State and provincial associations provide a wealth of services to their affiliated locals and members. Case in point is the Professional Fire Fighters of Utah (PFFU), which serves as the voice of its members and works hard to pass legislation benefiting members while working to stop harmful legislation.
“The PFFU and its members are at the state capitol every day the legislature is in session,” says PFFU President Jack Tidrow. “We are walking the halls, lobbying for labor-friendly bills and keeping our ears to the ground in case there are any moves to threaten our job safety or benefits.”
The top priority for this session for the Professional Fire Fighters of Utah was to recover lost fire fighter retirement funds. Last year, the state tax commission switched to a new computer software, and a glitch in the system resulted in a miscalculation in the amount of tax dollars that should have gone towards the fire fighters’ retirement trust fund.
The PFFU supported HB 6, allowing for money to be appropriated in the budget to bring the fund current. The legislation passed both houses of the state legislature and was signed by the governor.
Two other significant wins focused in on behavioral health concerns.
Utah locals have been working together to build a strong network of peer support for the past several years. Some peer team members expressed concern that they may be asked, at some point, to reveal the nature of the conversations with the fire fighters and other public safety personnel they are assisting.
The PFFU lobbied in favor of the Peer Support Team Member Protections bill (HB 13), which allows peer counselors to keep their conversations confidential without concern that management or another entity will press them to release information. The only exception is if the person in question poses a harm to him/herself or others.
“Both Colorado and Washington state had existing laws similar to HB 13, which was helpful in two ways,” explains Tidrow. “First, we were able to use their laws as templates to write our own. Second, the existing laws demonstrated to our state lawmakers that these protections could be in place without presenting any legal or liability issues.”
Meanwhile, the Mental Health Protections for First Responders bill is gaining support among Utah lawmakers, and would provide post-traumatic stress treatment coverage to all first responders. During this session, lawmakers approved the formation of a study group to gather supporting data and potential legislative language. The outlook is good that the legislation will be ready for consideration in the next session.
The PFFU was also able to help defeat legislation that would have had a negative impact on the labor movement, including a bill proposing to amend the state constitution to allow workers to work in a trade or profession without being licensed or certified. Working within the Utah One Coalition, the PFFU successfully lobbied to kill this bill before it was out of committee.