IAFF: Our Soul For Sale

 

The Death of Advocacy

Is it time to ask ourselves why we even have a union?

A primary reason to unionize is for  firefighters and paramedics to have safe working conditions.

Safety advocacy is a crucial reason why the IAFF was formed.  It is the process of carefully watching over protective equipment developers, suppliers, and decision-makers to ensure they never lose sight of us.

We need to zealously guard and protect the safety of our members: it is a sacred and paramount union duty.

We must to be vigilant, focused, unconflicted and unrelenting. That in turn means that we must be willing to make sacrifices to ensure that nothing impedes the mission of firefighter safety.

The IAFF ceased to fulfill that crucial mission of safety and health advocacy the instant we began to accept advertising from protective clothing and fire/rescue equipment manufacturers.

Whatever the stated reason or proceeds and wherever the proceeds are said to go, it’s a fatal  and ruinous mistake that compromises our safety and integrity.

It is a reckless conflict of interest for a labor union that supposedly holds health and safety as a top priority to promote the products of those we are effectively responsible for overseeing.

Fox Guards Hen House

Fox Guards Hen House

The urban definition for the IAFF position on safety advocacy is “whoring it out.”

Is the entire IAFF  being whored out in an endless series of deals which cheapen and weaken who we are and what we stand for?

Advertisers include Globe, Dupont, Lion, Kevlar, MSA, Scott, and PBI.  They are protective clothing and SCBA providers  essential to our health and safety.  Engaging in any relationship with them other than an arms-length and politely skeptical one defies any rational interpretation of ethics or responsible behavior.

Our job is (or was) to hold their “feet to the fire.”

Let’s Make (Another) Deal

The IAFF has reached the point where membership trust is for sale to the highest bidder.

Why?

What amount of money is our advocacy role worth?

What do we so desperately need that we are willing to jeopardize our principal mission for it?

Or put another way, what would we be willing to go without to ensure that an unblemished legacy of ardent and unrelenting advocacy is passed onto the next generation?

30 Pieces of Silver

Judas

Judas

Mr. Schaitberger and his vice-presidents, most of whom are compliant, complacent, docile and ethically anemic have become  Judases betraying the IAFF to the “high priest of deals.”  Their actions (or inaction) amount to evidence of a corrupting influence.

In this parable our “Jesus”  does double duty as a Judas. (Apologies for making him just the son of God.)

No “water into wine” miracle is needed as the wine steward is close at hand.  So too, loaves and fishes would be waved away in favor of a 20 oz. New York Strip and a side of calamari.

The message it sends to staff and leaders is appalling:  don’t be concerned about our mission or our members, be on the lookout for the next deal, no matter how absurd or damaging.

We have lost our edge as a first-rate union intent on caring for our members because of this craven “deal mentality.”

And, our enemies see us as morally weak and professionally conflicted.

“Never forget”, we  said.

Well, we have.

We have forgotten both where we came from and why we are here.

7 Comments

  • D. Hormel says:

    I too am concerned if this is true. Where are examples of the IAFF selling out so that I may see for myself. This is so upsetting.

  • John Teefy says:

    Brother Lamar,
    I am happy that friends can respectfully disagree, because we are friends, and I think you are way off on your assertion that partnering with companies that service our membership has somehow clouded our leader dedication to safety.
    The IAFF, as well as all of our locals and departments are coming off of the greatest financial disaster our country has faced in 70 years. All of us, my local, the PFFA, and the IAFF made a conscious effort to open other sources of revenue. These vendors make money off our departments and I have no problem taking some of that money back. The money that you think will soil our union has gone directly to fund programs that save firefighters lives and protect their jobs and pensions. Ironically many of these education programs you helped to start. You of all people should no how hard they are to fund.
    Fireground Survival, the IAFF’s “save your own” training, has directly saved firefighters lives. Our grants department guides our locals through the AFG and SAFER funding programs and save firefighters jobs and put them back on the fire trucks. Our peer fitness trainers help to make a healthier, safer workforce. IAFF political instructors teach our locals to fight for themselves and protect pensions and staffing. All of these programs cost money. Money our membership does not have to give.
    At the same time our union has never been more involved in research and development of safer, more efficient PPE and support gear. Partnerships are not bad. The same argument you use has been used to oppose labor-management relationships. Because the chiefs “might” someday screw us over, we should not work with them. The premise is not based on sound thinking. It is based on fear and conjecture and spreads doubt where none is justified.
    I think you are correct that we should be vigilant to make sure that conflicts never arise. That is wise and prudent. But to assert that these conflicts are or have happened is not only untrue, but reckless.
    If you have any example of the IAFF compromising safety for money please bring it forward. My old friend, I fear that you are letting personal animosity drive your opinions. You are a good man and are better than that.
    If anyone feels that because I am a IAFF Hazmat instructor, or that I was a union office for almost 20 years, I am biased our somehow on the “teat” of the IAFF, I have no doubt that my friend Eric will be the first one to tell you that I have never given much of a shit about what others think, and have never let any job shut me up or force my opinion.
    I have confidence that our IAFF leadership is making the best choices for our members and our security.
    I also have confidence that friends can have disagreement, strong heated disagreements, and still be friends. That is the beauty of the fire service and our IAFF.
    Happy St. Patricks Day Eric. Erin Go Bragh!

