The IAFF actively works to influence federal legislation that directly affect the jobs, economic security and safety of IAFF members, and fights to protect its members’ lives and livelihoods through important public safety grant programs, collective bargaining rights, occupational cancer and disease presumption and other legislative priorities.
Governmental Affairs & Public Policy
- Congress Introduces Legislation Allowing Retired Fire Fighters to Buy Into Medicare
- VCF Reauthorization Signed Into Law
- U.S. House Votes to Repeal Cadillac Tax
- VCF Reauthorization to Be Signed Into Law
- U.S. House Votes to Make September 11 Victim Compensation Fund Permanent
- IAFF Takes Fight on SALT Back to Capitol Hill
- IAFF Continues Advocacy for Collective Bargaining Bill on Capitol Hill
- IAFF Testifies on Flame Retardants, Carbon Monoxide and Flame Jetting
- IAFF Amendment to Fully Fund Cancer Registry Advances
- PFAS Exposure Testing Closer to Becoming Law
- Senate Introduces Collective Bargaining Bill for Fire Fighters
- Legislation Introduced to Identify the Presence of PFAS in Federal Fire Fighters
- Federal Funding Bill Includes IAFF Priorities
- House Introduces Bill to Give Collective Bargaining Rights to Public Safety Workers
- U.S. Senate Unanimously Passes Fire Fighter Cancer Registry Act
- Legislation and Legislative Issues
- Advocacy in Action
- Contact Us
Congress Introduces Legislation Allowing Retired Fire Fighters to Buy Into Medicare
The Expanding Health Care Options for Early Retirees Act, legislation permitting retired public safety workers to buy into Medicare at age 50, has been introduced in the Senate as S 2552 by Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and in the House as HR 4527 by Representatives Tom Malinowski (D-NJ) and Harley Rouda (D-CA).
“When our members are faced with early retirement, they are also faced with the uncertainty of finding quality and affordable health insurance,” says General President Harold Schaitberger. “The Expanding Health Care Options for Early Retirees Act provides yet another tool to help address this very real problem.”
The legislation provides an affordable health care option for fire fighters and other public safety officers who retire before age 65 due to the physical and mental stresses of the job and who have few health insurance options once they leave the fire service.
Some retirees, if given the option, rely on an ever-shrinking, inadequate employer-provided stipend or may try to purchase coverage on the public or private marketplaces, both of which present real challenges to obtaining quality and reliable health care.
The Expanding Health Care Options for Early Retirees Act would provide an additional option for post-retirement health care, allowing public safety workers who are retired to buy into Medicare beginning at age 50. Public safety retirees will also be able to use pre-tax defined contribution plans to help purchase coverage under this legislation. The proposal will help to ease the transition between work and retirement for fire fighters and other first responders and will offer the security that comes with having access to quality coverage upon retirement.
Schaitberger says, “Fire fighters put their health and lives on the line to protect and serve their community every day. As a country, we owe it to them to acknowledge that sacrifice by providing them as many quality health care options possible.”
VCF Reauthorization Signed Into Law
President Trump has signed into law the Never Forget the Heroes: James Zadroga, Ray Pfeifer and Luis Alvarez Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act to permanently extend the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF).
The bill signing at the White House Rose Garden marks the successful result of tireless efforts by the IAFF, the Uniformed Firefighters Association (UFA) Local 94, Uniformed Fire Officers Association of (UFOA) Local 854 and many others to make sure those who become ill as a result of their work at Ground Zero get the benefits and care they deserve.
General President Harold Schaitberger, IAFF 1st District Vice President James Slevin, UFA President James Lemonda and UFOA President Gerard Fitzgerald attended the signing ceremony.
“On September 11, 2001, our nation swore to Never Forget, and today this nation finally lived up to that solemn vow,” says Schaitberger. “This important law permanently reauthorizes this essential, life-sustaining compensation fund for fire fighters, emergency medical responders and other responders who never quit until the completion of their mission after the devastating attacks of September 11.”
The VCF will now be fully funded to handle the record number of responders who are presently ill or who become ill from their service after the terrorist attacks.
