800 Fire Fighters Respond to Crisis on Capitol Hill
Stopping the Push Towards Mandatory Social Security Coverage, Fixing the Shortage in Homeland Security Funding and Too Few Fire Fighters Draw IAFF Response to Capitol
By: International Association of Fire Fighters
Published: Wed, 16 Mar 2005
A day after hearing speakers from the leadership of both political parties talk about the common ground that the IAFF has cultivated in its lobbying work, fire fighters at the conference will spend the day visiting members of Congress to build support for issues important to the nation's first responders.
The IAFF has built a bipartisan reputation that's unique among unions. In the 2004 election cycle, FIREPAC, the IAFF's Political Action Committee that ranks in the top 25 of all federally registered PACs in the nation, donated 34 percent of its contributions to Republican candidates, by far the highest percentage contributed to Republicans by major AFL-CIO unions.
With its bipartisan approach in the 2004 election cycle, 85 percent of IAFF-endorsed candidates won their races.
In his opening remarks at the conference, IAFF General President Harold A. Schaitberger, who was picked as one of the "Top 10 Non-Profit Lobbyists" by The Hill newspaper in 2004, said, "What it all comes down to is this: We aren't for liberals. We're not for conservatives. What we care about is how you stand on fire fighter issues."
The IAFF's main legislative priorities this year include stopping the push for mandatory Social Security coverage for public safety employees; increasing funding for the SAFER Act, which was passed last year to hire more fire fighters in the more than two-thirds of communities across the country that have too few; increasing homeland security funding; extending presumptive disability benefits to federal fire fighters; and winning support for the Public Safety Cooperation Act, which will promote more effective delivery of emergency services through collective bargaining.
"When taken together, the attack on public employee pensions in states like California and the push to force fire fighters into mandatory social security coverage are an all out attack on the basic promise of a secure retirement that fire fighters deserve for a career of dedicated service protecting their communities and country," said Schaitberger.
"These attacks are little more than ponzi-style shams to sell the retirement of public workers to the Merrill Lynch's and Goldman Sach's of this world rather than to provide them with the guaranteed and secure retirement they have earned."
The IAFF, headquartered in Washington, DC, represents more than 267,000 professional fire fighters and paramedics (85 percent of those nationwide), who protect 80 percent of the population in nearly 6,000 communities in Canada and in every state in the U.S. The IAFF has experienced 35 consecutive years of membership growth, and has been one of the top five fastest growing unions in the AFL-CIO over the past five years.