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FDIC 2011 General Session: Harold Schaitberger

Thu, 24 Mar 2011|

Harold Schaitberger, general president of the International Association of Fire Fighters, delivers a speech at FDIC 2011.

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Transcript

I wonder how Bill really feels. >> [LAUGH] >> Wow. [LAUGH] Unbelievable. That was great. One more time, Bill. [APPLAUSE]. [BLANK AUDIO] I can't wait for the letters. [SOUND] But I'm an editor I like to read. [SOUND] You know, here at FDIC we couldn't do what we do without a tremendous amount of help, as you all know, from all the fire departments that help us, the manufacturers, and the vendors. We've got such tremendous partners. The team of people who work on it. All our great friends. All of you all, who contribute to the magazine and who give us great ideas about what to do with the show. But some partners really rise above all the others. And they do things that we don't even ask them to do. They, they make overtures to us. They do some really fantastic, just some fantastic things that you just can't. Expect people would do those kinds of things. One of those partners that we have here is the local IFD union. And their union president Wayne Smith is in the room. I don't want to embarrass him. Make him blush. But we do some things like the Courage of Valor 5k Fun Run. And a lot of people say that they walk the walk and talk the talk or they back themselves up by their actions But we started doing that a few years ago. Glen stepped right up and he put the union money behind that activity, cuz what he knows that healthy firefighters are safer firefighters. So he sponsors every single IFD runner through their union activities and fundraisers. But he did that without anybody asking him because he understands firefighter safety comes first and foremost. With having healthy, well taken care of and well supported firefighters. Wayne Smith's in the audience so please stand, Wayne. [SOUND] He lends us his union hall, he gives us support, he gives us his people, he's a man of his word, he's an honest guy. That's a real, that's, that's leadership. He doesn't ask for a bunch of limelight. He doesn't, throw his name out there and he, he just shows up when he needs to show up. And ladies and gentlemen, that's the kind of guy we need at the front of the organizations. [APPLAUSE] [SOUND] This is like the best part of my job. I get to introduce all these super great people. It makes me feel like a sack of garbage, but they're really great people. [LAUGH] So, this is really fun for me. It's my honor this morning to be allowed to introduce a long time leader. Leader. A long time innovator and a long time friend of the fire service. End of FDIC in fire engineering. End every firefighter in America. He has spent a lifetime tirelessly trying to improve our working conditions, our compensation, and our welfare. General President Howard Shakespeare is the 9th president of the IAFF. He has served as the General President for us since 2000. He's a former Fairfax County Virginia firefighter, and in 1976, he created the union's political and legislative programs. He's on the AFL, L-CIO executive committee, and he's the Vice President of the AFL-CIO executive counsel. He's the chairman of the board at the IAFF Burn Foundation, and he's a board member for the IAFF Fallen Firefighters memorial. It gives me tremendous pleasure to welcome back home to FDIC again, our general president, please welcome me, and in joining, and in, in. [SOUND] My mouth is broken today. Please help me in welcoming our good friend, the General President of the IAFF, Harold Schaitberger. [APPLAUSE] Thank you. Thank you, Bobby. It's a. It's always a privilege to be here at the nation's largest gathering of fire service leaders. And for me what makes this FDIC such a great venue is that, it's all the components of our fire service. Of our fire fighting family, fire fighters. Fire officers, command, management, labor. They all converge on Indianapolis for this informative, cutting edge conference. So Bobby, I congratulate you on a, on another great event. And I wish everybody a successful week. I also just wanna take a second to, introduce and recognize two great leaders within our union. You know with 300,000 members in over 3,000 locals, 50 state councils, 7 Canadian provincials, it takes leadership to really represent our members' interests. And so, I certainly wanna recognize the president of our Indianapolis Local 415 and that is Wayne Smith. Wayne, thank you for all you do. Congratulations on the work that you've been doing on behalf of our members. [APPLAUSE] And fighting the fights here in Indiana. Making sure that our members are represented and their agenda is advanced as our state council president, Tom Hannithy, Tom, thank you for your leadership. As you might imagine, I am very proud of, my members. I'm very proud to have simply have been one of them. And still one of them. And I'm proud of the tens of thousands of those members that have attended this conference over the years. I, I always just liked to get a sense of how many members. If I have some members in the audience, so everybody who. As an IFF member, would you raise your hand for a second. Oh that's a great turnout. Well that's incredible. And and it's great to see so many of you here today. Sisters and brothers, and ladies and gentlemen, whether you're a career or volunteer firefighter. With