Fire Fighters earmark more money for political education

SEATTLE—Faced with continuing and rising threats to Fire Fighters and other unionists from right-wing and corporate interests, the union’s convention delegates voted to earmark more of their money on educating members to run political campaigns and for office.


The first hike, from the 313,000-member union’s overall $68 million budget, will be 25 cents per member this September 1, with another 25-cent hike a year later, the 3,100 delegates, meeting in Seattle, decided. Virtually all of that money will go to state and provincial legislative races in the U.S. and Canada, the convention resolution says.


In the last election cycle, Firepac, the union’s campaign finance committee – funded with voluntary contributions – spent 54 percent of its money on those races and candidate education at its Political Training Academy, and the rest on elections for Congress and the Canadian Parliament.


The academy has trained more than 1,000 union or family members to serve in office or as local political activists. More than 200 hold office at levels below Congress and parliament.


Union President Harold Schaitberger, in his keynote address to the delegates – whose convention also marked IAFF’s centennial – explained much more of the threat to workers, their pay, their pensions and their union rights comes in the states and provinces, and from special interests trampling on workers at those levels.


“We are not going to tremble or retreat” from confronting the Koch Brothers, the American Legislative Exchange Council, the National Right to Work Committee, and other right-wingers who are spending hundreds of millions of dollars in the state and provincial legislatures to crush public worker unions, including the Fire Fighters, he declared.


“This IAFF, united as one, is standing ready, willing and able to take on all who want to take a piece of us, in this crazy political environment in which we currently find ourselves, with animosity high, and divisive politics ruling the day,” he said.


“Extreme partisanship allows little to get done, while the forces of power and wealth want us to become nothing but a footnote in history. We have to be ready to do ‘Whatever it Takes’ to prevail” for the union’s members, he added. on behalf of the members of this IAFF.


It’s just like fighting fires, he added.


“We will stand up to the hundreds of millions of dollars you bring to the field to try and kill us off. We’ll battle you in every arena: Political, legislative, regulatory, standards, as well as in the courts — because we’ve got what it takes to fight back and win.”

But, in a nod to the fact that more than 20 percent of U.S. IAFF members are registered independents, with the rest almost evenly split between the GOP and the Democrats, Schaitberger promised the union would not “get involved in culture wars.”


“We’re not going to resist for resistance sake,” he said. “Members don’t want their union being driven by rage, hatred, or rancor. Our political voice doesn’t need to be shrill or ugly.”


Instead, he pledged to hew to the union’s past philosophy of “working with those who will work with us and supporting those who support our members and this union’s agenda on their behalf,” regardless of party label or who runs Congress and the Canadian Parliament.


“We’ve been successful with friendly and unfriendly national governments, friendly and unfriendly presidents and prime ministers,” Schaitberger explained.

Source: PAI

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