We are merely completed with one month of 2010, and if it is any indication of what pace we will be on for the rest of the year then we can expect no down time and more projects than time and money will permit to protect our profession and the wages, benefits and working conditions that we earned and bargained for through the years.
Our Department and our Union have a long standing tradition and position of strength in both the operational world of firefighting and lifesaving and also in the world of economics and politics affecting paid professional firefighters and paramedics and fire personnel.
The latest demonstration of our status and commitment to the world of firefighting has been the deployment of our USAR Task Force to Haiti as one of two USA teams certified for international deployment. Their work was phenomenal and served as the hands to represent the work of all of our members who do the same work day in and day out here on the streets of Los Angeles County. Their specialty training served to allow the spirit and the level of commitment of our entire workforce be recognized in the streets of Haiti under the international light, and they represented us well.
The Union; Los Angeles County Fire Fighters Local 1014 has had a long standing involvement in the politics and the funding of the USAR teams nationally through our actions in the IAFF and the lobbying to put these teams together and fund them. As a matter of fact, someone asked why there are only two international teams from USA and why Fairfax Virginia and Los Angeles County? Well, besides the obvious fact that Los Angeles County Fire Fighters are the best around and can most capably respond and get the job done, do the most with the least and can walk and chew gum at the same time…and the Fairfax County Fire Fighters are the same, and that we are both County Fire Agencies, and both enjoy Fire Chiefs and Executive Staff teams empowered by elected officials who are committed to being supportive of the funding and logistics to stay in business…well, let’s see…Fairfax County Virginia is where Harold Schaitberger was a firefighter and Union Leader, and Al Whitehead hailed from Los Angeles County Fire Fighters as a firefighter and a Union leader…both International Association of Fire Fighters Presidents leading all 330, 000 paid professional firefighters and lobbying for funding and laws and grants and Executive Branch support for these issues…hum? Coincidence? I think not….none the less, we should be very proud of our membership, our department, our Chief Officer Staff and our Union for what we are and more importantly who we are.
I must say that in addition to the operational issues we have been dealing with to include the Haiti Deployment, the flooding and rain issues and the staffing to go along with those events and the normal day to day series of calls our world class department of such size and scope has to deal with…we have also had monumental and very sensitive and politically intense battles and fronts we have been working on at the Union hall and in the halls of the Board of Supervisors, The State Assembly and Senate and Governors Office, and of course our local city council chambers.
We are so proud to have been a part of a Labor Management Team who went to work to stabilize our funding to keep our CDCR Camps open and in business! That’s right; the CDCR Camps to include our very special Camp 16 will remain open and in service. Much work to include negotiations between the Fire Chief and the CDCR Management and the Probation Department Management has netted a deal on keeping the funding and the physical location of Camp Holton (NOW CAMP 16 DESIGNATION!) open for the next 3 years minimum…We have much work left to continue to press the state for continued funding long into the future and that will include more negotiations between our Fire Chief and State officials and more pressure from the Union on the Governors Office and the Speaker of the Assembly and the Senate Pro-Tem and their leadership teams in the Capitol to ensure the budget for our camps is stabilized.
We have also been hard at work in the city of El Monte to work with our new Mayor and City Council Members to seat the city manager and city staff…a needed step to get the city back on track, and the old guard who helped nearly bankrupt the city is not yet completely eradicated, so our work is far from done. As for our plan, we intend to look for short term funds to help open station 167 up as early as we can to restore our staffing levels, and also to continue to look for long term funding help with other city and business partners, but it seems like El Monte just can’t catch a financial break with the latest news of the Toyota accelerator problem affecting tax revenues in El Monte from Longo Toyota being down 80-100,000 per month estimated until the problem is resolved…we will keep you up to date and informed as we continue our slow steady crawl to help this city re-build and of course get back to the level of fire and paramedic service the citizens deserve.
We have also helped our Monterey Park Fire Fighters inch another step forward towards a County Survey for Fire Protection, and in the area they serve, it might not be a bad hit to take in Monterey Park, but as always, the facts of a survey and the cost evaluation for not only Monterey Park, but Los Angeles County Fire is essential to those decisions. We don’t need anymore cities who are bankrupt or more importantly with unstable government. It cost nearly $100,000 to educate the citizens of El Monte on the issues at stake and begin the process of helping elect at least 3 out of 5 leaders who understand the issues and will remain supportive.