IAFF members made their final hard push for permanent VCF reauthorization this summer, helping to win near unanimous support in Congress. The bill passed in the Senate by a vote of 97-2, with Senators Mike Lee (R-UT) and Rand Paul (R-KY) the lone no votes. The bill previously passed the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 402-12.
U.S. House Votes to Repeal Cadillac Tax
The U.S. House of Representatives voted 419 – 6 to pass legislation to repeal the Cadillac Tax, a 40 percent excise tax on health insurance plans impacting millions of middle-class workers, including fire fighters and emergency medical personnel. HR 748, the Middle Class Health Benefits Tax Repeal Act of 2019, would permanently repeal the tax.
The IAFF and our allies worked tirelessly to prevent implementation on this onerous tax and educate members of Congress on how the tax would negatively impact working class Americans.
“Employer-provided healthcare is one of the bedrock benefits that we as a union will always fight to protect,” says General President Harold Schaitberger. “We have fought it from the beginning, securing several delays, providing us the time and opportunity to fight for a full repeal of this reckless tax.”
The bill now moves to the Senate where Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM) has sponsored companion legislation, S 684, which has support from nearly half the Senate, but more work must be done to secure as many supporters as possible.
This proposal was sold to the public as a way to lower healthcare costs while shifting savings to the paychecks of everyday Americans, but the fact is that premiums don’t significantly drive healthcare costs, and companies rarely if ever pass on savings to workers. The tax, while not due to be implemented until January 2022, is already having an impact on current labor negotiations around the country.
The IAFF will continue to demand full and immediate repeal of the Cadillac Tax to ensure the healthcare of our members is protected.
VCF Reauthorization to Be Signed Into Law
Following 10 turbulent days, the U.S. Senate voted July 23 to pass HR 1327, the Never Forget the Heroes: James Zadroga, Ray Pfeifer and Luis Alvarez Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act, to permanently extend the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF).The final vote comes after Senators Mike Lee (R-UT) and Rand Paul (R-KY) blocked a unanimous consent request to pass the bill in an attempt to make amendments that ultimately failed to gain Senate support. The Senate voted to pass the measure overwhelmingly, 97-2, rejecting the Lee amendment 32-66 and the Paul amendment 22-77.
Click the links below to see the vote summaries (who voted and how they voted) on the bill and Lee and Rand amendments.
Uniformed Firefighters Association (UFA) Local 94 President Gerard Fitzgerald and Uniformed Fire Officers Association (UFOA) Local 854 President Jake Lemonda joined General President Harold Schaitberger to speak to media after the vote to highlight the importance of the VCF and acknowledge those who contributed to the day’s historic outcome.
“On September 11, 2001, our nation swore to Never Forget, and today the Senate did just that,” said Schaitberger. “I thank the Senate for never forgetting the September 11 responders by permanently reauthorizing this essential, life-sustaining compensation fund for fire fighters, emergency medical responders and other responders who never quit until the completion of their mission after the devastating attacks of September 11.”
A final hard push to successfully cross the finish line by the UFA, UFOA and the IAFF preceded the Senate’s vote approving HR 1327, with Presidents Fitzgerald and Lemonda flying to the nation’s capital numerous times in recent weeks to lobby for the bill’s passage and in opposition to the amendments made by Senators Lee and Paul, amendments which would have impaired the ability of the VCF to make full awards to 9/11 responders and threatened final passage of the bill.
The bill previously passed the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 402-12.
The vote by the Senate to permanently reauthorize the VCF ends the years-long fight over funding for fire fighters and emergency medical personnel who responded on 9/11. The VCF will now be fully funded to handle the record number of responders who are presently ill or who become ill from their service after the terrorist attacks.
“The IAFF extends our gratitude to Senate Leader Mitch McConnell for honoring his word to bring this bill to the Senate floor for a vote,” says Schaitberger.
The bill is expected to be signed into law by the end of the week.
