The IAFF is committed to promoting positive human relations in all aspects of the fire service. Every fire fighter, regardless of race, color, creed, national origin, gender, sexual orientation or reason of disability, has the right to a safe and respectful workplace that fosters professional and personal balance. IAFF Human Relations efforts support initiatives to help members achieve that ideal in their firehouses and fire departments.
Establishing a Local Human Relations Committee
Establishing a human relations committee is a proven way to help your local sort through the opportunities and challenges that diversity presents. It can assist your local in resolving conflict and developing a proactive strategy for change.
A human relations committee can benefit your local by:
- Increasing unity and solidarity among members.
- Proactively promoting diversity and inclusion within your local.
- Ensuring that all members are represented fairly, equally, and without discrimination.
- Serving as a resource to your local on human relations issues.
Guidelines for Forming a Local Human Relations Committee
- Determine the number of members to serve on the committee.
- The membership elects or the local union president appoints the committee members.
- The committee reflects, as much as possible, all members by race, color, creed, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, and disability.
- Make the local union president and chairperson of the grievance committee (if one exists) committee members as well.
- Acquaint yourselves with the contract (if one exists), work rules and the city’s hiring and promotional policies.
- Establish a rapport with various group and governmental agencies at the local, state/provincial and federal levels.
- Familiarize yourselves with the procedures for filing complaints with city, state/provincial and federal agencies.
- Do not separate yourselves from the activities of other local union committees, and maintain continuous communication with the grievance committee (if one exists).
- Establish a budget, if needed.
- Keep accurate minutes of all committee meetings on file.
- Submit regular reports of activities to the principal officers, the local union executive board, and the membership (whichever is appropriate or in compliance with local bylaws or policy).
- Maintain effective communications with the local union president concerning all action reviewed by the committee.
- Meet on a regularly scheduled basis.
- Open meetings to all members, and give ample notice of each meeting.
- Concern yourselves primarily with allegations of discrimination in employment practices.
- Hold meetings with members upon initiation of a complaint.
- Investigate all relative facts to determine the validity of the complaint.
- Be honest, sincere, and tactful in dealing with members who initiate complaints.
- Never infringe upon the duties and responsibilities of the grievance committee.
About the IAFF Elected Human Relations Committee
Composed of 18 elected members, the IAFF Elected Human Relations Committee (EHRC) develops and recommends policies and procedures for affiliates. Since 1988, it has assisted IAFF members in improving relationships and educating members regarding human relations issues.
While the EHRC is formally assigned the task of recommending policy and procedures pertaining to discrimination for all local, state and provincial affiliates, it also addresses problems concerning minority affairs by:
- Providing technical assistance to local unions on matters pertaining to discrimination (the policy of the IAFF on assistance for human relations issues can be found on pages 5-6 of the Human Relations Manual).
- Counseling and advising local unions in the form of meetings with IAFF members and/or meetings with local committees and management.
- Improving and expediting communications between local unions and the IAFF in matters concerning civil rights by developing and presenting the biennial IAFF Human Relations Conference.
In 1988, a resolution passed at the 39th IAFF Convention that assembled a standing committee of IAFF members charged with improving relationships and establishing greater unity among all brother and sister fire fighters.
Twelve committee positions were filled by two representatives for each of these groups: women, Black, Hispanic, male Caucasian, Canadian, and other than already represented. In 2016, a resolution was passed at 53rd IAFF Convention to expand and update the Committee. Sixteen Committee positions were filled by two representatives for each of these groups to include: African American/Black, Caucasian/White, Disabled/Handicapped, Female, Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender-and/or Queer/Questioning, Hispanic/Latino, Canadian affiliates to be elected at the IAFF Canadian Policy Conference and Members-at-Large for ethnicities currently not afforded a category, i.e. Asian, Pacific Islander, American Indian, Alaskan Native, and/or Native Hawaiian origin or descent.
Since its creation, the EHRC’s role has expanded to provide greater hands-on support to locals seeking assistance with human relations matters.