your align officer, parametric, EMS professional. Our chief officer. We really did all start out the, with the same goals, the same interests. Well, we wanted to serve our community. Bill laid that out pretty clearly with his, terrific remarks just a moment ago. Is being thwarted by short-sighted politicians and their allies looking to chop funding and support for emergency services, and looking to gut our fundamental rights and silence our political voices. Last year I had the opportunity to stand on this stage. And I talked about the threats that were on the horizon while we were in the grip of the worst economic crisis this country has experienced since the great depression. I talked about the threats we were going to be facing at every level of government, federal, state and local. Threats that would impact our staffing. Threats that would impact our training programs. Threats that would threaten our fire prevention and public education efforts. Those tha would make cuts in our federal and state aid. And, yes, for those of us where the fire service. It's a full time career, threats and battles by those ruthlessly try to kill and destroy our retirement and pension plans. When we last gather here in Indie. I said, that the IFF was mobilizing, that we were preparing for the battles. And that we'll be willing to use our resources to defend our members in our profession in this service. And I invited you and your parent organizations to join us in these battles. I said there was a violent storm on the way, that we could clearly see it in the horizon. Well that storm has clearly arrived. And since the elections just four short months ago, the political landscape in this country have been transformed and we have seen an ideological shift of historic proportions. And that shift isn't very friendly to the American fire service. New members of Congress, new governors, new state legislators who rode a wave of public anger and public fear. Rode that wave in to office are taking aim at us. They're taking aim at all of us. This new breed of politician feels very comfortable blaming you for their deficits, and cheapening the vital lifesaving work that firefighters and paramedics do in cities and towns, large and small, rural and urban, across this great country of ours. This is nothing less than the most comprehensive, organized, coordinated assault on our rights, resources, programs, that we have fought for, you have fought for, and won over the decades in Washington D.C. and in state capitals. All across our nation. For my IAFF brothers and sisters, it is also the most vicious, direct, frontal attack on worker's rights and our union that I've ever witnessed in the forty years that I've had the privilege to serve as union officer. Simply put, many newly elected officials in Congress and state legislatures don't believe that they should have any responsibility for helping to fund local emergency services. They wanna turn the spicket off and if that means career firefighters get laid off, so be it. And ff that means volunteers don't get fuel subsidy or can't get bunker gear replaced. So be it. And if that means that communities safety will suffer and people may die. So be it. Now because this gang wants either smaller government. Or as they rail day after day. So many cases that we see. They don't want any government at all. And whether you like it or not, whether you hold this as a job or not. Firefighting is an essential part of our society. Firefighters are an essential part of our government. And we depend on government support at all levels. We depend on government funding at all levels. And the fact is that we all serve as one of the cornerstones of government, and the reason it's established. It's really that simple. And so as we face these battles, I'm suggesting to you that it's no longer possible to say. Hey, I'm a firefighter but I don't care about politics. I know who my members are. I suspect I know who you are in this room. We are a cross section of America. We are Republicans and we're Democrats. We're conservatives and we're moderate. And there's a great sliver of us that thinks politics is just a bunch of crap. And we don't want anything to do with it. We dont have the luxury to say hey just let me do my job. Just let me make my runs. I don't want to get involved. As I've always told our members and our leadership over these years, elections matter. And elections have consequences and if you're not in the political arena, we all lose. The fire service loses and our community loses. And now this new breed of politician is simply taking aim. They're taking aim at us. Not just our profession but they're taking aim at those of us that have chosen a career to represent the interests of those who engage in this honorable work. No now they simply want to take and attack our union. Now they're pursuing all kinds of legislation to try to simply cripple us. They wanna eliminate dues deduction in Alabama, Tennessee, Oklahoma, and Florida now ready to take the next shots. All of this isn't about helping the public, or doing anything about budgets. This is about destroying our ability to do our work on behalf of. Our members in this profession. Now their pushing bills in fifteen states to simply silence our political voice. To prevent us from operating in that arena where everybody is elected has all the power makes all the decisions. They get to hold the goals. And they want to silence our voice. They hope this