IAFF President: Volunteering "a personal choice"

Washington, D.C. -- In response to the growing trend of local unions harassing career firefighters for volunteering and increasing concerns on Capitol Hill regarding the issue, International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) General President Harold Schaitberger wrote a letter dated July 25 to Rep. Felix J. Grucci, Jr. (R-NY) to address the issue. The letter outlines the IAFF's position on union members who are affiliated with volunteer fire companies.

"Although the IAFF has certainly fallen short of telling their locals to stop harassing their firefighters who volunteer during their off-duty hours, we are encouraged that Mr. Schaitburger's letter states that the IAFF does not support actions that would jeopardize the ability of a career firefighter to maintain active membership in volunteer organizations," said NVFC Chairman Philip C. Stittleburg.

"We look forward to working with the IAFF to address the article in their Constitution that allows firefighters to be brought up on charges simply for belonging to their local volunteer fire company."

Article XV of the IAFF constitution says that a firefighter may be reprimanded, fined, removed from office, suspended, or expelled for "advocating or encouraging any labor or any other rival organization, or acquiring or maintaining membership in any such organization including volunteer fire departments or associations."

In recent months there have been many reports that local IAFF affiliates are threatening to take action against their members if they do not stop volunteering in their local communities. The NVFC has received reports from concerned firefighters in Maryland, Virginia, New York, California, Oregon, Washington State, Florida, and Ontario, Canada.

In his letter, Schaitburger states, "The IAFF does not support actions that would jeopardize the ability of a career firefighter to obtain or maintain active membership in a volunteer organization. This is a personal choice."

Stittleburg added, "We hope that union leadership will make it clear that their locals should not force firefighters to choose between union membership and community service."

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