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Harold Schaitberger

Mon, 4 May 2009|

IAFF General President Harold A. Schaitberger speaks at FDIC 2009.



-- -- -- I have been fortunate in my career. To participate in a great many fire service events most notably including FDIC. And often times and unable to thank those people provided me with those incredible opportunities. However this morning. I get the opportunity to express. But I know many of us would like to express. Our gratitude. Our thanks and perhaps most of all our admiration. The many sacrifices that CIA if that general president cheaper has made on our behalf. But how do you do that. How do you express something as important as that. I thought perhaps I needed to go to the true public the original poet homer. Was the author of the Iliad the Odyssey. There's a line from -- -- which express is the importance of character and commitment. It eulogize is the greatest men of his generation. Politicos like us. If they ever tell my story. Let them say that I walked with giant us men rise and fall like the winner we. But these names will never die. Let them say I lived. -- a time of Hector the -- -- portions. Let them stay. That I live in the time of Achilles. The fire fire version my version of that poetry today would be. If they ever tell my story. Let them say that I walked with giants. And will rise and fall like the winter wheat. But for firefighters these names will never die. Let them say that I live in a time of Bruno CV Norman and Brandon. Let them today. That I lived in the time. Of -- -- For those of you who may have been born yesterday. Harold -- is the ninth president of the -- And he has served as general president since 2000. Is a former Fairfax county Virginia fire fighter and he created our unions political and legislative programs. Is on the AF -- FA FL CIO executive committee. And he is the vice president of the AFL CIO executive council. He's the chairman of the board of trustees for the -- -- burn foundation. And a member of the IFF all of our federal memorial he is a friend and -- -- -- every firefighter. And continues to be a great friend of fire engineering a great friend to America in Canada. Please rise and join with me in welcoming the general president of the I have theft the honorable Harold cheeseburger. My goodness. Homer. -- -- started about high heeled. -- -- thank you for that. Very generous introduction. But I have to admit -- come out feeling. Humble. And quite frankly a little inadequate after. Following the presentation of the 2009. Com -- lifetime. Achievement award. -- chief John Norman I tell you what you. You're at the bar for all of us. An incredible career. Something I know you're proud but. Somethin' I wanna make sure that. Now on behalf that 295000. Men and women -- the idea that you epitomize. Everything that we hold dear. As a professional. Firefighter. The set the standards for all of -- follow. Congratulations. I would like it just does -- also. Good morning -- to my leadership here this district Indiana and there is great city of Indianapolis Tom Miller -- Friend and brother or over 35 years are. District vice president -- There's a great midwest to Tom Hannity who is our president of on behalf of the firefighters throughout the -- and Dwayne Smith local -- sixteenth president. And the work he's doing. On behalf of -- proud. Historically successful local. Want to make sure that I. Acknowledge their presence and thank them for all their work. Let me say this morning to my Brothers and sisters. All the I have to have members who are here and to those in this fire service -- it may not hold a proud union card. Our international union. This morning we gather together. At. The largest of trade show horses instructors conference that does such incredible work. Providing training. The basic needs for all of our. Brothers sisters members colleagues. To be able -- do the top job there asked to do. Be able to do it well -- efficiently. Efficiently. Be able to do it faith. The conference -- trade show this morning. There's at a time that. Is surely among the most economically challenging. And our nation's history. I don't think that the pain that our country is currently feeling news. Is -- by anybody in this audience. If not directly a friend and neighbor. My brother sister -- mother father. Child. We meet as millions of working Americans and their families are struggling to save their livelihoods. Try and stay in their home. Trying to hold on -- Some hopeful economic future. We're meeting while thirteen million American workers. Have lost their job they're out of work. Unemployment has been climbing every single month. 850000. Workers losing their job in each of the past four months 22000. Workers. Losing a job every single day. We wake up this morning with General Motors announcing they are now likely to close. Nine of their manufacturing plant fifteen excuse me for night we. And the ripple that battle likely have throughout. Entire. North America with parts manufacturers and suppliers is. Only gonna that. Crisis the world currently -- The financial markets we watch them crash. Falling to their lowest levels in fifteen years. Not just about your own 401 -- -- 450 evidence that are half of what they once sure. It's setting the stage for an attack on our retirement systems that now find themselves dressed. So many underfunded. Leaving those it would like to really attacked. Undo decades of work. And opportunity -- so. No we look around our neighborhoods and our cities and our communities and home values lower and lower and lower. Driving taxed at that and -- lower and lower. Revenues are on the decline. Neighborhoods deteriorated. They can structures endangering. Your lives. My members' lives. The banking some odd might have loosened up a little bit. Effectively been frozen. Credit. Businesses going under. Individuals. Unable to get credit. Result fewer jobs. More jobs -- And yes. I translates into less and less revenue again. For all of your communities. The greatest country. On this earth. A nation. That is the only super power. On