March 18, 2013 – The Washington Hilton Hotel in Washington, DC, is filled this week with nearly 700 delegates set to lobby their members of Congress on several critical issues during the 2013 Alfred K Whitehead IAFF Legislative Conference. IAFF General President Harold Schaitberger welcomed delegates, encouraging them not to accept ongoing attacks on retirement plans, collective bargaining, staffing and working conditions as the “new normal” and to be ready to put boots on the ground anywhere political action is needed.

Addressing IAFF members, Schaitberger said the IAFF made some critical strategic decisions while sticking with the International’s political principle of supporting “those who will work with us and working against those who are committed to coming after us.”

Schaitberger cited many cases where this strategy has worked, including winning U.S. Senate seats in several states, flipping control of many state legislatures in the IAFF’s favor and making a positive difference in political races and ballot campaigns.

Last, but not least, Schaitberger reported that, despite a rocky congressional climate, the IAFF has made significant gains on behalf of the membership, including the reauthorization of Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grants and making the SAFER waivers permanent, improvements to the Assistance to Firefighters (FIRE Act) grant program, passage of the Fire Fighter Fatality Reduction Act , expansion of the Public Safety Officers Benefit (PSOB) program and the repeal of the Hatch Act, easing the ability of municipal members to seek political office.

“I am not reporting on all of this just to pat ourselves on the back,” said Schaitberger. “I’m making a point because we plan to deploy a similar strategy in key elections coming up this year.” Schaitberger referenced gubernatorial elections in Virginia, New Jersey and Massachusetts, and also said the IAFF should be ready to be involved in at least 21 of the 35 U.S. Senate seats up for grabs in 2014.

“We will put our gold-and-black brand to work to protect states where our allies are termed out,” he said. “We will be fighting to safeguard or flip key state legislative chambers from coast to coast.”

This week, IAFF members will lobby their members of Congress to fully fund SAFER and FIRE Act grants, to put a stop to any efforts to tax health care benefits, to ensure mandatory Social Security participation does not extend to fire fighters and to ask that federal fire fighters be treated the same as municipal fire fighters.

Following Schaitberger’s welcome address, other high profile speakers at the Conference include: White House Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina, Acting U.S. Secretary of Labor Seth Harris, U.S. Representative Joseph Crowley (D-NY), U.S. Representative Greg Walden (R-OR), U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO), U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), U.S. Senator John Sarbanes (D-MD), U.S. Senator Rob Andrews (D-NJ), U.S. Representative Linda Sanchez (D-CA), U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Senator Chuck Shumer (D-NY) and Virginia Gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe.

Click on the link < > to hear IAFF General President Schaitberger’s speech in its entirety, a complete list of speakers and full coverage of the 2013 IAFF Legislative Conference.

Courtesy:  3/19/13 01:17 Hours PST