IAFF Endorses Senator Obama
August 14, 2008 -- The IAFF announced its
endorsement of Senator Barack Obama for president, praising the
Illinois senator for his support of fire fighters and working
“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 290,000 members.”
The IAFF endorsed Senator Obama on the final day
of its 49th Convention in Las Vegas.
Senator Obama co-sponsored and voted for the
IAFF’s collective bargaining bill in the U.S. Senate this year.
Senator John 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 message, Senator Obama expressed his
support of collective bargaining rights for fire fighters and
for scores of other issues important to 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 said.
Senator Joe Biden addressed fire fighters on
Senator Obama’s behalf, urging fire fighters to support his
friend in the Senate.
Senator Biden delivered a rousing speech.
“Barack Obama will be the best friend fire
fighters have ever had in the White House,” Biden said. “He
comes from your ethic. He understands the middle class is
shrinking and that you are the middle class. He understands that
labor is the reason there is a middle class. Barack Obama
respects you. You say ‘what the hell? Everybody respects us.’
Biden also delivered a scathing indictment of
the Bush administration, condemned the administration for not
supporting fire fighters and said Senator McCain embraces the
same policies as the Bush administration.
“Don’t tell me this administration respects you.
Don’t tell me Barack Obama’s opponent respects you. Don’t take
away my collective bargaining rights and tell me you respect me.
Don’t tell me you respect me,” Biden screamed.
Obama has been there for fire fighters, Biden
said – on Social Security issues, interoperable communications,
funding for fire fighters and funding for more resources.
“We’ve fought and succeeded (to keep you out of
Social Security). We’ve done it together. In every instance,
Barack Obama has voted with us. You guys have always been with
me. You stuck with me. I’m here to tell you that Barack Obama
will stick with you,” Biden said.
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.
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.
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
Senator Obama opposes forcing fire fighters into
Social Security 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 responders.
Senator Obama has also worked to increase
funding for the 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
The IAFF also launched its
Obama web site,
which has information about the candidates’ policy positions on
issues critical to fire fighters.