U.S. House Votes to Make September 11 Victim Compensation Fund Permanent
The U.S. House of Representatives voted July 12 to pass HR 1327, the Never Forget the Heroes: James Zadroga, Ray Pfeifer and Luiz Alvarez Permanent Authorization of the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund Act, to permanently extend the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund (VCF). The vote comes after tremendous efforts by the Uniformed Firefighters Association (UFA) Local 94, Uniformed Fire Officers Association (UFOA) Local 854, the IAFF and other fire fighters and emergency medical responders drew attention to the fund’s impending expiration date in December 2020. UFA Local 94 President Gerard Fitzgerald and UFOA Local 854 President Jake Lemonda were in Washington, DC, to advocate for the bill’s passage and witness the vote on the legislation, which passed overwhelmingly 402-12.
“The September 11 attacks were on an entire nation. We have a moral obligation to act quickly and ensure injured and sick responders receive the compensation they need and deserve for losses made in service to their country,” says General President Harold Schaitberger. “I thank the House of Representatives for recognizing the debt owed to September 11 responders by reauthorizing this essential, life-sustaining compensation fund for fire fighters, emergency medical responders and other responders who helped our nation recover from those devastating attacks.”
General Secretary-Treasurer Ed Kelly says, “I had the pleasure of knowing Ray Pfeifer since the late 90s. His infectious personality and the guiding foundation of his character, along with the voices of so many who worked at Ground Zero – like John McNamara and Marty Fullam – in concert with the collective political might of IAFF members in every single congressional district, was crucial in passing the VCF in the 116th Congress.”
By permanently reauthorizing the VCF, HR 1327 will end the years’ long fight for funding that forced sick fire fighters and emergency medical responders to repeatedly beg Congress for money. The VCF is running low on funds due to a record number of responders becoming sick after the terrorist attacks. Absent immediate congressional action, the fund will expire next year.
With the passage of the House bill, the activities now shift to the U.S. Senate where Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is on record that he will ensure the Senate passes the bill before the upcoming August recess.
“You can bet that the IAFF is going to hold Leader McConnell to his word. He must act quickly to get this measure passed and on President Trump’s desk for his signature,” says Schaitberger.
IAFF Takes Fight on SALT Back to Capitol Hill
Continuing its fight to ensure states and localities are well-positioned to provide adequate funding to local fire departments, the IAFF testified before the U.S. House of Representatives to reverse the federally mandated limitations to the State and Local Tax (SALT) deduction.
Testifying on behalf of the IAFF, Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin (PFFW) President Mahlon Mitchell spoke to the dire funding situation of many Wisconsin fire departments and urged Congress to lift the current arbitrary cap on taxpayers’ SALT deduction.
“There is no doubt in my mind that the current cap on SALT deductions impairs the ability of local governments to well fund fire departments and other vital public services and will make my job – to protect the City of Madison, Wisconsin, and its residents – much harder and less secure,” said Mitchell. “Capping the SALT deduction threatens not only the livelihoods of the hard-working men and women of the fire service, but lives in the communities they serve as well.”
A 2018 tax law capped taxpayers’ ability to deduct state and local taxes at $10,000 annually, whereas no such cap existed previously. The cap puts stress on state and local governments to reduce local tax burdens, which in turn threatens local fire department funding that is largely provided by state and local governments. The IAFF has consistently fought capping the SALT deduction, defeating efforts in the past to eliminate the deduction entirely.
Legislation to lift the SALT cap has been introduced by Representatives Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) and Chris Smith (R-NJ) and endorsed by the IAFF. HR 1142, the Stop the Attack on Local Taxpayers Act of 2019, would restore the full deductibility of state and local taxes, restoring the full ability of state and local governments to fund vital local services, including public safety.
Watch President Mitchell’s testimony and the hearing in its entirety.
Read a President Mitchell’s full written testimony.
IAFF Continues Advocacy for Collective Bargaining Bill on Capitol Hill
The IAFF is continuing to advocate for public sector collective bargaining on Capitol Hill and preparing for an upcoming hearing on our collective bargaining bill, the Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act (HR 1154).
“Collective bargaining should not be a left versus right issue,” says General President Harold Schaitberger. “We will continue to gather support from both sides of the political aisle to give basic workplace rights to fire fighters and other public safety workers who do not have a say in their own personal safety or the safety of the people they protect.”
This week, Assistant to the General President for Governmental Affairs and Public Policy Dave Lang spoke at a labor rights briefing hosted by the Congressional Progressive Caucus Center. The standing-room only briefing was an opportunity for a panel of allied unions to educate congressional staff about the importance of granting collective bargaining rights to all public sector workers.