tactic will simply cripple our ability to advance our members' agenda. But I'm gonna tell my members here and anyone else who is interested in this room that nothing is going to quiet this union. Nothing is gonna silence our voice. Our political voice and the work and the battle of this IAFF will go on to improve our members' lives. [SOUND] And we intend to fight. We intend on fighting for our members' rights, and we intend on fighting for the fire service. And so all of you can simply do what you've chosen to do. To do your jobs and to do them safely and to do them with adequate resources. And to do them so that you can go home to your families after you've finished your service and duty to your communities. Now these attacks are coming fast and furious. They're coming from every direction. They're coming across every region in this country. But I will tell you this, this union has been here since 1918. And we have faced adversity before. And as God as my witness, we are not gonna sit back, we're not gonna watch our enemies try to destroy our union, our members' livelihoods, or this fire service. We're not gonna let them bankrupt everything that you try to do, and so we are ready to fight back, and we're gonna do it with everything we have. We going to be taking a look at congress. And let's just take a look at this congress. Only a couple of months in session. Think back, 2000. The year 2000, we celebrated the Fire Act. 2002 we celebrated the Safer Act,. Both becoming law, both providing incredible resources to our profession. And over the last decades they've pumped no less than billions of dollars in to our fire departments, volunteer and career. Everyone in this room knows the value of these programs and beyond. But I give you two examples of the mindless attacks that our enemies are now waging. First, in running for the Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Jack Kingsman, Kingston, from Georgia, published a [UNKNOWN]. Attacking the Fire Act Program as being, as he said, "poorly run and an unnecessary program." Well thankfully he didn't win the chairmanship of that committee and we've at least been spared his wrath from a position of leadership. Then just a few weeks ago, these new zealots. In the house, tempted to cut the fire act. And zero out the safer program. And doing this at a time where thousands of laid off IAFF members, where under staffing is occurring at every level within our fire service. Where cities are experiencing brown outs. Stations closed companies shut downs. And risks all across the nation. This budget cutting morons wanted to eliminate the entire program, that's now brough several fire fighters back to work over these last 16 months. Well, thankfully, we all pull together. And thankfully we had two champions in the house. Bill [UNKNOWN]. Of New Jersey and David Price and North Carolina. They stepped up, and they offered amendments to restore the funding to this year's level. And ensure the safer funds could be used to rehire laid off firefighters. There were over 400 amendments offered during the house budget committee floor fight. And of those 400, only 12 passed. And two of them with the past grill and price amendments. That brought 500 million dollars back into our fire service, and made sure that, that money could be used. To bring those that have been given a pink slip. Back to work, or hang their turn-outs on their rigs one more time. Now we accomplish a lot with that battle. And we can take a moment and try to celebrate and savor that victory. But the real truth is we can't even begin to rest on our laurels, because the reality is that. We just hold our own. And nothing more. And now the fight is in the United States Senate. And we're gonna be battling the same mindsets and the same interest in trying to reduce our funding. Our enemies are trying to cut every program. It's important to emergency services and fire services and homeland security and first responders' initiatives in communities large and small and mark my words when the two [UNKNOWN] came from Fairfax and L.A. returned last weekend from Japan. These political hypocrites are clamouring for photo OPs to be taken with them, bragging about the extraordinary work that they are doing across the sea. But are they gonna step up to the plate to ensure that our 28 [UNKNOWN] teams across this country are be analytical resource. You know the answer to that. Hell no. They're not gonna step up and give us the money. They're just gonna step up and give us the lip service and then try to take the credit for it. And while we see these attacks on funding across our fire service, we're also seeing attacks in a dozen or more states on our fundamental rights, our collective bargaining rights. In New Hampshire, just the latest, two nights ago. It passed a bill on their budget that simply removed every impass procedure. Their entire arbitration law, and said that the city and the union couldn't come to an agreement at the end of their contract. That all employees will become at role employees. And that the city would have unilateral authority to impose any salary benefits, or working conditions, it saw fit. Now after decades of amicable resolving issues at the bargaining table, now these ideologues wanna strip our members of those basic workplace rights. They're saying that they're being fiscally responsible. The fact is they're simply robbing workers of their opportunity to have some say in their livelihood. Our enemies