIRE grant programs: The IAFF supports these 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-documented by independent studies. The National Fire 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.