“The only way workers are going to get anywhere is if they speak in a common, loud voice,” Lang told congressional staffers. “This Cooperation Act creates a framework that isn’t a merry-go-round, dependent on the outcomes of elections. The process created from HR 1154 produces not only safe, healthy communities, but also a healthy workforce.”
Each panelist at the briefing spoke on the need for collective bargaining rights for public sector workers and for legislation to protect workers from employers’ punitive actions and ensure employees can organize to negotiate wages, hours and working conditions.
President of the Professional Fire Fighters and Paramedics of North Carolina Thomas Brewer will testify next week before the House Education and Labor Committee on the Cooperation Act. Collective bargaining for fire fighters is currently illegal in North Carolina. This hearing is the first step to bringing the bill before the full U.S. House of Representatives for a vote.
IAFF Testifies on Flame Retardants, Carbon Monoxide and Flame Jetting
Minnesota Professional Fire Fighters (MPFF) President Chris Parsons testified before the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce in the U.S. House of Representatives on three important fire fighter and public safety issues.
The subcommittee, led by Chair Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Ranking Member Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), met to consider three bills endorsed by the IAFF: the Safer Occupancy Furniture Flammability Act, the Portable Fuel Container Safety Act and the Nicholas and Zachary Burt Carbon Monoxide Poison Prevention Act. Each bill addresses gaps in federal consumer safety law and help keep fire fighters and the public safe.
Parsons explained to the subcommittee, “I have seen firsthand the unfortunate results of lax consumer safety laws and enforcement in my community. Inaction on these issues impacts not only the public at large, in the instances of carbon monoxide poisoning or flame-jetting injuries from portable gas cans, but also injuries to fire fighters sworn to protect the public from exposure to toxic, cancer-causing flame retardants.”
One bill under consideration, the Safer Occupancy Furniture Flammability Act, would reduce the need for toxic flame retardants in furniture by making California’s Technical Bulletin 117-2013 a national standard. TB 117-2013 replaced an outdated open flame test standard with a modern smolder test, reducing the presence of flame retardants in home goods and furniture and thus lessening fire fighters’ exposure.
Parsons explained that although flame retardants were once thought to be safe and provide a measure of fire protection, unfortunately, these flame retardants have proved toxic when ignited. When burned, these flame retardants emit cancer-causing furans and dioxins into the air, releasing these toxins into the environment. A 2009 California study measuring fire fighters’ blood after working fires discovered that fire fighters’ had 100 times higher levels of furans than the public. In addition. fire fighters are exposed to these high level of toxins hundreds of times over during their decades long career.
Having advocated in opposition of flame retardants in Minnesota, President Parsons added, “Given their toxicity and suspect value, we see no reason to continue use of toxic flame retardants. In Minnesota, I have worked with state lawmakers to prohibit the sale and distribution of children’s products, mattresses, residential upholstered furniture and textiles that contain certain toxic flame retardants. While the Minnesota law protects fire fighters and the public from many flame retardants, residents of many states have no similar protections.”
Parsons also testified in favor of legislation to make portable fuel containers safer. The Portable Fuel Container Safety Act would mandate the installation of flame arrestors in all containers manufactured to hold flammable liquids. “For as little as 25 cents, manufacturers of portable flammable liquid containers can add a simple plastic or metal screen, often referred to as a flame arrestor, to prevent the rapid release of vapors that cause flame jetting,” he stated. This common-sense measure will unquestionably save lives, but also prevent the tragedy and damage that follows flame-jetting incidents.
Parsons also spoke on the need to educate the public on the dangers of carbon monoxide, as well as the need to install carbon monoxide detectors. The Nicholas and Zachary Burt Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Prevention Act would assist states by providing grants to purchase and install carbon monoxide detectors in the homes of the elderly and low-income citizens and in schools, as well as establish initiatives to educate the public on the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning.
The three bills are expected to be approved by the Committee in the near future.
Watch President Parsons’s testimony here.