this -- -- a 49 million Americans that are still without health insurance. And those that do have coverage. We thank god is that. Virtually all of my members they're watching their premiums go up. Skyrocketing co pays -- increase in some case is the quality of care is folly. And I don't have to tell you particularly those. As we shouldn't be running. Our EMS operations. -- America -- C fire and rescue service 91 why. Now become their pathway to too many. And how are they getting their health care. They're going to the emergency rooms. -- -- and transported the most. -- of transport system and the industry they're going to the most expensive medical delivery system. And the industry. And -- those less fortunate. For. Doing -- And have no other place to go. More and more stress placed on you us our profession. And on top of all this we have the men and women. Proudly wear the uniform of our nation's. Many of them I have -- members. Many of them from the ranks of the fire service at every level. Still fighting in two costly wars. Costly both financial and human terms and Iraq and Afghanistan. With all of that as -- backdrop the morning clearly these are extraordinary times a day are extremely high. And we are faced with a major challenge adds the leaders in this country's fire service all of. -- -- -- her. Union officials. Leaders and our community. From all parts of our industries. And clearly we have to respond to these challenges. At the national level the IFF has been working. Trying to work hard to ensure that our nation's emergency services. Weren't forgot and the last stimulus bill. We've all read a lot about it. Hundreds of billions of dollars. B and -- out to communities. -- local government. Getting their share. And the fact of the matter is that after private meetings with highest officials and our nations administration. The president and the vice president. I've had the opportunity to talk to. And to talk to about the things that are important to me and I hope that things that are important to all of you. Because who we talked about. Was the -- We talked about our members all across our nation. Those who are working under tremendous pressure to protect their communities while city county and municipal budgets are being lashed around them. We discussed the imperative idea of keeping our communities -- in these uncertain times that now is not that time. To allow the front line of our homeland defense all of you in this room and beyond like you not here today to be weakened. I've spoken. To the leadership of our congress majority leader Reid that speaker Pelosi. And a number of other senate congressional leaders. Talking to them about the need to make sure that we get our share. That's just because we want our -- because we are entitled to make shore. And -- -- resource to do. But tough and difficult and dangerous job. That you've chosen. But they're -- were also asked to do. On behalf of our citizens. And out of those discussions and out of those efforts. -- some help. Eight point eight billion dollars in discretionary funds it was finally set aside after a lot of arguing. The truth of the matter is not directed hate to use to lots. Its aid which is controlled by the governors -- -- day. So now we have additional work to do. Now we have to go state by state governor by governor collectively to ensure that our share in order. To keep fired jobs to keep those rigs. The key stations open to keep the companies running. -- that share is there to help us shore up. Our services that were expected to deliver. Well we got little help 210 million dollars a targeted for fire station construction I'm not gonna. Minimize that. But the fact of the matter is that I really know the reality of what the stimulus. Legislation did. But more importantly I know what it did not do. And we did not get battling what we want more importantly we didn't get but we needed what you need. And we didn't get what this profession deserves. What we're entitled to the -- be able. To do our work. Now I'm -- skies so you can bet your house. That I've communicated this -- unions unhappiness. With what is could be a friendly administration. And congress. There's Bobby said this morning in his remarks are not agents didn't work. I want a CD. I want to see the result. Of the leadership and those that. We help elect. To run our governments at all level. To do the right thing. I reached out just this week. Spoken last week that the speaker again the majority leader Steny Hoyer and leader -- -- met yesterday with Dick Europe. We're doing our part. We're trying to T this. Stimulus fix. Backed up. And the result is I believe we now have. The hope of getting the process to respond to you. And our members. -- department. Our communities. I believe we have a solution. Now. Ready to go forward. We're looking for the right vehicle whether it's the supplemental. Bill that's going through the congress now whether we run it as a standalone which I discussed with Chuck Schumer and other leadership yesterday. Earlier this week. I am confident that now we have their attention I'm confident that they're committed to do the right thing get. And I'm confident that and the coming week. You're jurisdictions are gonna be able to the the dedicated re source of fire departments to keep firefighters writing those rates. We're gonna bring back the hundreds of our members that have been laid off. We're gonna fill those arrests that have been left empty through attrition. We're gonna do it because it's the right thing to do we're gonna do it because it -- -- responsibility to make sure that our industry and our profession. Is fully prepared and fully staff. We're gonna do it together. But it's gonna take all of us to make sure that we're focused. On it together. What lobby and really. Around this first package reinforced for me. I hope -- my message will get through his. But knowing the strong challenges that tight budgets and budget does -- have leveled it all of you back home. That that we yet we're up against it. Does not going to be -- one fight the next fight. Mean in this crisis this it's