Thu, 24 Mar 2011|
Harold Schaitberger, general president of the International Association of Fire Fighters, delivers a speech at FDIC 2011.
Automatically Generated Transcript (may not be 100% accurate)
I wonder -- bill really feels -- -- -- A -- that was great wartime -- -- I can't wait for the -- -- on an editor -- like to read. You know -- FDIC we couldn't do we do without tremendous amount help that you all know from all the fire arms that help us the manufacturers and vendors. Got such tremendous partners the team of people who work on it. All our great friends all you along. Contribute to the magazine and give us great ideas -- what to do 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. To some fantastic things that you just can't. Expect people would do those kinds of things one of those partners that we have here's the localize the union and their union president -- Smith was in the room -- don't embarrass them. Make -- -- but we do some things like -- -- -- five K fun run. And a lot of people say that they walked the walk and talk a talker they back themselves up by their actions but we started doing that a few years ago. When step right up and he put the union money behind that activity -- -- he knows that healthy firefighters. -- for firefighters. So he sponsors every single -- -- -- runner. Through their union activities and fund raisers but he did that without anybody asking them. Because he understands firefighter safety comes first and foremost with that and healthy well taken care of and -- support firefighters. When it's this -- -- -- please stand when. Kansas' union hall he has the support because -- -- people he's a man of his word he's an honest guy. That's a real that's that's leadership he -- and ask for a -- -- limelight -- -- -- -- out there and he just shows up when he needs to show ladies and gentlemen. That's the -- and again we -- the front organizations. This like the best part job -- introduce obviously super great people. Makes me feel sector -- So this is really fun for me. It's my -- this morning Kabila to introduce a long time here a longtime leader and longtime friend of the fire service and of FDIC and fires here. And every firefighter America. He has spent a lifetime. Tirelessly trying to improve working conditions -- compensation. And -- welfare. General president Gerald experts -- ninth president of the idea that he has served as the general present forces 2000. He's a former Fairfax county Virginia firefighter and 1976. He created. The union's political and legislative programs. He's on the LC IO executive committee and he's the vice president of the AFL CIO executive council. He's the chairman of the board the idea that burn she -- a board member for the fallen firefighters memorial. It gives me tremendous pleasure to welcome back home to FDIC again. Our general president please welcome me in and joining in in in. But -- is broken today. Please help me in welcoming our good friend general president of the idea that -- auction. Thank you. Thank you Bobby it's. It's always a privilege. But 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. -- -- -- Firefighters. Fire officer's. Command -- -- labor. They all converge on Indianapolis for this informative -- Cutting edge conference so Bobbie I congratulate you on up on another great event then. I wish everybody a successful. Week. I also just want to take a second to. Introduce and recognize two great leaders within our union. You know 300000 members and over 3000 locals fifty state council's. Seven not Canadian prevent cells. Takes leadership to really represent our -- -- and so. I certainly want to recognize the president. -- Indianapolis local 415. And that is Wayne Smith -- thank you for all you do congratulations on the work that's been good on behalf of our members. And fighting the -- here in Indiana and making sure that our members are. Represented their agendas advances. Our State Council president -- Hannity Tom thank you for your leadership. As you might imagine. I am very proud. Of all my members. I'm very proud to have simply haven't 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 always just like to get a sense. How many members of I have some members in the audience so everybody who. Is and I have staff member would you raise your hand for a site yet. It's a great turnout -- incredible and and it's great to see some media view here today it. Sisters and Brothers and ladies and gentlemen. Whether you're rate. Career or volunteer firefighter. Where the -- -- line officer. Paramedic EMS professionals. Our chief officer. We really did all start out. With the same goals. The same interest. Well we wanted to serve our community. Bill laid that out pretty clearly and his terrific remarks just a moment ago. And yeah we want to protect our friends and our neighbors. Were committed to saving property and saving lives. The fact is that every one of us just really wanted the opportunity to jump and -- -- writ. Today our ability to accomplish that objective. Is being thwarted. I shortsighted politicians and their allies looking to -- funding and support for emergency services and looking that got. Our fundamental rights and silence. Our political voices. Last year I had the opportunity. Stand on this stage. And I talked about the threats that were on the horizon. While we were in the gripped. For the worst economic crisis this country. Has experienced since the Great Depression. I talked about the threats that we were gonna be -- scene at every level of government federal. -- hello. Threats that would impact our staffing. Threats that would impact our training programs. Threats -- would. Threaten our fire prevention and public education efforts. Those it would make cuts and our federal and state aid in yes. For those of us -- the fire service. As a full time career. -- and battles. -- -- those ruthlessly trying to kill and destroy our retirement pension