IAFF Amendment to Fully Fund Cancer Registry Advances
The IAFF continues its work fighting the scourge of cancer in the fire service, this week pushing through an amendment in the U.S. House of Representatives to fully fund the newly established national Firefighter Cancer Registry. The amendment was offered by Representatives Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) and Chris Collins (R-NY) to legislation funding the Department of Health and Human Services for Fiscal Year 2020, and passed by a vote of 413-10.
“The Firefighter Cancer Registry is a crucial resource to better establish the link between firefighting and cancer,” says General President Harold Schaitberger. “These resources will ensure the Centers for Disease Control have sufficient funding to fully conduct a robust public outreach effort and collect the information scientists and policymakers need.”
The draft bill initially provided $1.6 million for the registry. The Pascrell/Collins amendment increased funding to the level fully authorized by statute, $2.5 million.
The Firefighter Cancer Registry was established last year after a concerted lobbying effort by the IAFF. The registry, the first of its kind, will provide researchers and epidemiologists the tools and resources needed to improve research related to firefighting and cancer. Studies have indicated a strong link between firefighting and an increased risk of numerous cancers. However, public health researchers are unable to fully examine and understand the broader epidemiological cancer trends among fire fighters because many previous studies have been limited by the availability of certain data and relatively small sample sizes that have an under-representation of women, minorities and certain age groups.
The House is expected to approve the underlying funding bill this week, and consideration will move to the Senate.
PFAS Exposure Testing Closer to Becoming Law
IAFF priority legislation for testing Department of Defense (DoD) fire fighters for PFAS is one step closer to becoming law as part of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
The bill, advanced by the Senate Armed Services Committee, includes the Protecting Military Firefighters from PFAS Act, introduced by Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) on behalf of the IAFF earlier this year. The bill directs the DoD to capture PFAS exposures for federal fire fighters through a non-invasive blood test administered as part of routine medical examinations.
Test results could be used to document exposures while also providing medical guidance to fire fighters on PFAS exposure. In addition, information gathered from testing would allow occupational health physicians to better track exposure trends while establishing engineering controls to reduce or prevent future contact with toxic PFAS-laden foams.
“The IAFF is committed to protecting the health and safety of our federal fire fighters who face increased health risks specifically tied to the DoD’s reliance on toxic PFAS-laden foams,” says General President Harold Schaitberger. “Inclusion of language directing the DoD to test fire fighters’ blood for the presence of PFAS and prohibiting future purchases of PFAS-laden foams by DoD is a move in the right direction.”
The draft bill also includes a provision prohibiting DoD from procuring new firefighting foam containing PFAS after October 1, 2022.
The NDAA will soon move to the full Senate for consideration. The House of Representatives is also working to draft its own version of the NDAA, and the IAFF has been working to incorporate the Protecting Military Firefighters from PFAS Act in the House bill.
The IAFF and federal sector advocates will continue to push for this important legislative initiative as Congress works to adopt a final NDAA, which is anticipated this fall.
Senate Introduces Collective Bargaining Bill for Fire Fighters
The Senate has introduced the Public Safety Employer Employee Cooperation Act of 2019, marking a crucial next step in the IAFF’s continued commitment to provide basic collective bargaining rights for all members. S 1394 was introduced by Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI). HR 1154 was introduced in the U.S. House in February by Representatives Dan Kildee (D-MI) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA).
“Having this legislation introduced in both chambers of Congress, by both parties in Congress, is important for the future success of the Cooperation Act,” says General President Harold Schaitberger. “Collective bargaining should not be a left versus right issue, and so we will continue to gather support from both sides of the political aisle to give basic workplace rights to fire fighters and other public safety workers who do not have a say in their own personal safety or the safety of the people they protect.”
The Cooperation Act mirrors the language of the House companion bill and outlines five essential rights for all employees, including the right to form and join a union, have a contract, ensure the contract is enforced, bargain over wages, hours, and terms of employment, and have a dispute mechanism.
Under the bill, states that do not comply with these basic rights will have two years to do so. At that point, the Federal Labor Relations Authority, an agency with a proven track record of handling labor disputes, will have jurisdiction to ensure workers are provided these necessary rights.
Many IAFF members live in jurisdictions in which these rights currently exist, but are threatened. This legislation will act as a backstop for those whose rights could be taken away, while at the same time respecting state laws already on the books. This bill bill will set a much-needed standard for employer and employee cooperation for fire fighters who work every day in jurisdictions that do not provide basic bargaining rights.
