In First Days, Biden Delivers on Issues Important to Fire Fighters

January 24 • 2021

President Joe Biden is keeping his promise to America’s fire fighters and emergency medical personnel and is already beginning to deliver important actions on our members’ behalf. In his first three days in office, President Biden has issued executive orders that repeal dangerous anti-union actions of the previous administration (which negatively impacted our 16th District members); ordered a review of regulations on flame retardants and hazardous materials transportation that had failed to take fire fighter safety into account, and issued orders related to the pandemic that will provide our members with additional resources and establish stronger worker standards.

“I have been in direct contact with the Biden team over the past few months advocating for these actions.” says General President Harold Schaitberger. “Their issuance in the first three days of the new administration is a testament to the importance this union and our members will enjoy in the coming four years.”

On January 22, 2021, President Biden repealed three anti-union executive orders that limited collective bargaining and union time for federal fire fighters, and eliminated progressive discipline:

  • Executive Order 13836 of May 25, 2018 (Developing Efficient, Effective, and Cost-Reducing Approaches to Federal Sector Collective Bargaining)
  • Executive Order 13837 of May 25, 2018 (Ensuring Transparency, Accountability, and Efficiency in Taxpayer-Funded Union Time Use)
  • Executive Order 13839 of May 25, 2018 (Promoting Accountability and Streamlining Removal Procedures Consistent with Merit System Principles

Biden’s executive order also instructs agencies to engage in collective bargaining with federal employees and eliminates Schedule F, which threatened protections of career employees.

On January 20, 2021, President Biden directed federal agencies to review and take appropriate action to address regulations that are harmful to the public health. Included in the list of regulations to be reviewed are a number of regulations related to toxic flame retardants — regulations that the IAFF opposed because they did not fully take the health and safety of fire fighters and their unique exposure to such chemicals into account. Also subject to review is a regulation governing the transportation of liquefied natural gas by rail, which the IAFF also opposed as it put the safety of fire fighters and the public at risk.

On January 20 and January 21, 2021, President Biden signed a series of executive orders that will provide fire fighters with additional resources and protections as we continue to serve on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Biden executive orders will:

  • Within two weeks issue revised guidance to employers on workplace safety during the pandemic.
  • Review issuing an emergency temporary worker safety standard on COVID-19.
  • Enact the Defense Production Act to secure supplies necessary for responding to the pandemic so that those supplies are available to federal, state and local governments
  • Eliminate the local cost share for FEMA Public Assistance grants that provide funding to local governments for emergency protective measures, including fire department personal protective equipment (PPE), overtime and backfill needs, and provide advance funding and expedited reimbursement for eligible expenses.
  • Create the position of COVID-19 Response Coordinator, who will be responsible for coordinating all elements of the COVID-19 response across government, including managing efforts to produce, supply and distribute PPE, vaccines and tests. This level of coordination was lacking in the previous administration and undermined fire fighters’ ability to procure resources and receive appropriate guidance as it relates to the pandemic.

“Biden revoked the egregious executive orders made by the last administration,” says 16th District Vice President Jim Johnson. “He even took it a step further, granting federal sector union’s request to expand the scope of bargaining to topics that previously could only be bargained if the agency’s allowed it, including numbers, types and grades of positions. It’s great news.”

Biden also fired the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) general counsel, Peter Robb, who carried out the Trump administration’s anti-worker, anti-union policies. Biden will need to nominate a replacement for this position responsible for prosecuting cases in front of the NLRB. Meanwhile, Biden has already nominated Boston Mayor Marty Walsh — a long-time advocate of fire fighters and organized labor — to serve as Secretary of Labor.