plans. When we last gathered here in the end date I said it DI FF was mobilizing. That we are preparing for the battles. And that we will be willing to use our resource is to defend our members and 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. Has been transformed. And we've seen an ideological shift of historic proportions. And that shift isn't very friendly to the American fire service. New members of congress. New governor's. New state legislate source. Who rode a wave of public anger in public fear it. Rode that wave -- -- are taking aim at us. They're taking -- met all of us. There's new breed of politician feels very comfortable blaming you. For their deficits. And -- the vital lifesaving work of firefighters and paramedics do in cities and towns. Large and small rule in urban. Across this great country of -- This is nothing less than the most comprehensive. Organized coordinated. -- -- On our rights. Resources. Programs. That we have fought for you have fought for and line over the decades in Washington DC and in state capitals. All across our nation. From my IFF Brothers and sisters. It is also the most vicious of direct. Frontal attack on workers' rights. And our union that I've ever witnessed in the 840 years that I've had the privilege to serve as a 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 find local emergency services. I want to turn the -- get off. And if that means career firefighters did laid off -- -- But that -- volunteers don't get fuel subsidies or can't get bunker gear replace so be it. And if that means that community's. Safety will suffer. And people may die. So be it. No the 'cause -- gang wants either smaller government. Are as they -- day after day eight so many cases that we see -- -- 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 served. 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. No longer possible to say hey I'm a firefighter. But I don't care about politics. I don't know my members are. I suspect I know who you are in this room. We -- -- cross section. Of America. We are Republicans and we're Democrats. We're conservatives. And where moderate. And there's a great sliver of us. That thinks politics is all just a bunch of crack. We don't want anything to do with it. We don't have the luxury to say hey just let me do my job. Just let me make my run I don't wanna get involved. Because 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 take you name. They're taking aim at us. Not just our profession. That they're taking aim at those of us -- -- chosen. A career to represent the interest of those who engaged in this honorable work. Note now they simply want to take. An attack. Our union. Now they're pursuing all kinds of legislation to try to separate cripple us. They want to eliminate dues deduction and Alabama Tennessee Oklahoma and Florida now ready to work take the next shots. All of this isn't about helping the public. -- doing anything about budgets. This is about destroying our ability to do our work on behalf of our members in this profession. Now they're pushing bills in fifteen states. -- simply silence our political voice. To prevent us from operating in that arena where everybody is elected it has all the power makes all the decision it's. They get to hold the goal. And they want to silence our voice. But I hope this tactic will simply. Cripple our ability to advance our members agenda. But I'm gonna tell my members here -- anybody else who's interested in this room. That nothing is -- -- quiet this union. Nothing is -- -- silence our place. Our political voice and the war and the battle of this IK FF will go on to improve our members' lives. And we intend to fight. We intent on fighting for our members' rights and we intent 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 that safely and to do that was adequate resources. Had to do -- 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 all 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. Are this fire servers we're not gonna let them bank dropped everything. Did you try to do and so we are ready to fight back and we're gonna do it with everything we have. We're gonna be taking a look at congress. And let's just take a look at this congress. Only a couple of months in session. Back 2000 the year 2000 we celebrated the fire act. 2002. We celebrated the -- Iraq both becoming law both providing incredible resources. To our profession. And over the last decades they pump no less than billions of dollars. Into our fire departments volunteer and career. Everyone in this room knows about you of these programs and beyond. But I give you two examples of the mindless attacks and our enemies are now -- First and running for the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee Jack king's men. Kingston from Georgia. Published. -- -- apostle. Attacking the fire act program as being as he said quote poorly run and an unnecessary program. Well thankfully he -- when the chairmanship of that committee. And we've at least been spared his wrath from a position the leaders -- ship. Then just a few weeks ago these -- zealots. And the house attempted to cut the Barack. And zero out the safer program. And doing this at a time when thousands of laid off I -- have to have members. Where -- under staffing is occurring at every level within our fire service. We're cities -- sprint experiencing brownouts stations close companies shut downs and risks. All across this nation. These budget cutting morons wanted to eliminate the entire program it's now brought several firefighters back to work. Over these last sixteen months. Well thankfully we all pull together and thankfully we had two champions in the house bill passed -- But New Jersey and David Price of North Carolina they stepped up. And they offered amendments to restore the funding to this year's level. And ensure that the safer funds could be used rehired lay off firefighters there rover 400 amendments offered. During the House Budget Committee floor fight. And -- 400 only twelve past. And two of them -- -- -- grill and price amendments. They brought 500 million dollars back into our fire service and make sure that that money could be used. -- bring those that have been given up pink slipped. Back to work. -- hang their turnouts on their -- one more time. No we accomplished a lot with that bat. 