“The 116th Congress provides a fresh start for the Cooperation Act and an opportunity to educate new members on the importance of this bill,” says Schaitberger. “It will be an uphill fight, but with both bills now introduced, we can begin to lay the groundwork for future success.”
Legislation Introduced to Identify the Presence of PFAS in Federal Fire Fighters
For more than four decades, toxic substances – known as PFAS – have been present in firefighting foam used by Department of Defense (DoD) fire fighters, yet the full extent of their exposure remains unknown. To better understand the levels of exposure, the IAFF joined with U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and U.S. Representatives Donald Norcross (D-NJ) and Mike Turner (R-OH) to author and introduce the Protecting Military Fire Fighters From PFAS Act.
The bills, HR 1863 in the House and S 858 in the Senate, would require DoD fire fighters to be tested to determine the presence of PFAS in the body as part of their annual physicals.
“The IAFF fully supports the medical monitoring called for by the Protecting Military Fire Fighters From PFAS Act,” says General President Harold Schaitberger. “These fire fighters dedicate their careers to protecting the public and our military, and it is incumbent on the DoD to monitor their levels of PFAS toxins.”
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has declared PFAS as toxic substances, and recommends an individual lifetime exposure limit of 70 parts per trillion. But because of their normal exposure to PFAS-laden foam on the job, DoD fire fighters are likely to exceed this lifetime limit.
Toxic PFAS enter the body through inhalation, absorbtion and ingestion, and have been linked to a variety of illnesses or health conditions, including thyroid, bladder, kidney and liver cancers, diabetes, and elevated cholesterol. Furthermore, because PFAS are bioaccumulative and remain in the body for two to nine years following exposure, the dangers from repeated exposure – such as faced by DoD fire fighters – make risks posed by the substance even greater.
The bill was featured as a key legislative issue at the recent IAFF Legislative Conference, and response to the bills’ introduction in the House and Senate has been largely positive. Testing DoD fire fighters for PFAS will help them and their physicians better plan for and respond to their own health issues, as well as allow occupational medicine physicians at military bases to better follow exposure trends. Additionally, because DoD fire fighters already undergo an annual physical, including blood collection and testing, the cost of the legislation is expected to be relatively low.
The IAFF intends to pursue this legislation aggressively with the hope of enacting it in the current Congress.
Federal Funding Bill Includes IAFF Priorities
Several IAFF priorities were included in the final funding bill for Fiscal Year 2019, released by congressional negotiators as conversations to avoid a new government shutdown concluded. The bill provides funds for nine federal departments and smaller agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), through September 30, 2019.
- The Assistance to Firefighters (FIRE Act) and Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant programs, which provide funding for fire fighter equipment, training and staffing, are funded at $350 million each, consistent with funding in the previous fiscal year.
- The Urban Search and Rescue Response System receives $45.33 million, an increase of approximately $10 million. The additional funding will allow the system’s response teams to recapitalize aging equipment.
- A 1.9 percent raise for federal employees, retroactive to the first full pay period of 2019.
- The bill also includes language requiring the Forest Service to report current and planned research on issues and risks related to wildland fire fighter health and safety, identify gaps in knowledge and provide potential remedies to address those gaps.
“This legislation will ensure our domestic defenders have the tools and resources they need to do their jobs safely and effectively, while providing our federal members with their largest raise since 2009,” says General President Harold Schaitberger. “I am pleased Congress has finally put partisan politics aside to do the right thing for America’s fire fighters.”
The IAFF lobbied hard for each of the priority provisions. The $10 million increase for Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) teams is particularly significant, as the teams lacked sufficient funds to upgrade or replace equipment. Without the funding infusion, teams would have been forced to reduce CBRN and swift water capabilities, interfering with their mission to provide search and rescue operations in response to natural and man-made disasters.
Additionally, although the IAFF supported a 2.6 percent raise for federal fire fighters, the 1.9 percent raise represents a win over efforts by the administration to freeze federal worker pay and leave federal fire fighters with no raise whatsoever.
