IAFF: Board or Bored?


Crewless Ship?

Recently I wrote that an IAFF manager controlled the email address used for particularly unsavory comments directed at an IAFF member, a.k.a., me.

I absolved that manager believing the action was borne of ignorance though faulty leadership can create the atmosphere where such events occur.

IAFF leaders have not replied, underscoring that the facts and the conclusions are valid as written.

IAFF elected leadership is comprised of a president, a secretary-treasurer and 16 vice-presidents from across Canada and the US. 

Together they make up the executive board in theory, if not in fact.

Those 18 "leaders" have been entirely silent on the probity of the event.  

To be sure, a number of them show signs of incipient codgerdom but out of 16 vice-presidents, one or two could summon up a brief display of half-hearted indignation even if it were entirely contrived.

Grey Goose and Gooses

Grey Goose and Gooses

IAFF vice-presidents, much like the infamous Edward VIII in 1936, who abdicated the British throne in pursuit of pleasure, have chosen to forego real responsibility. But unlike Edward they have done so “in situ” creating the false impression that the ship is crewed when it is but the "captain" on the bridge.  

The IAFF, as the public symbol of professional firefighters, retains power and energy that must be focused and directed.  Leaders, (emphasis on the plural) are theoretically elected to make the decisions on how to funnel that energy.

When they fail to do so, for whatever reason, others will fill the vacuum of leadership and decision-making for good or ill.

And, so we find ourselves.

Granted, boards must be careful not to intrude on day-to-day operations but adopting a passive role on core issues such as values and ethics is a recipe for mischief and worse.

Boards are responsible for ensuring that the organization hues to its mission.  It is the essential role of the board to call out activities or actions that stray toward the appearance of impropriety or that are unacceptable.

The corporate and non-profit world is rife with stories of organizations that were seriously damaged or destroyed when boards operated either in ignorance or autopilot mode.

Our board seems mostly to be along for a rather pleasant cruise, content to loll about on deck as the skipper mans the bridge.

The danger, of course, is that the skipper may arbitrarily change the course and disaster will result.

It happens.

Just ask the crew and passengers aboard Costa Concordia.

Costa Concordia

Costa Concordia

As I recall, the captain was safely in a lifeboat while the passengers were still on the heavily listing deck.

Makes you wonder who’s the fool?


  • Ricky Walsh says:


    First I must say I enjoy your writings as you are obviously good at it.  This particular article, brought into play the "16" of which I am one.  I agree with you on your assessment of organizations that may fit the catagory to which you write, they flounder and in the end implode.  I hope that we are not there.  As with most organizations, there are "try's and fails" and this is a natural part of growing an organization….even one that is approaching 100 years old.  I can only speak for myself BUT I believe that I provide a quality product to the 7th District and assist in providing a quality product for the rest of the IAFF membership. 

    In regards to unsavory comments, I am disappointed that someone would go there in what otherwiswe should be a healthy dialog about issues and for that the 7th District makes apolgies for others.  Having stated that, your opinions are strong and you have the background, experience and knowledge to form those opinions….and something many others don't have…an amazing talent to write.  Humans, like animals, lash out when they are cornered.

    I hope your goals for articles on the IAFF are to improve our great Union and to cause deep thinking for that is lacking in todays membership…..deep thinking!  If it is for any other purpose then I would submit that it is counter-productive at a time when there can be no divisions in our House of Labor.  Society depends on wage-earners to rally together to stave off a world that existed 100 years ago.  Thank you for causing "deep thinking"……RJW

    • Eric Lamar says:

      Dear Vice-President Walsh:

      Thank you for taking the time to write.I have carefully considered what you wrote.

      A strong union is one that is comfortable with criticism, dissent and differences in all their varied forms.

      As a proud union member since 1976 it is highly unlikely that I am motivated to weaken our IAFF.

      It is much more likely that the organization will be weakened by passivity on the onehand and an iron fist on the other.

      Again, Iappreciate your thoughts.

      Eric Lamar

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February 2014
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