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 -- reality is that we just held -- wrong. And nothing more. And now the fight is in the United States and it. We're gonna be battling the same mind sets and the same interest in trying to reduce our finding. Our enemies are trying to cut every program this important. Two emergency services and fire services and homeland security and first responders. Initiatives. And communities large and small. And mark my words when -- to use our teams from Fairfax and LA returned last weekend from Japan. He's political hypocrites were clamoring for photo ops. To be taking with them bragging about the extraordinary work -- are doing. Across the sea. But are they gonna step up to the plate to ensure that -- 48 use our teams across this country to be -- adequately resource. You know the answer to that hell -- -- -- gonna step up and give us the money. This is gonna step up and give us the lip service and then try to take credit for it. And while we see these attacks on funding. Across our fire service were also seen attacks and a dozen or more states on our fundamental rights are collective bargaining rights. And New Hampshire just the latest two nights ago. They passed a bill on their budget. It simply removed every -- pass procedure there -- arbitration law. And said that the city and the union could come to an agreement at the end of their contract that all employees would come at will employees. And that the city would have unilateral authority to impose any salary benefits are working conditions. It's all fit. Now after decades of amicable resolving issues at the bargaining table now these ideologues. What a strip -- members of those basic workplace writes this and that they're being fiscally responsible. The fact is they're simply -- workers. But their opportunity to have -- today. And their livelihoods our enemies claim that they're doing this the best interest of the tax payers. But we all know cropped up crap when we see one and this is certainly want this is nothing less than an Saul. This is an assault not on balancing budgets not on reducing deficits this is about the balance of power up. They want us out. And they want to have unilateral control. Of everything -- we are about. And quite honestly they want this union day. The fact is until recently the media was letting them get away with them. But I can tell you we sure as hell haven't been letting them get away with it over these last. -- a couple of months. And we are fighting back and we're fighting back but everything we attack. And I've been proud of our members and our leaderships in Wisconsin and Ohio and Florida and Oklahoma Iowa Nebraska Tennessee. Alabama and in state after state where we're seeing in these battles. You've watched the coverage on T -- TV you've seen the rallies the marches to protest the city ends. Held against those who think they have a mandate to destroy all the -- work 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 opponent opponents and fight back. Because collective bargaining isn't about just wages and benefits. It's about safety and it's about staffing. It's not making sure that -- people get the state of the art safety equipment. Appropriate bunker gear -- -- resource -- they need to do their job safely and effectively. Please give -- a couple of the ugly facts that are occurring. And Ohio governor case sick. -- -- in a hundred page bill that totally eviscerate the bargaining rights and standards that have been in place since 1983. That laws allowed our locals to bargain for -- joint labor management safety committees to successfully reduce injuries and improve operations. In Wisconsin governor Walker's repealing a bargaining law that's been in existence since 1959. Fifty years -- half a century a bargaining. Wiped out. With one act of the legislature in one stroke of the pen. That's the -- -- allowed us to bargain for minimum staffing -- ship and for peace. And in Michigan governor Snyder supports allowing state. The state to place a local government trustee. In charge. Of a city our community. And flat out have complete and unilateral power. And one of the things are promoting the concept of public safety officer. Now how about that. -- in this room. Thinks that having cops. Stunning turn out two years. 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 west. Now it's in New Jersey governor Christie -- threatening to eliminate local aid if jurisdictions don't voluntarily consolidate. And regional allies their fire service operations. These are just a few with a concerted attacks that are taking place all over this country right now and I know many chief officers and here. Quite frankly don't necessarily like the collective bargaining process. I think they find it sometimes maybe hamper. Their operations there wary of EI KF staff. And maybe our union in general. -- But I tell you -- I think that it has shown over time to not only be import. -- members of this idea that. It's important to our whole profession. Because what we're able to do as we work at the bottom ultimately flows -- the top. And so when you hold and I have to membership card -- not. My view is that right now we are all in this together. And it is as president Kennedy so eloquently said. Rising tide does raise all boats. And we -- proud to at least play some small role. And hopefully and an important role. To help -- that tied for all of our Brothers and sisters. In the fire department. And in the fire service. Would you choose it is a full time career not. So -- -- 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 new recruit just out of your -- -- -- a thirty year chief officer. I hope you hear me loud and clear. Your pension and retirement system. Is under attack. And it doesn't matter what your pension system responded our underfunded. Doesn't matter whether it has a modest or generous benefit structure -- 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 -- of the stock market. Just look at -- happy and a couple of these states. Florida is attacking our pension plan when our plan has a 100%. 