James B. Johnson
16th District Vice President
In accordance with the provisions of Article VI, Section 3, of the International Association of Fire Fighters’ Constitution and By-Laws, I respectfully submit this report to the membership.
As the Vice President of the 16th District, I have attended Executive Board meetings, conferences and other IAFF functions as required. I am presently serving on the following IAFF Executive Board Committees: Chairman of the Information and Technology Committee, Chairman of the Communications and Media Committee, Vice-Chair of the Occupational Health, Safety & Behavioral Wellness Committee, and as a member of the Government and Political Affairs, Education and Training, Budget and Finance, and Emergency Disputes Fund/Legal Services Committees.
Since our last Convention, I have continued to educate our District leadership, lobbying for the IAFF’s legislative agenda, and providing advice and technical assistance to our federal affiliates. The last two and a half years have presented many challenges for the 16th District. Nonetheless, we have accepted the challenges, and we continue to move the District in a positive direction. Many of the challenges we encounter are political, wherein political appointees look down upon organized labor and counter our efforts to achieve safe staffing and funding. Also, attacks are always present that attempt to reduce or eliminate bargaining rights, or for that matter, representation rights in the federal sector.
Our team of District Field Service Representatives and Service Representatives within the District are vital in providing onsite assistance and training for our local affiliate leaders and meeting the many political challenges we face. Their extensive experience and many years of service as labor leaders are invaluable. Their dedication to learning the craft of labor leaders, mediators and negotiators has benefited everyone. During 2019 and 2020, we provided several training opportunities onsite at various locals covering statutory issues and OWCP (workers’ comp).
At the 2019 and 2020 Affiliate Leadership Training Summit (ALTS), we provided federal sector-specific training for our federal leaders. Our turnout for the ALTS in 2020 was a record for the District.
The IAFF and the 16th District continues work on the Hill with Congressional staff through the IAFF Legislative Department. There are always several attacks on federal employees coming out of Congress and the Administration. While in the past, the efforts were to reduce or eliminate official time that is used for representational purposes, these attacks have expanded to Presidential Executive Orders that tear at the very foundation of our right to bargain. In addition, recent attempts to directly attack federal fire fighters pensions demonstrate the need to be vigilant and prepared for immediate action to block such measures. The IAFF is actively involved in opposing these attacks.
The 16th District also continues our participation in several federal employees’ forums, such as the Federal Postal Coalition, the United Defense Workers Coalition and the Federal Workers Alliance, providing valuable input regarding federal employee issues and policy. In 2019 and 2020, we have worked with these groups to counter anti-worker policies and promote protections for federal employees and their union representatives.
As we move into 2021 and beyond, federal fire fighters are threatened with potential staffing cutbacks due to continuing reductions to funding that flows to the federal fire departments, exacerbated by a pandemic that has crippled economies. Despite budget increases for some federal agencies, many agencies do not prioritize fire protection and, therefore, funding is often allocated to other programs. Although many federal agencies want to assume risk and reduce safe practices on the backs of our members, this District will remain steadfast in our position of maintaining safe staffing and response criteria.
The 16th District I proudly represent on the IAFF Executive Board remains ready and willing to protect the interests of federal fire fighters. Despite constant attempts to repeal the contracting prohibition that protects the jobs of federal fire fighters working for the Department of Defense, we will continue to do all we can to maintain the contracting prohibition. Recently, we have sought and gained approval for IAFF Guardian funds to assist with defeating contracting attempts.
Through my office, the District has presented issues before the Federal Labor Relations Authority, such as negotiability appeals, unit clarification petitions and issues before the Federal Service Impasse Panel. In several unit clarification issues, we were successful in including previously excluded employees into the IAFF’s bargaining units.
Although the pandemic has delayed the Convention and changed the method in which we hold a Convention, the District and the IAFF Executive Board have met these challenges, utilizing technology to continue to do the work that needs to be done to represent the members.
Overall, the past two and a half years have brought many changes and produced both successes and setbacks. Having served for many years on the job as a federal fire fighter, I know that every benefit we battle to gain and ultimately achieve is the result of hard work throughout the District. Because of the District members’ support, the 16th District has become a respected voice in the federal employment arena. Much of the credit for this and other successes we have achieved should also be given to the many affiliate leaders in the District that sacrifice their time and effort for their locals and the entire District. In addition, the support, leadership and guidance we have received from General President Schaitberger, General Secretary-Treasurer Kelly, the Executive Board and the IAFF staff has been tremendous.
It continues to be an honor for me to be your representative and to serve on the Executive Board of this great International as your 16th District Vice President. The experience is rewarding and educational, and I look forward to continuing to serve the District in the future.