International Association of Fire Fighters
Endorses Senator Barack Obama for President
Obama sends video message to 3,500 delegates at IAFF Convention in Las Vegas
and Senator Biden to speak on his behalf
Las Vegas, NV – The International Association of Fire Fighters today
announced its endorsement of Senator Barack Obama for president, praising the
Illinois senator for his support of fire fighters and working families.
“On every issue important to fire fighters Senator Obama is and has been in
our corner,” IAFF General President Harold Schaitberger said. “The IAFF is the
most bipartisan union in the AFL-CIO, and we support those who support us. We
can’t overlook Senator McCain’s service to our country, but we also can’t
overlook his poor record on issues critical to the financial security of our
Senator Obama co-sponsored and voted for the IAFF’s collective bargaining
bill in the U.S. Senate this year. Senator McCain voted against the IAFF’s
collective bargaining bill in 2001, and this year he refused to return to
Washington, DC, for a cloture vote.
In his video message, Senator Obama expressed his support of collective
bargaining rights for fire fighters.
Collective bargaining rights “won’t become law unless we have a president
who’s willing to sign it, and I’ll be that president. It is unacceptable when
fire fighters do not have collective bargaining rights. But it’s not just
collective bargaining. For too long on too many issues, fire fighters have not
been treated with the dignity, respect and honor you deserve,” Senator Obama
Senator Joe Biden addressed fire fighters on Senator Obama’s behalf Thursday
morning at the Rio Casino and All-Suites Hotel in Las Vegas at about 11 a.m.
In addition to collective bargaining rights, the economy emerged as a key
concern among fire fighters, according to a poll conducted in June of IAFF
members by Zogby. The poll also found fire fighters believe Senator Obama will
be a more effective president on economic issues for working people like them,
by a margin of 63 percent to 23 percent.
Since Senator Chris Dodd dropped out of the race for president in January,
the IAFF has spent months discussing its next step while allowing the political
process to play out.
“Once Senator Dodd stepped aside, we needed to talk to our members, gauge the
candidates and examine their positions on the issues critical to fire fighters.
Senator Obama has shown fire fighters nothing but support – in the Illinois
state senate and in the U.S. Senate,” Schaitberger said.
Senator Obama also supports the right of fire fighters to collect overtime
pay, a right established by the Fair Labor Standards Act, while Senator McCain
has indicated he favors appointing judges to the federal bench who may overturn
court decisions that guarantee overtime pay to fire fighters and other rights
outlined in the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Senator McCain’s opposition to collective bargaining for fire fighters was
negatively received by 74 percent of fire fighters, according to the Zogby poll,
and his vow to appoint judges who would overturn court decisions that ensure
overtime pay was viewed negatively by 71 percent of fire fighters.
Senator Obama opposes forcing fire fighters into Social Security (about 70
percent of fire fighters are not in the Social Security system) and wants to
strengthen the system of employer-provided health care that fire fighters earn.
Senator McCain’s health care plan encourages elimination of
employer-sponsored health care, preferring to place the burden on individuals to
find and purchase their own health care. Employees who do continue to get health
care coverage through their employers would have to pay taxes on those benefits.
McCain has refused to sign a letter opposing mandatory Social Security coverage
for fire fighters, a change that would impose an additional payroll tax on first
Senator Obama has also worked to increase funding for the homeland security
SAFER grant program, which provides funding to local jurisdictions to hire fire
fighters. Senator McCain has sided with the Bush administration in its attempts
to zero out that program.
The International Association of Fire Fighters, headquartered in
Washington, DC, represents more than 290,000 full-time professional fire
fighters and paramedics who protect 85 percent of the nation’s population. More
information is available at www.iaff.org and
Click here for IAFF Press Releases and Archives