In late 2018, much of the federal government shut down for 35 days, leaving members of two IAFF federal locals – the National Institute of Standards and Technology Local F-161 in Maryland and Coast Guard Local F-298 in California – to work without pay.
Additionally, federal programs impacting fire fighters and fire departments were shuttered for this same period, which prevented fire departments from drawing down FIRE Act or SAFER funds during the shutdown, leading to delays in purchasing needed equipment and training.
Passage of this funding bill averts another government shutdown.
The bill is expected to pass both chambers of Congress and be signed into law by the president.
House Introduces Bill to Give Collective Bargaining Rights to Public Safety Workers
The Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act of 2019 (HR 1154) was introduced February 12 in the House of Representatives by Representative Dan Kildee (D-MI) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), marking a crucial next step in the IAFF’s continued commitment to fight for basic collective bargaining rights for all public safety workers. A companion bill in the Senate is scheduled to be introduced later this month.
Champions on both sides of the political aisle have stood in support of the idea that fire fighters and all public safety workers deserve a set of basic workplace rights – rights that help determine effective and safe fire service for the public.
“As we move forward in the fight to provide basic collective bargaining rights to our members, we will continue to gather support from both sides of the political aisle,” says General President Harold Schaitberger. “As a union, we pride ourselves in finding bipartisan solutions to issues facing our members, and with this legislation our principles do not change.”
The Cooperation Act outlines five essential rights for all employees, including the right to form and join a union; have a contract; ensure the contract is enforced; bargain over wages, hours and terms of employment; and have a dispute mechanism. Under the bill, states that do not comply with these basic rights will have two years to do so. At that point, the Federal Labor Relations Authority, an agency with a proven track record of handling labor disputes, will have jurisdiction to ensure workers are provided these necessary rights.
Many IAFF members live in jurisdictions in which these rights currently exist but are one election away from having them seriously threatened. This legislation will act as a backstop for those whose rights could be taken away, while at the same time respecting state laws already on the books. Nothing in the Cooperation Act would supersede state laws that exceed the provisions of the bill. This legislation also gives fire fighters who work every day in jurisdictions that do not provide basic bargaining rights a much-needed standard for employer and employee cooperation.
The Cooperation Act will be featured at the IAFF’s annual Legislative Conference in March, when hundreds of IAFF leaders and members from across the country will travel to Washington, DC, and lobby in support of the Cooperation Act.
“After a long election and a transfer of power in the House of Representatives, we have an opportunity to make our case to new leadership while educating dozens of newly elected officials as to why this bill should become law,” says Schaitberger. “This new Congress gives us the chance to lay the groundwork for future success and to make real the rights we have been fighting for these past two decades.”
U.S. Senate Unanimously Passes Fire Fighter Cancer Registry Act
The U.S. Senate has unanimously passed the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act of 2017, S. 382. Introduced by Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), the bill’s passage in the Senate brings it one step closer to being the first-of its kind national cancer registry specifically for fire fighters.
Last September, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed its version of the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act, which differs slightly from the Senate-passed bill. As a result, the two chambers will work to reconcile their differences before sending the bill to the president’s desk for his signature.
The cancer registry will collect detailed data on the occurrence of cancer in fire fighters to assist scientists with specialized information they need for research to help strengthen our understanding of the link between firefighting and cancer, which could potentially lead to better prevention and safety protocols.
“I sincerely thank the Senate leadership for taking up the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act. I also thank the entire Senate for its unanimous vote bringing us one step closer to delivering this legislation to the president’s desk for his signature,” says General President Harold Schaitberger. “The strength of the vote in each chamber demonstrates the importance of this legislation and the need to better understand cancer within the fire service.”
The IAFF will continue working with its allies in Congress to produce a final bill in the coming weeks.
Legislation and Legislative Issues
The IAFF actively works to influence federal legislation that directly affect the jobs, economic security, and safety of IAFF members. Information on the IAFF position on selected federal legislation is being updated for new Congress.
Public Safety Collective Bargaining Rights
Supporting Fire Fighter Mental Health
Early Medicare Buy-In for Public Safety Workers
Extending the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund
Testing DoD Fire Fighters for PFAS
Contact the Department of Governmental Affairs at (202) 824-1581 for more information.