claim that they're doing this out of the best interest of the taxpayers. But we all know a crock of crap when we see one, and this is certainly one. This is nothing less than an assault. This is an assault. Not on a balancing budgets, not on reducing deficits. This is about the balance of power. They want us out and they want to have unilateral control of everything that we're about. And quite honestly, they want this union dead. The fact is, until recently, the media was saying, get away with it. But, I can tell you, we sure as hell haven't being laying there getting away with it over these last many couple of months. And we are fighting back, and we are fighting back with everything we have. And I had been of our members and our leaderships in Wisconsin, in Ohio, in Florida, in Oklahoma, [UNKNOWN] Nebraska, Tennessee, Alabama and in state after state where we are seeing these battles. You have watched a coverage on TC, TV. You have seen the rallies, the marches, the protests, the sit-ins. Held against those who think they have a mandate to destroy all that we've worked for over all these decades. And I've been so proud of my members and leadership and I've been proud to march with them and rally with them. And to stand up with them against our political opponents and fight back. Because collective bargaining isn't just about wages and benefits. It's about safety and it's about staffing. It's about making sure that our people get the state of the art safety equipment, appropriate bunker gear, have the resources they need to do their jobs safely and effectively. Let me just give you a couple of the ugly facts that are occurring. In Ohio, Governor Kasich is pushing a 100-page bill that totally eviscerates the bargaining rights and standards that have been in place since 1983. That law has allowed our locals to bargain for jo, joint labor management safety committees, to successfully reduce injuries and improve operation. In Wisconsin, Governor Walker is repealing a bargaining law that's been in existence since 1959. 50 years, a half a century of bargaining, wiped out with one act of a legislature, and one stroke of a pen. That's the law that's allowed us to bargain for minimum staffing per shift. And per piece. And in Michigan, Governor Snyder supports allowing state, the state to place a local government trustee in charge of a city or a community and flat out have complete, unilateral power. And one of the things they're promoting? The concept of public safety officer. Now how about that? Who in this room thinks that having cops donning turnout gears, and attempting to fight fires is somehow good for our fire service, good for our communities, and good for our citizens. I say, no, I say hell no, it's not. But that's the mindset we're dealing with. Now it's in New Jersey with Governor Christie where he's threatening to eliminate local aid if jurisdictions don't voluntarily consolidate and regionalize their fire service operations. These are just a few of the concerted attacks that are taking place all over this country right now. And I know many chief officers in here. Quite frankly, don't necessarily like the collective bargaining process, and I think they find it sometimes to maybe hamper their operations. They're weary of the AAF, and maybe our union in general. But I tell you what. I think that it has shown over time. To not only be important to members of this IFF. It's important to our whole profession. Because what we're able to do as we work at the bottom ultimately flows to the top. And so whether you hold an IFF membership card or not, my view is that right now we are all in this together. And it is, as President Kennedy so eloquently said, a rising tide does raise all boats, and we've been proud to at least play some small role, and hopefully an important role to help raise that tide for all of our brothers and sisters. And the fire department. And in the fire service. Whether you choose it as a full time career or not. So as I have lined up here, let me just take a moment to focus on one particular aspect insidious attack that's occurring in our profession. And whether you're a new recruit, just out of the academy, or a 30 year chief officer, I hope you hear me loud and clear. Your pension and retirement system is under attack. And it doesnt matter whether your pension system is funded or underfunded. Doesn't matter whether it has a modest or generous benefit structure. You're under attack. This is all about the money. They don't want you to have a guaranteed retirement plan. They want you to be in charge of your own individual dollars. And then Wall Street benefits. It's the next cash cow of the stock market. Just look at what's happening in a couple of these states. Florida is attacking our pension plan, when our plan is 100%. 