Obama sends video message to 3,500 delegates at IAFF Convention in Las Vegas and Sen. Biden to speak on his behalf
Las Vegas, NV – The International Association of Fire Fighters today announced its endorsement of Senator Barack Obama for president, praising the Illinois senator for his support of fire fighters and working families.
“On every issue important to fire fighters Senator Obama is and has been in our corner,” IAFF General President Harold Schaitberger said. “The IAFF is the most bipartisan union in the AFL-CIO, and we support those who support us. We can’t overlook Senator McCain’s service to our country, but we also can’t overlook his poor record on issues critical to the financial security of our 290,000 members.”
Senator Obama co-sponsored and voted for the IAFF’s collective bargaining bill in the U.S. Senate this year. Senator McCain voted against the IAFF’s collective bargaining bill in2001, and this year he refused to return to Washington, DC, for a cloture vote.
In his video message, Senator Obama expressed his support of collective bargaining rights for firefighters.
Collective bargaining rights “won’t become law unless we have a president who’s willing to sign it, and I’ll be that president. It is unacceptable when fire fighters do not have collective bargaining rights. But it’s not just collective bargaining. For too long on too many issues, fire fighters have not been treated with the dignity, respect and honor you deserve,” Senator Obama said.
Senator Joe Biden addressed firefighters on Senator Obama’s behalf Thursday morning at the Rio Casino and All-Suites Hotel in Las Vegas at about 11 a.m.
In addition to collective bargaining rights, the economy emerged as a key concern among fire fighters, according to a poll conducted in June of IAFF members by Zogby. The poll also found fire fighters believe Senator Obama will be a more effective president on economic issues for working people like them, by a margin of 63 percent to 23 percent.
Since Senator Chris Dodd dropped out of the race for president in January, the IAFF has spent months discussing its next step while allowing the political process to play out.
“Once Senator Dodd stepped aside, we needed to talk to our members, gauge the candidates and examine their positions on the issues critical to fire fighters. Senator Obama has shown fire fighters nothing but support – in the Illinois state senate and in the U.S. Senate,” Schaitberger said.
Senator Obama also supports the right of fire fighters to collect overtime pay, a right established by the Fair Labor Standards Act, while Senator McCain has indicated he favors appointing judges to the federal bench who may overturn court decisions that guarantee overtime pay to firefighters and other rights outlined in the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Senator McCain’s opposition to collective bargaining for fire fighters was negatively received by 74 percent of fire fighters, according to the Zogby poll, and his vow to appoint judges who would overturn court decisions that ensure overtime pay was viewed negatively by 71 percent of firefighters.
Senator Obama opposes forcing fire fighters into Social Security (about 70 percent of fire fighters are not in the Social Security system) and wants to strengthen the system of employer-provided health care that fire fighters earn.
Senator McCain’s health care plan encourages elimination of employer-sponsored health care, preferring to place the burden on individuals to find and purchase their own health care. Employees who do continue to get health care coverage through their employers would have to pay taxes on those benefits. McCain has refused to sign a letter opposing mandatory Social Security coverage for fire fighters, a change that would impose an additional payroll tax on first responders.
Senator Obama has also worked to increase funding for the homeland security SAFER grant program, which provide funding to local jurisdictions to hire fire fighters. Senator McCain has sided with the Bush Administration in its attempts to zero out that program.
The International Association of Fire Fighters, headquartered in Washington, DC, represents more than 290,000 full-time professional fire fighters and paramedics who protect 85 percent of the nation’s population. More information is available at www.iaff.org and at www.firefightersforobama.com