not enough to remind lawmakers that -- firefighters is putting the safety of your community at risk quite frankly. It's reminding him that the fiscal emergencies many jurisdictions are -- C. Are just simply too great and the lawmakers. And the decision makers. Have to do the right think. They have to respond -- like we. Are responding on their behalf. To our communities. I'm troubled by so many challenges. That I see and right. I have to call it like -- yet and certainly as I feel it. We've got -- -- CMA. It ends up against every single thing I believe is an important advance our agenda. On behalf of our profession. Time after time. I've got to watch NATO looking. Cut pennies and dollars at the expense of firefighter safety. I've got to watch the league of cities use management groups like -- data. The propose what they call -- cost cutting program. And now we got -- data. -- and -- -- study. But if we try to make the case that the cancer presumption laws and the protection that that provides to our members. And the firefighters all across two nations is it just apply. There is no link. They say the link between fire fighting cancer can't really be connected. They say anything just to amply justified. The dangerous cuts that they would like to. Implement. They'd like to roll back the programs that we've built over time. They'd like to prevent our movie now. Health and safety agenda forward and why cause they cost a few bucks. Well I can tell you this -- -- -- -- -- Knows that it's our members it's all of you that continue to crawl down those hallways. -- our members and all of you that are exposed to hostile environment and carcinogens over a career. And I can tell you that. The big cities has once again taken on a fight that I don't think that they're ready for and tried data has taken on -- union that we're gonna see as far as I'm concerned that they don't do business and our industry anymore. -- data has woken up. This IDF that once again. It's times like these that the needs of our profession get really put it for a fact that when weaknesses and certain aspects of our operation. Is getting close and then turn around and attack. The job losses we've experienced this company -- station closes the brownouts the furloughs. They're all a reflection of these economic realities we face but these cutbacks are also a result of those that want to use this economic crisis. As and -- is simply got our operations. Let those rigs right under that who's gonna notice. Long -- that general public. Isn't coming out of -- -- dole. Let's go to explain to them the difference in writing full. And writing on day. Was unable to make sure that citizens under -- that it's them at risk. And certainly our own members and you at risk. That's all of our collective jobs together to do. And where this crisis -- -- aren't much Churchill said in the 1940s probably is right today that. This isn't the end. Not the beginning of the end but rather the end of the beginning. The reality is that we have several more of these budget cycles in front of us during which will be dealing. With the effects. Of this recession. Teetering on depression. It doesn't do us any good to deny that the value of the assets used to generate local government revenues plummeted. -- we've already seen that this crisis has resulted in government funded agencies everywhere. Contracting. Out -- decreasing in size reducing -- and depth of services. As public workers for those that work in this industry. We're caught up in that contraction. -- I'm asking all of you here today. As you in this audience. We have I have felt leaders that I know here are not members here and I -- we have chief officers here. We have the volunteer community here and some of this we're all together and trying to protect. The integrity. Of the work we do the truth is we collectively. Are not always on the same page -- I I get that. We have our different institutions. We have our different organizations. We sometimes see our areas of responsibility. Somewhat different we have our own agendas were pushy. And our own constituency -- have to answer to. But on one issue I believe we all can yet be truly together we're all accountable. And ultimately that's the safety and security a firefighters responding to emergency. That's what I think -- all about. I think of value judgments about any of our organizations when it comes to that. I know our union I often say the club. -- this isn't a fraternity where it. We're gonna trade union. -- committed to improvement. Hopefully in -- the careers of our members but most importantly. We're here to make sure that they live. All of us. Recognize the proud traditions of our profession. Sad truth is that. We do great jobs at funerals. I was -- a wonderful memorial service. Just last week in Houston. -- in Harlem. To more of our own lost. In the -- duty. You know that. The pipers -- the drums beat. Honor guard stands erect and proud. Standing -- attention. We have our traditions. We do wonderful job in honoring our own fallen. But our job really need to be. So committed to make sure that we go to less and -- Of these honorable and off. Everybody in this room and every one of -- have to really be committed. To try to make this job a little bit safer. Until -- those that use it as a career. To be able to enjoy your retirement at the end of proud of their proud service to their community. More than anything I believe all of us. Should be pretty unique unified message to those who control the purse strings and our jurisdictions on this issue. Because we're not on the same page we don't agree the being -- the ability to do. Being counted sixty firefighters with dollars signs are not going to do anything other than try to close companies. -- initiate -- they'll try to close stations. They'll really excited get many of us against each other. Because -- they can turn our attention to each other expense some of our energy that we may actually. Not get after those that are really causing the problem and really expose people. You know there are going to and have already been taken -- depth further. And