    Respectfully submitted,
    John Teefy
    Phoenix L-493

  • John Teefy says:

    Brother Lamar,
    I am happy that friends can respectfully disagree, because we are friends, and I think you are way off on your assertion that partnering with companies that service our membership has somehow clouded our leader dedication to safety.
    The IAFF, as well as all of our locals and departments are coming off of the greatest financial disaster our country has faced in 70 years. All of us, my local, the PFFA, and the IAFF made a conscious effort to open other sources of revenue. These vendors make money off our departments and I have no problem taking some of that money back. The money that you think will soil our union has gone directly to fund programs that save firefighters lives and protect their jobs and pensions. Ironically many of these education programs you helped to start. You of all people should no how hard they are to fund.
    Fireground Survival, the IAFF’s “save your own” training, has directly saved firefighters lives. Our grants department guides our locals through the AFG and SAFER funding programs and save firefighters jobs and put them back on the fire trucks. Our peer fitness trainers help to make a healthier, safer workforce. IAFF political instructors teach our locals to fight for themselves and protect pensions and staffing. All of these programs cost money. Money our membership does not have to give.
    At the same time our union has never been more involved in research and development of safer, more efficient PPE and support gear. Partnerships are not bad. The same argument you use has been used to oppose labor-management relationships. Because the chiefs “might” someday screw us over, we should not work with them. The premise is not based on sound thinking. It is based on fear and conjecture and spreads doubt where none is justified.
    I think you are correct that we should be vigilant to make sure that conflicts never arise. That is wise and prudent. But to assert that these conflicts are or have happened is not only untrue, but reckless.
    If you have any example of the IAFF compromising safety for money please bring it forward. My old friend, I fear that you are letting personal animosity drive your opinions. You are a good man and are better than that.
    If anyone feels that because I am a IAFF Hazmat instructor, or that I was a union office for almost 20 years, I am biased our somehow on the “teat” of the IAFF, I have no doubt that my friend Eric will be the first one to tell you that I have never given much of a shit about what others think, and have never let any job shut me up or force my opinion.
    I have confidence that our IAFF leadership is making the best choices for our members and our security.
    I also have confidence that friends can have disagreement, strong heated disagreements, and still be friends. That is the beauty of the fire service and our IAFF.
    Happy St. Patricks Day Eric. Erin Go Bragh!

    Respectfully submitted,
    John Teefy
    Phoenix L-493

  • Brian Gaughan says:

    As I read the article, I couldn’t help but think back about my many attempts to find out more about Harold’s position on the closing of labors own school of higher education, The National Labor College. From what students and alumni (of which I am one) were told, the Executive Board of Directors of the AFL-CIO voted to stop funding it, which in turn forced the college to cease operations. Knowing that Harold was on the Executive Board of Directors, I was curious as to what his position and vote on de-funding the college was. Over numerous phone calls, I was repeatedly told by various staff members of the International that Harold was “very upset” and was “totally against” the closing of the college. I was even told that “very soon” Harold will be putting out a statement expressing his disappointment concerning the matter. I was told that something would “probably” be in the IAFF magazine concerning the issue. None of those came to fruition. But what I DO see in our magazine and on our website are ads touting for-profit college degrees. I have to wonder, was a vote cast to close the only college devoted exclusively to promoting labor and the working class so money could be made by extolling the virtues of profit based education? From what I have learned recently, it would not surprise me in the slightest. I also have to ad that at the National Labor College, I met several other IAFF members, among them was John Teefy, the previous poster. What a small world!

