As the race for the White House has dominated headlines since Election Day, November 3, the IAFF successfully helped many affiliates secure important victories at the ballot box to improve working conditions.
“While the IAFF helps support candidates who support our issues at the federal level, our focus isn’t solely on those races,” says General President Harold Schaitberger. “Much of the work to keep our members safe is done at a local level, and the IAFF has made it a priority to provide the resources our affiliates need to be successful in local elections.”
The IAFF worked with affiliates on dozens of local ballot initiatives, referendums and tax measures. Those efforts helped pass 23 local ballot measures, while only seven fell short. Included in those victories are campaigns that increased funding for our members’ fire departments, established binding arbitration, halted attacks on our members’ schedules and ended efforts to create a public safety officer (PSO) program. In addition, assistance to affiliates included campaign strategy and planning, messaging, literature design, digital assistance, targeting voters and video production for several campaigns.
One of the biggest challenges was putting the brakes on the PSO proposal in Hamtramck, Michigan. For Local 750, communicating the dangers of the PSO model was complicated because of language barriers in the community. But with assistance from the IAFF, Local 750 rose to the challenge, creating campaign mailers and social media communications in English, Arabic and Bengali (the most-commonly spoken languages among residents). This approach helped defeat the ballot measures 61-38.
8th District Vice President Mark Sanders says, “With the help of the IAFF, Local 750 President Andrew Oleksiak and Brother Jon Krajewski did a great job engaging the community. It also shows the resources available from our International union when it comes to helping our locals.”
Local efforts did not end on Election Day. Candidates endorsed and supported by affiliates also had a good night. The IAFF assisted in more than 50 candidate elections, claiming victory in 65% percent of these races. These successes include helping Frisco, TX Local 3732 elect a fire fighter-friendly candidate and send another to a run-off election with good momentum.
“A successful campaign starts long before voting begins,” says 11th District Vice President Sandy McGhee. “And nowhere was that more evident than in Frisco. Local 3732 President Matthew Sapp recognized that and began working with the IAFF to build the needed political capital more than one year before Election Day. And that was key for their endorsed candidates.”
Suncoast, FL Local 2546 worked successfully with the IAFF to elect several candidates to state legislatures, as well as fire fighter-friendly candidates to many fire commissions and city councils.
“Whether its local, state/provincial or federal elections, our union’s participation in the election process is paramount to our success in winning better pay and benefits for our members,” says 12th District Vice President Walt Dix. “And that is something Suncoast, FL Local 2546 President Phil Vets took to heart, successfully using IAFF assistance in campaigns for state legislature and fire commission.”
To request IAFF assistance, contact your local’s District Vice President.