Fire Fighters Hear from Eleven Presidential Hopefuls
IAFF Bipartisan 2008 Presidential Forum -- March 14, 2007 ...Next >
March 14, 2007--International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) General President Harold Schaitberger opened the IAFF Bipartisan 2008 Presidential Forum, held on the final day of the union's annual Alfred K. Whitehead Legislative Conference.  Six of the major Democratic candidates and five Republicans addressed about 900 delegates in what is the likely to be one of the few bipartisan forums of the campaign. 
"We want to hear about do they understand the service and duty that you provide, but more importantly are they prepared to resource you in order for you to do that tough job...," Schaitberger said.  To that end the IAFF has a set of legislative priorities including the Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act, which would provide for collective bargaining rights for public safety officers, funding for Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER), which provides grants to hire more fire fighters, and indexing of the Alternative Minimum Tax.  The candidates addressed these issues to varying degrees during their speeches; ranging from mention of specific IAFF priorities, to highlighting their labor records and ties generally, to delivering their standard stump speeches and with rhetoric and praise for first responders' heroism added in.  Most of the candidates devoted some of their remarks to the Iraq war and the treatment of veterans.

(The IAFF did not invite Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), deeming him not to be a serious candidate.  After considerable internal debate, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R-NY) was invited, but he did not appear, nor did several other Republican hopefuls).

"Today isn't the day that we're making a decision; today is the day that we're beginning this very serious process," Schaitberger said.  He outlined three possibilities:

We ultimately can stand on the sidelines and watch the game be played, and that's not who we are.  Or we can wait and follow somebody else.  We can listen to a loud minority; we're a big union with people who have varied opinions, and I'm sure I don't have to tell you that fire fighters have strong opinions and they're not shy about expressing them.  But then ultimately we're going to have to make a choice and we're going to have to lead, and lead means being bold, maybe taking a risk, but doing it in a thoughtful and deliberate way.  So today is the beginning of that process.
The IAFF, an AFL-CIO affiliate, represents about 280,000 professional fire fighters and emergency medical personnel in over 3,000 locals in the United States and Canada.  According to information provided by the IAFF, in the 2006 mid-term election, 65 percent of the candidates it endorsed were Democrats and 35 percent were Republicans and 92 percent of the IAFF endorsed candidates won.  The IAFF endorsement is much coveted; IAFF members in distinctive yellow and black tee-shirts have been a fixture on the campaign trail in recent election cycles.  On Sept. 24, 2003 the IAFF became the first international union to endorse Sen. John Kerry for president (>). 

Former Sen. John Edwards (D-NC)
Former Gov. Jim Gilmore (R-VA)
Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL)
Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA)
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY)
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)
Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE)
Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT)
Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS)
Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM)
Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE)
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Copyright © 2007  Eric M. Appleman/Democracy in Action