For most IAFF members, being involved in politics was not the job you signed up for. However, we all quickly learned that every decision made about our work lives – our safety on the job, our pay and benefits, our union rights, our retirement security – is made by someone who was elected to office or appointed by someone elected. What that means for us is that politics is a tool that we can and must use to improve the lives of our members.
We build power in local politics not because we’re interested in the trappings of it, but because the stronger we are as a union, the better outcomes we can get for our members. Building political power takes work, and it doesn’t happen overnight. But, in the long run, it pays real dividends for your local.
There are many ways your local can engage in politics and campaigns to shift from a side-player to a respected local political leader. Having political knowledge and skills will make your support a must-have for local elected officials and give you more access to those decision-makers.
You can find a full list of simple steps to work in that direction here.
We recommend using the legislative process first when it comes to a specific issue or opportunity for your members. Talk to your elected officials about the issues and determine where they stand; then identify those that are open to persuasion and find ways to make your issues relatable to them.
Use grassroots and community validators to back you up. With the right pressure applied to the right leaders, the solution to your issue can sometimes be found without going the electoral route, which involves much more time, effort and money.
However, if the legislative route fails, you can use the electoral side of politics to change who makes the decisions.