We are also preparing for the June Primary Elections for State Officials and also some city races, as well as the November Elections that will also have the barrage of State Initiatives that we must contend with. The most damaging initiatives getting off the ground involve at least 3 Pension Attack initiatives and at least one Union Busting Prop 75 style paycheck protection measure brought by the league of cities. Combine that with the local issues relative to our funding and Prop E…you can see we have a lot to deal with.
As always, preparation and planning and funding to put our membership and our Department and our Union in a place where we are stable, fully funded, and moving forward to protect our wages, benefits and our working conditions through political action and legislative actions is the key. There are many things we need to do and have historically done to get to where we are at now. Los Angeles County Fire Fighters are in a stable environment not because of chance or circumstance…but rather because we have a strong Labor-Management relationship that involves bilateral efforts and most of the time agreement on the issues with some compromise in either direction, and of course on occasion an ability to respectfully agree to disagree and then get it on in an official setting to resolve an issue or two when needed, and because we are among one of the top Unions in the nation when it comes to political action and legislative involvement.
Whether you are Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative…you must acknowledge that the key to power and the key to have your issues addressed by leadership is political action and obviously the fuel to fire those actions is membership time and effort and money. “Money is the mothers milk of politics”….heard that before? Well nothing has changed, and although perhaps one day it will be different, but for now, if we want to protect our wages, our pensions and healthcare, and our working conditions, then Money and Effort and our Image are key to electing and working with individuals who understand and support our issues.
The costs have gone up in politics tremendously to play at a level where your power is recognized and acknowledged to the point where you are in the officials thoughts and dreams each and every day…where you not only have access to talk to them, but you have their undivided attention and consideration on your issues. We are involved in politics at the highest level of any Public Safety Union and we would like to stay there long into the future as well.
We have been successful in so many areas of political action and needless to say, the amount of issues we have to deal with, the amount of Contract City Issues regarding funding and the amount of opposition and attack we are seeing against our wages and pensions and healthcare is growing daily. We cannot continue to work on all fronts without the funding to make it happen. Our dues monies are the only source to pay for general operation costs for the Union and the staff that support the work and the only funds to feed our candidate and initiative PAC’s so that we can work on the issues. We have also seen an increase in our legal and consulting and reporting professional fees that are a part of staying on the legal high ground and ensuring that we are compliant with all aspects of political action, a place we believe strongly in staying at.
We have been at 1% of top step firefighter for nearly 30 years with no increase to the formula. We had thought about increasing our dues just prior to the last Board of Supervisors race to be able to play as heavy in the race as we did, but we figured out how to cut costs, trim the fat even where there was no fat, and the Executive Board gave blood, sweat and tears to get it done….Thank Goodness. We are not at the levels of dues structure in comparison with our counterparts in the Fire Union world statewide and not at the level of structure that our counterparts in the Sheriff’s Unions are at. Most Fire Unions are at 1 and ¼% minimum with most at 1 1/5% of their top step firefighter wages. ALADS and PPOA are at 1 1/3% of top step. Most have additional assessments for special projects and elections or per-capita pass through.
It is clearly the time to move forward and increase our dues structure not only to ensure that we are funded for our operations and any expansion of operations that may be needed to continue the work but to also rebuild our “Diversified War Chest” that includes not only Candidate PAC’s but Initiative PAC’s and also to help build our new Fire Fighter Foundation Account for dispersements to charity and fire fighter widows and orphans and causes that we should be involved in such as Firefighter Cancer Support Network, one of our most worthy causes we have been involved with.
The Executive Board will be not only sending out the request to the members for an official vote of the membership, but we will be sending out mail and posting information on the web and web blasting the information out so that you can make an informed decision before you vote. We will also be holding regional special meetings as well. We will not be pursuing a marketing campaign or a smoke and mirrors approach to selling a membership on a bill of goods…we don’t operate that way.
Local 1014 Executive Board will be taking an approach to get all facts and information out to the membership to include current budget and revenues, costs and expenses, and projections for the future, identifying the issues that will be facing us now and into the next 3-5 years to include initiatives and candidate races to include the next Board of Supervisors race. We will then make sure opinions and discussion on the issue of a dues increase takes place to include any dissenting opinion…and then quite simply we will vote.
I look forward to getting out and hearing outlook and perspective from members and to also bring information on issues at hand…until then, please ensure you are registered on our website to receive information electronically and read the Update newsletter and also look at the CPF and IAFF Websites to get or stay informed…they can be found as links on our website…http://www.local1014.org.