    Brian Gaughan
    Past President, IAFF Local 4186, retired member

  • Diane Cotter says:

    Eric, as I read this today, in light of what I am seeing in my issue with the PFOA in the PPE since 1999 and not a word to any NFPA committee member, nor any manufacturer taking accountability for the PFOA in the gear other than to say they no longer use it, I am deeply concerned. I would have no idea how much money the advertisers pay, but yes, there must be transparency. Does anyone know how much they pay? To be honest, I thought that after Jason Burns, Fall River Pres L1314 brought the info to Pat Morrison in DC in March of 2017, the revelation about what is happening in Europe with PPE and not happening here, would be pounced on by the IAFF leadership. I never thought after this many months I would still be begging IAFF leaders to help bring this into the spotlight. IAFF did publish a official statement on PFOA and PPE. It concened me deeply as it was many pages of known health risks, and stated they did speak to the manufacturers who said they no longer use it. IAFF states they will recall legacy gear. It is much more than the legacy gear. These sets of PPE have been degrading in your bays and the particles get on surfaces where you work, eat, sleep. Bio-monitoring shows FF PFAS serum as elevated. The DuPont workers serum was high at 32 ng/mL. Studies show FF serum from 232 – 423 ng/mL. As you may know in September of this year, environmental Attorney Robert Bilott, along with Chief Jeffrey Hermes, and C8 Science Panel member Dr Paul Brooks, demanded the EPA, CDC, ATSDR and US Attorney General develop PFAS testing and studies specific to you firefighters due to your exposure to PFOA/PFOS in your PPE and your AFFF. I deeply saddened and very concerned that after finding the PFOA issue, that the IAFF did not go after this issue like they have for FR’s and diesel. They worked so hard to pass legislation on FR’s. Resolution 34 would cover PFOA. It is Persistent, Bio-accumulative and Toxic. PBT. A death sentence as one manufacturer called the PBT in AFFF. This year, we had new, never worn 2004 gear tested for PFAS by Professor of Physics Graham Peaslee of Notre Dame. It came back so high they had to measure it in ‘volume’…. not ppb. We are now awaiting results from another lab for the actual PFOA content in the 2004 gear. These sets of gear have been degrading in your station bays since 1999. We need dust studies in your stations and serum testing for those of you that want it. Please share the message. We must get to the bottom of this. We must have accountability for the omission of PFOA in your PPE. We need to know the chemical content of the ‘chemical additives’ in your PPE. What those chemical additives do, and how they interact with your bodies as you sweat and your temperature rises. We need to understand the best practices for handling the PPE with the ‘next generation of PFAS now being used. Again, in Europe they are speaking openly and preparing for a potential transition to non-PFOA ppe. Dr Roger Klein has a tremendous powerpoint demonstration he gives on this issue. The yearly 5 billion dollar industry of PPE in the USA alone has the lobbyist group ACC American Chemical Council, who actually lobbied against any of the recommended changes in PPE. The manufacturers wanted no change to the PFOA content in your PPE., the ECHA / European Chemcical Agency, said no ., and they did get the limit of 25 ppb PFOA and 1ppm precursors in PPE in Europe. We have no regulations here. IAFF could support this effort. This would force the change needed in technology and keep informed by the best science minds, knowing exactly what is in your gear. 20 years of manufacturers knowing the content, while the front line does not, and while you wear it is too long. While they preach to us about FF cancer. They could have shared that info during any one of the many research papers they financially supported. We now know we did not start with a clean slate. No sir. We did not.
    Please share the knowledge of this issue. We must have change, we must have labels in your gear that tell you what you are wearing. The FEMSA lobbied for the right to NOT put warning labels in your gear. You have ‘product’ labels. Not warning labels… DuPont is a member of FEMSA and DuPont knew in 1999 that they were already under the scrutiny of science/health officials for PFOA in their own Water Works Plant in the US. We should have known what was in our gear. We should know immediately know what is in our gear today. We do not start with a clean slate. We can talk POC and cancer prevention all day long. But if we do not know we have a toxin in our gear, we can not mitigate it. Sincerely, Diane Cotter Your Turnout Gear and PFOA

  • Diane Cotter says:

    Eric, a correction please !!!! I never thought after this many months I would still be begging IAFF leaders to help bring this into the spotlight. IAFF did publish a official statement on PFOA and PPE. It concened me deeply as it was many pages of known health risks, and stated they did speak to the manufacturers who said they no longer use it. IAFF states they will *** NOT *** recall legacy gear. This last sentence should read., they will not recall legacy gear.
    Thank you

  • Harvey JUDD says:

    Thank you Dianne!
    And until you go through having testicular cancer & and extensive treatment for it , you just won’t understand!

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