It is the mission of the IAFF Elected Human Relations Committee to develop and recommend policies and procedures for local, state and provincial affiliates to use as guidelines, relative to human relations issues within the fire service. Furthermore, it is the mission of the IAFF Elected Human Relations Committee to assist our IAFF membership in improving relationships, as well as promoting understanding between all brother and sister members. It is the committee’s objective to educate the IAFF membership regarding human relations issues within the fire service, and to encourage greater involvement of all members, in recognition of our diversity, as it is an important component of the continued success of our International union.
Human Relations Committee Members
IAFF Elected Human Relations Committee Members
Representing African American/Black:
- Robert “Bo” Chaney, Rockford, Illinois, Local 413
- Leroy Heyward, Boston, Massachusetts, Local 718
Representing Canadian (2021 – next election at the Canadian Policy Conference in 2025):
- Katrina Davison, Vancouver, British Columbia, Local 18
- Clive Deonarine, Ajax, Ontario, Local 1092
- Thomas C. Donovan, Cincinnati, Ohio, Local 48
- Cass Monroe, Bellevue, Washington, Local 1604
- Barry Stafford, Boston, Massachusetts, Local 718
- William Silva, Joint Base Lewis McChord, Washington, Local F-283
- Audrey Owczarzak, Newport, Kentucky, Local 45
- Barbara Sellers, Shreveport, Louisiana, Local 514
- Carlos Pacheco, Kansas City, Kansas, Local 64
- Alan Rivas, Lynnwood, Washington, Local 1828
- Cristian Cruz, Albuquerque, New Mexico,, Local 244
- Rylie Robillard, Waterbury, Connecticut, Local 1339
Representing Others Than Already Represented:
- David Bautista, Orange County, California, Local 3631
- Stanley Lee, San Francisco, California, Local 798
- Roy Mokosso, St. Paul, Minnesota, Local 21
- Jorge Pena, UFA of New York New York, Local 94
IAFF Human Relations Executive Board Committee
- Ricky J. Walsh, Chair, IAFF 7th District Vice President
AFL–CIO Resolution 2: A Diverse Movement Calls for Diverse Leadership
Adopted at the AFL-CIO 2005 Convention, Resolution 2 calls for unions to reflect the diversity of their communities, both in union membership and union leadership.
- See the IAFF’s Commitment to Resolution 2
- Read Resolution 2
- Fill out the Pledge for Diversity
- Download Overcoming Barriers
Diversity in Leadership
Samples of some of the innovative ways that unions are bringing more women and people of color into leadership. They are part of the Union Plus scholarship program.
If you have any other resources that you would like to share, please email to the IAFF Department of Education.
IAFF Discrimination Policy
The IAFF stands unequivocally opposed to discrimination and harassment in all of its forms and in all types of environments. Specifically, this opposition includes discrimination in hiring, promoting, and laying off of employees, as well as in all other employment-related conditions. The IAFF also opposes all forms of harassment.
Constitution and By-Laws
Article III Membership
Section 1. Active
Any person of good moral character who at the time of making application is engaged in service within the jurisdiction of this Association as set forth in Article II of this Constitution and By-Laws will be eligible for active membership in this Association through its chartered local, state or provincial associations, and joint councils.
Anyone eligible for membership in the Association shall not be refused membership or, upon acceptance, be discriminated against because of race, color, creed, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, or by reason of disability. Local unions are urged to propose amendments to their own constitution and/or by-laws to reflect the same prohibitions against discrimination.
Preventing Sexual Harassment
Every IAFF affiliate is encouraged to make sure that all IAFF members clearly understand the types of behavior that are unacceptable in the workplace.
- Employment conditions cannot be made based on sexual relations.
- Unwelcome sexual advances by supervisors and coworkers are not tolerated.
- Sexual joking, off-color jokes, verbal abuse, demeaning sexual inquiries, vulgarity, obscene gestures and lewd comments are unacceptable.
- The displaying of sexually oriented posters, magazines or other graphic materials is not condoned.
Assure members that their union is committed to ensuring that all persons employed in the fire service have the opportunity to work in an environment that is not offensive, intimidating or hostile because of one’s gender. Document this position and sponsor sexual harassment programs concerning appropriate conduct.
Tell members what to do if they are confronted with unwelcome sexual behavior. Outline each of the following steps:
- Ask the person to stop the harassing behavior. This strengthens the position of the member, if the member reports the incident later.