too many ways they're cutting higher crew sizes and god help firefighters and put the public when that happens. All I ask all of you what should our unified bottom line -- Well -- -- point of all these words. -- in here this morning and I admit that to do the job to protect. Firefighters and EMS workers on the front lines we must. Not just weathered the storm by having a realistic strategy grounded in safety and security of the men and women. Who ride those -- We've got to act we've got that. Turned our words entities. Where -- -- on the line it's our duty. To protect. To protect our own. Must keep our members safe as possible but they're doing this job. As far as I'm concerned we have no other choice we have no other duty to those that most of us have -- at least -- And one capacity or another so as you engage the decision makers in your own jurisdictions. As they seek ways to cut during the fiscal crisis -- no understanding about the effects of crew size reductions on. Our members' safety -- the risk to the community. We must make sure and tell them we're drawing the line. And I -- that we must hold the line on the issues where life and death. Our concern and for -- that line is adequate acting. Adequate that it is imperative. At the individual. Company. We do a lot of talking last night you know I I know those rigs. Should never roll out with less than fours and fives you know when I know what will make excuses some can't make that. Meet that -- yet but that's what they should be right. And where we're already below those numbers further cuts are simply had death and it. For our members and for the citizens they're serving. And we cannot be shy about saying that. We can't try to do what we always intend to do -- -- our culture to do. And that is we're just gonna make it work. We got to make sure the media and the public under stands really -- that day we must clearly make that case. And we must say in no uncertain terms that closing companies and fire houses is dangerous. And we -- try to prevent that. But we cannot let a -- roll out. Of a station understaffed under any circumstances. If we gotta close the company if we got it closes station. I'll take that fight to the community I'll take that -- to the neighborhoods but we cannot give up -- ride we can't give up a spot on -- That's our job that's of the opposition. It's bad for everybody the public in his life threatening. For you. Firefighters throughout two great countries. Represented here there's going to be tough decision estimate. You're gonna be asked to make painful adjustments and other areas to going to be asked by mayors city managers I've been all over this country. I've -- swat are locals are trying to do. -- know what they're trying the -- that they're up against but as the guardians. Of our members as the guardians of public safety our core mission is still simply. To ensure. Their safety. It's clear to me that our union is in the business of one thing we call -- protecting the protector. And I believe that every -- out here. Is committed. And feels same way. When we find ourselves on this agreement across the bargaining table -- -- that happens. Somebody you know on the line you know gets a little out of line. You know find ourselves. Arguing over a disciplinary measure but when it comes down to are we keep -- -- people today. I know every chief officers as committed. Certainly is a union and every union out or just simply do that every company officer and every line firefighter. I know feels the same way. And I believe you feel it. Whether your door for a living. But whether those of you -- doing it just. In your community. We're all stakeholders and this were all concerned about the same thing get. And ultimately we have to be on the same page on this issue. But we're gonna be party to increasing the level of danger. To our own members the dangers there already face our bottom line -- that -- keep staffing levels today. -- work. Hard do. Not going to be easy but if we use the less than we've already learned from our past. We've already have the guidance we need on how to build for a stronger future. That we can get it done what we already know that can help us is what we have me over time. Fire departments -- this but the fact of the matter is that those department positioned to provide the widest range of safety services. Particularly integrated -- emergency medical response are the most likely to be able to resist cuts that affect. Your members their safety and their security. We know that the more valuable that we make. Our members and ourselves to our communities whether it's cross trained paramedic response whether it's technical rescue -- game confined space left water. Whether Hazmat WMD training and we by. Are some of the more unconventional services -- we're really beginning to explore. Blood pressure pressure screen based providing flu shots fired dictation programs. All of this we know. Can help secure our department's. And the firefighters. That are in them. It's just -- the night -- we gonna do it. We're gonna be able to bust out of some of our culture. We're going to be at a side some of -- tradition. We know this because we've seen it time and time again in his 21 entry. And times where our member security and -- -- threatened. It is imperative that every department head. In that direction. Every one of us in that direction and if we all put our shoulders to that we'll. At proverbial wheels it's gonna roll. And a week push in the same direction. It out of these challenging times will emerge stronger fire service. I say let's continue our work but let's lift it up to another level. Let's -- areas where we hear have a common interest and common responsibilities. And use them to advance. The agenda on behalf of our combined members let's continue our tradition. Of meeting adversity head on out. And let's get the job done for those on the frontlines. Every day every play. That's my challenge to you. We have to -- God bless you and may god bless every firefighter soldier on the front lines everywhere.

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