101%. Funded. New York governor Cuomo is targeting our plans even though the state fire police plan is a 108%. Funded. And where the funding is in trouble. Most of the time it's in troubled. 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 seven and a half billion. Dollar surplus in the plan. The state failed to make their full actuarial payments they -- claim -- all together they did this for over a decade. And by 2000 N eight with a market that crashed. They've got a liability now 34 billion dollars and they -- to put it defeat -- firefighters they want to put the blame on our members. And the fact of the matter is it was caused by this management. It was caused by management not standing up to doing their part. We had to listen to those talk about shared sacrifice how -- shared sacrifice that we listen to. During this economic crisis. Will not tell you that I think you've all been sacrificing. And I've watched our affiliates and I've watched -- go back to the tables I've watched you take the furlough days the wage concessions the benefit referrals. I've watched just try to do our part. But I'll tell you today. To -- -- -- part may be one thing but it they thought that we're gonna sit back and let them destroy. -- retirement security of our members and they've got another thing current economy. Our pension plans -- built over -- decades of sacrifice. Your sacrifice. And forgot didn't you gave up so much on the front end to be able to build these plans. That's your knee. And you're entitled to at the end of -- career. You paid for these benefits over the years these are deferred wages of -- -- this isn't any damn gift. This is something that you -- and no one that thinks they've given you any thing. That's given you anything is gonna get away with that thought -- tell you that but -- we're gonna stand up and we're gonna fight back to protect your retirement security. A -- of the Brothers. The stakes really couldn't be higher. For all of us every one of us in this great fire service suppliers. And we are engaged in incredible -- that's all across the land. But it's also an incredible opportunity. -- is an opportunity and -- defining moment for us. To continue to come together. It's not time. -- we're gonna have be able to make history. 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. But we can slide into the abyss. It's really up to us. Every one of us it's up all of you. We can't just sit back and watch this play out on the evening news. And we can't -- style that. We cannot let them use the old divide and conquer technique. Let's pick one part of the fire service against the other part of the fire service let's make sure we divide the floor -- command. If we can just get them to defied and fight among themselves and the real enemy gets a stand on the sidelines. And watched -- battle it out. And we end up paying the price. Now we've got to come together and injected truth into these debates and more importantly we have to commit all of our boots on the ground. This is about calling our opponents now it is about saying that collectively we will not tolerate the fire service to be short changed. We're not gonna tolerate cuts in the fire act use -- -- safer and beyond we're not gonna salary cuts and 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 a proud union members and I'm damn proud to be allowed -- privilege. To references that there interest. But I also know that media in this office -- audience today. Are not members of our union. But you are a critical part. Of America's fire service you are -- firefighters and paramedics you are instructors and chief officers you are Hazmat text. 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 a fury. We've got to find a way to survive this storm. I can promise you this -- -- -- will fight back with every penny. Every dollar every bit -- power and influence that we've got. The old days -- used to say come -- the game with everything it takes to play the game money marbles and chalk. And that's what we're gonna 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 -- moment that together we will win again we will be here. When days are long gone good luck to you have a great week thank you and god bless every firefighter on the front line everywhere thank you. You know -- these comments today is important because history matters 100 years ago in New York City we -- the triangle -- fire. That fire. Was responsible for the beginning of the movement to ensure that people don't working conditions. That threaten their lives that fire. Made a tremendous difference to New York City the firefighters but more importantly to the workers with that point in time had no means of escape. And who died tragically and needlessly. That's what the boss talking about thank you. Want to thank you all for being here thank you Wayne for helping us out. Jack that's mr. had a fees there there -- is. Thank you for coming remember we got the a -- run tonight it's at thu 6 o'clock a white river Parkinson memories Steve -- -- -- -- after that it stop drop rock and roll at the Indiana ball room please make it out there and support national fallen firefighters. The morals there -- at 1 o'clock tomorrow followed by the Taliban's. Followed by the union party. So in between their try to go to classes. All right let -- -- god bless and be safe.