We are in an era that may well be remembered for the most serious assaults on public pensions in the nation’s history. Every day, we see news headlines taking aim at public employee pensions, calling these plans grossly generous and accusing unions of plundering state coffers. But we know that pensions are not padded gifts from employers, but rather deferred wages earned and owned by fire fighters and designed to provide for them and their families when they are no longer on the job. It’s time to fight the attacks on public pensions and debunk the critics.

The IAFF and our Committee on Pensions and Health Care are currently developing an online resource of tools our affiliates can use to fight back and stop the beatings on pensions. In addition, we’re writing and publishing a Pension Handbook that will help affiliate leaders better understand pension basics, including the distinction between defined benefit plans and defined contribution plans. This Handbook will be a great resource for affiliate leaders to educate themselves on the fundamental aspects of pensions. Finally, we have conducted a survey of all fire fighter pension plans in both the United States and Canada and are compiling the results, which include valuable information on benefit formulas, retirement age, funding levels and cost-of-living adjustments. The information will be available to affiliate leaders through the IAFF web site.

We cannot afford to be complacent or unprepared to fight off these challenges. If we fail, IAFF members, their families and future generations of professional fire fighters will pay the price because reversing the damage will be difficult, perhaps impossible.