101% funded. New York Governor Cuomo is targeting our plans, even though the state, fire and police plan is 108% funded. And where the funding is in trouble, most of the time it's in trouble because those that were responsible to pay their share, not the employees paying their share. Failed to do so. Let's take a look at New Jersey. In the year 2000 they had a $7.5 billion surplus in the plan. The state failed to make their full actuarial payments, they skipped payments altogether. They did this for over a decade. And by 2008 with a market that crashed. They've got a liability now, $34 billion, and they want to put it at the feet of firefighters. They want to put the blame on our members, and the fact of the matter is it was caused by mismanagement, it was caused by management not standing up and doing their part. We've had to listen to those talk about shared sacrifice. How much shared sacrifice have we listened to. During this economic crisis. Well I tell you that I think you all being sacrificing. And I watched our affiliates. And I watched you go back to the tables. I watched you take the [UNKNOWN] days, the waste concessions, the benefit deferrals. I watched us tried to do our part. But I'll tell you today that doing our part may be one thing. But if they thought that we're gonna sit back and let them destroy the retirement security of our members, than they've got another thing com, coming. Our pension plans were built over dac, decades of sacrifice. Your sacrifice. And forgot that you gave up so much on the front end to be able to build these plans that you need. And you're entitled to at the end of a career. You paid for these benefits over the years. These are deferred wages of yours. This isn't any damn gift. This is something that you've earned and no one that thinks they've given you anything, that's given you anything, is gonna get away with that thought. I'll tell you that, because we're gonna stand up and we're gonna fight back and protect your retirement security. [APPLAUSE] [APPLAUSE] Sisters and brothers. The stakes really couldn't be higher for all of us, every one of us in this great fire service of ours. And we are engaged in an incredible battle all across the land. But it's also an incredible opportunity. I think it's an opportunity and a defining moment for us, to continue to come together. It's a time that we're gonna have, be able to make history. And we're gonna make that history over the course of the next many months, one way or the other. And we can make the most of this fight. Or we can slide into the abyss. It's really up to us. Every one of us. It's up to all of you. We can't just sit back and watch this play out on the evening news. And we can't be silent. We cannot let them use the old divide and conquer technique. Let's pit one part of the fire service against the other part of the fire service. Let's make sure we divide the floor from command. If we can just get them to divide and fight among themselves then the real enemy gets to stand on the side lines and watch us battle it out. And we end up paying the price. Now we've gotta come together and inject the truth into these debates. And more importantly, we have to commit all of our boots on the ground. This is about calling our opponents out. It is about seeing that collectively we will not tolerate the fire service to be shortchanged. We're not gonna tolerate cuts in the fire act. USAR, URC, safer and beyond. We're not gonna tolerate cuts in our local fire department. This is about all of us standing together and, as you might imagine, I know most of my remarks are normally directed toward an audience of proud union members. And I'm damn proud to be allowed and privileged to represent their interests. But I also know that many in this audience today. Are not members of our union. But you are a critical part of America's fire service. You are line firefighters and paramedics. You are instructors and chief officers. You are hazmat techs and EMS providers. And all of you, all of us, are part of the same family. The American Fire Service. And we are all under attack. So we see these battles around us, the storm now has arrived. And it's arrived with fury. We've gotta find a way to survive this storm. I can promise to you this IAFF will fight back with every penny. Every dollar, every bit of power and influence that we've got. The old days we use to say come to the game with everything it takes to play the game, money, marbles and chalk. And that's what we're going to do. I ask all of you to join with us. This is our moment to make a difference. This is our moment to be heard. This is our moment to fight back and this is our moment that together we will win again. We will be here when they are long gone. Good luck to you. Have a great week. Thank you and God bless every firefighter on the front line everywhere. [APPLAUSE] Thank you. Thank you. [APPLAUSE] >> Thank you so much. Thank you. [APPLAUSE] >> You know, to hear these comments today is important, because history matters. 100 years ago in New York City, we had the Triangle Shirt fire. That fire was responsible for the beginning of the movement to ensure that people don't work in conditions that threaten their lives. That fire made a tremendous difference to New York City, to the firefighters, but more importantly to the workers who at that point in time had no means of escape. And who died tragically and needlessly. That's what the boss is talking about. Thank you. [SOUND] I want to thank you all for being here. Thank you Wayne for helping us out. Jack, oh, that's Mr. Hanafese there. There he is. [APPLAUSE] Thank you for coming. Remember we got the fun run tonight. It's a 6 o'clock in white river park. It's in memory of Steve [UNKNOWN], if you can make it after that is stop Rock N' Roll at the Indiana ball room. Please make it out there and support the national fallen fire fighters. The moral stair climb is at 1 o'clock tomorrow, followed by battle of the bands, followed by the union party. So in between there try to go to classes. All right. Love you all. God bless and be safe. [APPLAUSE]

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