Federal fire fighters stand to gain important new benefits and improved working conditions with the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2022. As passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, the bill includes IAFF priority legislation allowing federal fire fighters to swap shifts. Other provisions will serve to better protect fire fighters from toxic PFAS and establish improved leave benefits for our 16th District members.

“The 72-hour workweek required of our federal fire fighters can be brutal. I know just how hard it can be to tend to personal or family matters without the flexibility of shift trades,” says General President Edward Kelly. “Correcting this 35-year oversight will go a long way in resetting the work-life balance of those impacted, as will the ability to take bereavement leave.”

An amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) in 1985 granted municipal and state fire fighters greater freedom to exchange duty days, but no similar benefit was granted to federal fire fighters. If enacted, the bill would provide federal fire fighters parity with their non-federal brothers and sisters.

Representatives Donald Norcross (D-NJ) and Rob Wittman (R-VA) worked closely with the IAFF to ensure the language based on original IAFF legislation sponsored by Representative John Sarbanes (D-MD) was included in the NDAA.

Additionally, the bill provides a new bereavement leave benefit for our federal members experiencing a death in their immediate family. Currently, federal fire fighters must use their vacation leave to cover workplace absences due to death within their family.

The bill also makes important steps forward in protecting fire fighters from PFAS by requiring the Department of Defense (DOD) to train its medical providers on the health impacts of PFAS, evaluate current and former members of the military, including veterans currently serving as fire fighters and their families, for PFAS exposure and by reaffirming the restricted use of PFAS-laden firefighting foam as the DOD continues its transition to a new, safer foam formulation.

Finally, the bill authorizes building new federal fire stations at the Letterkenny Army Depot in Pennsylvania and Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the legislation by a vote of 316 to 113 and it now moves to the United States Senate. The IAFF will continue its advocacy to ensure these important provisions are retained. Final passage is expected before the end of the calendar year.

“The NDAA includes critical components that will improve both existing working conditions and the health and safety of our federal brothers and sisters,” says Kelly. “We will continue to put our weight behind its passage.”   .