Schaitberger Sets Tone for 2013 Legislative Conference
March 18, 2013 – The Washington Hilton Hotel in Washington, DC, is filled this week with nearly 700 delegates set to lobby their members of Congress on several critical issues during the 2013 Alfred K Whitehead IAFF Legislative Conference. IAFF General President Harold Schaitberger welcomed delegates, encouraging them not to accept ongoing attacks on retirement plans, collective bargaining, staffing and working conditions as the “new normal” and to be ready to put boots on the ground anywhere political action is needed.
Addressing IAFF members, Schaitberger said the IAFF made some critical strategic decisions while sticking with the International’s political principle of supporting “those who will work with us and working against those who are committed to coming after us.”
Schaitberger cited many cases where this strategy has worked, including
winning U.S. Senate seats in several states, flipping control of many state
legislatures in the IAFF’s favor and making a positive difference in political
races and ballot campaigns.
Last, but not least, Schaitberger reported that, despite a rocky congressional
climate, the IAFF has made significant gains on behalf of the membership,
including the reauthorization of Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency
Response (SAFER) grants and making the SAFER waivers permanent, improvements to
the Assistance to Firefighters (FIRE Act) grant program, passage of the Fire
Fighter Fatality Reduction Act , expansion of the Public Safety Officers Benefit
(PSOB) program and the repeal of the Hatch Act, easing the ability of municipal
members to seek political office.
“I am not reporting on all of this just to pat ourselves on the back,” said
Schaitberger. “I’m making a point because we plan to deploy a similar strategy
in key elections coming up this year.” Schaitberger referenced gubernatorial
elections in Virginia, New Jersey and Massachusetts, and also said the IAFF
should be ready to be involved in at least 21 of the 35 U.S. Senate seats up for
grabs in 2014.
“We will put our gold-and-black brand to work to protect states where our allies
are termed out,” he said. “We will be fighting to safeguard or flip key state
legislative chambers from coast to coast.”
This week, IAFF members will lobby their members of Congress to fully fund SAFER
and FIRE Act grants, to put a stop to any efforts to tax health care benefits,
to ensure mandatory Social Security participation does not extend to fire
fighters and to ask that federal fire fighters be treated the same as municipal
Following Schaitberger’s welcome address, other high profile speakers at the
Conference include: White House Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina, Acting U.S.
Secretary of Labor Seth Harris, U.S. Representative Joseph Crowley (D-NY), U.S.
Representative Greg Walden (R-OR), U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO), U.S.
Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), U.S. Senator John Sarbanes (D-MD), U.S. Senator Rob
Andrews (D-NJ), U.S. Representative Linda Sanchez (D-CA), U.S. Senator Jeff
Merkley (D-OR), Senator Chuck Shumer (D-NY) and Virginia Gubernatorial candidate
Click here to hear IAFF General President Schaitberger’s speech in its entirety, a complete list of speakers and full coverage of the 2013 IAFF Legislative Conference.