- If the harassment persists, file a formal complaint with a local union officer (or station steward) or the EEOC.
- Document the complaint by keeping a diary or log that details each of the incidents. Write down what happened, what was said, who was there and who might have witnessed the incident.
Make it simple for members to report sexual harassment violations. If a grievance procedure does not exist, then set up an internal complaint procedure. Write this procedure to encourage members to come forward with allegations of sexual harassment. Reassure members that all complaints will remain confidential, and that no retaliation will be taken against any member who comes forward with a complaint.
No one enters the fire service believing that it is a safe job. Burns, smoke inhalation, heat exhaustion and chemical exposure are just a few examples of the dangers fire fighters face on the scene. One health risk that receives less attention is the impact of fire fighting on reproductive health. Thought of mostly as a women’s issue, reproductive health concerns are important for all fire fighters as research has highlighted the effects of exposure not only to pregnant fire fighters, but to all women and men of reproductive age. The links below provide research data and other supporting documents to help fire fighters better understand the risks to their reproductive health.
- A Labor Perspective on Workplace Reproductive Hazards: Past History, Current Concerns, and Positive Directions
Recommendations by the Legal/Labor Working Group that convened at the Occupational and Environmental Reproductive Hazards Working Conference offering guidelines for developing a model reproductive hazards policy – a guide for implementation of nondiscriminatory and health-protective policies by employers.
- IAFF Executive Board Policy on Reproductive Hazards
The IAFF’s position on education and treatment of pregnant fire fighters.
- Reproductive Hazards in the Workplace: A Case Study of Women Firefighters
A review of the potential hazards faced by pregnant fire fighters, as well as all women and men of reproductive years, and a recommendation for policies that seek reasonable accommodations promoting fetal and maternal health
- Reproductive Hazards of Fire Fighting I – Non-Chemical Hazards
A report on the effects of non-chemical hazards such as heat, noise, and physical exertion on reproductive health.
- Reproductive Hazards of Fire Fighting II – Chemical Hazards
A review of chemical exposures that may contribute to adverse reproductive health outcomes in male as well as female fire fighters.
- Sample Contract Language: Pregnancy Policies
Explore sample contract language that IAFF locals have negotiated with their management to provide protections for pregnant fire fighters.
- The Fire Fighting Environment Risk for Breast Cancer, Gynecologic Malignancies and Lymphoma
Prepared for the IAFF, this report summarizes the findings of the chemicals or substances found in the fire fighting environment that may be associated with cancers that affect women.
Resolving a Human Relations Complaint
The IAFF firmly believes that a charge of discrimination or harassment should be settled in the shortest time possible. When an IAFF member has a human relations complaint, Article XIII, Section 22 of the Constitution and By-Laws and the IAFF Executive Board Policy of the IAFF provide the following system for resolution of the issue:
- Inform the local president of the issue.
- If the local has a human relations committee, the local president may refer the issue to the committee.
- If the issue is not resolved at the local level, the local president may seek the assistance of the district vice president.
- The district vice president may then ask the assistance of the IAFF General President.
- The IAFF General President may offer assistance to the local union.
- The IAFF General President may utilize the IAFF Human Relations Committee to assist the local union.
When a member has pursued a human relations complaint through the local union and its officers and has not received a resolution that is deemed appropriate, then the member has a number of avenues available that can be followed. The member can correspond directly with the district vice president and the IAFF General President.
The IAFF’s Human Relations Committee provides technical assistance to affiliates on discrimination issues and other human relations related topics. The committee counsels and advises locals through meetings with IAFF members and/or local committees and management. The committee can also provide educational programs for locals who wish to take proactive steps in human relations.
Additionally, IAFF Human Relations Committee Technical Assistance extends into offering education and training. The programs below offer guidance in getting started in human relations and are taught to locals throughout the United States and Canada. For information on bringing these workshops to your local, contact [email protected].
- Recruiting Diverse First Responders Toolkit
- AFL–CIO Resolution 7: A Diverse and Democratic Labor Movement
- IAFF Diversity Initiative (funded by NIEHS)
- International Association of Women in Fire & Emergency Service (Women in Fire)
- Overcoming Barriers to People of Color in Union Leadership
- Sample Mediation Program