Mark Woolbright
2nd District Vice President

It should be noted that the 2nd District Report was finalized in April of 2020 at the beginning stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The IAFF 2nd District staff over the last two years has worked diligently with 2nd District affiliate local leadership on a number of issues and initiatives since the last IAFF convention, including but not limited to: organizing, negotiations, member representation, wrongful termination/disciplinary action, elections, grants, arbitration, mediation, state legislator lobbying, political action, municipal financial analysis, wage comparisons, line of duty deaths, leadership training, strategic communications, media, peer fitness, health and safety issues, legal assistance, etc. We would like to thank the very talented IAFF staff for all the ongoing help and assistance.

Nebraska

 Over the last two years, the Nebraska Professional Fire Fighters Association has made many rewarding gains while also warding off some attacks. I feel we hit way above our weight class and am proud of where we are progressing.

One of the major changes for the NPFFA is moving from an annual convention to a bi-annual. This change came through after a couple years of debate. This change came with making sure the NPFFA attempted to make more of an impact with the legislature with our members. We are now doing more of a Legislative Conference in conjunction with our Business Convention.

This is the first Legislative Session where we did not have attacks on collective bargaining at some level, or attacks on benefits including our defined benefit pensions. The Nebraska Professional Fire Fighters Association attributes this impact largely based upon our networking and political influence in the election process.

We also have the best ever working relationship with some of our federal congressional representatives than ever established before. Senator Deb Fischer (R) and Congressman Don Bacon (R) have cosponsored key IAFF legislation assisting all IAFF members.

One of our prouder moments is seeing Hamilton County EMS association move to the City of Aurora Fire Based EMS. This was a six-year-long legal battle and would not happen without the IAFF. This included the successful recall of an advocate to eliminate the EMS service. The NPFFA sent a strong labor message across the state how strong we really are and will cower to no one. We now have the Aurora Professional Firefighters Local 4956.

South Sioux City, NE initially organized under Lincoln Local 644. They started with three members and now have their first signed contract with nine FTE with large growth potential. This is great progress in that part of Nebraska.

In 2019, just after the IAFF Legislative Conference, Nebraska had a “Bomb Cyclone” tear through the state, doing unimaginable damage with both blizzard and flooding conditions throughout the state at the same time. Many of our  locals were stranded and beat up from everyone being overworked all at once. We nearly lost some members during some rescues, but luckily did not. This did however take a mental toll and was costly to the state overall, and the state was ultimately placed under emergency declaration.

ALL THINGS COVID – This just seems too much to even address, especially knowing most everyone else is dealing with this.

Much of our introduced legislation has been placed on hold since the Nebraska Legislature has postponed anything during the COVID-19 pandemic. We had plenty on the table for consideration, including progression on our current mental health and cancer legislation.

We did have an interim study (Legislative Resolution 165), which looked at how best practices for delivery of fire and EMS services need to be looked at (pushing fire based). This also looked at how fire and EMS services may need to be looked at as an “essential service” to be public.

The Nebraska Professional Fire Fighters Association has transitioned to the IAFF Smart platform, as well as assisting our  locals to follow suit.

Nebraska was the first state to begin rolling out the IAFF Aetna Advantage plan for our IAFF retirees as a benefit. Feedback so far on this has been successful in providing this benefit at a reduced cost to our retirees.

Overall, we continue to strive for better wages, benefits, and terms and conditions of employment for our members.

NPFFA President Darren Garrean

Iowa

Iowa has had ups and downs; however, state-wide and overall, Iowa has seen net improvement.

2019 began with the tragic line of duty death of Lieutenant Eric Hosette from Clinton Local 609 in a grain storage bin explosion. The explosion also left another member in critical condition. We received a great deal of support from the IAFF, DVP Woolbright and the Missouri Fire Service Funeral Assistance Team. Miraculously, our fire fighter was able to make a full recovery and able to return to full active duty status by the fall of 2019.

Most suburban and metro departments are hiring and continue to grow. We have had success with local option sales tax votes in several communities (Des Moines Local 4, Johnston-Grimes Local 4835, West Des Moines Local 3586) that improved the financial position of those  locals. The IAFF was an integral partner with those  locals, providing assistance with media and community outreach.

Despite the collective bargaining change in 2016, which reduced the scope of bargaining for non-public safety employees in Iowa, our  locals have continued to have success at the bargaining table, and we have not experienced the anticipated decline in wage settlements and benefit packages. We are slowly gaining members and there are paid-on-call departments that are growing and hiring full-time members, in particular the metro suburbs. We continue to monitor those and make plans for organization expansion as it becomes appropriate.

An area of potential expansion and opportunity to increase membership is within our EMS ranks. With the passage of GEMT, there is an opportunity for increased revenue for EMS providers. We have been, and continue to, encourage our current  locals to push for the fire-based EMS model to take advantage of the revenue and become more valuable within their communities. If we also have success in legislation to make EMS an essential service, we anticipate growth in existing EMS providers (e.g., county hospitals) and hiring of new EMS employees in areas where there are no current EMS providers.

Unfortunately, our smaller communities are seeing a decline or holding steady. We have seen significant losses in a couple locals. Ottumwa Local 395 suffered a 20% loss of members with the layoff of six personnel. The IAFF assisted with “Fight Back” funds and media efforts; however, we were unable to minimize the loss. Cedar Falls Local 1366 was totally dissolved and the final 13 fire fighters were laid off with a creation of a public safety officer model. This had been an ongoing battle for years and despite a successful election effort, IAFF assistance and a media campaign, it was not enough to save that department. There are ongoing legal issues still in process, and we plan to continue to support election efforts to reverse this in the future.

The IPFF has made an asserted effort to expand our political footprint. The IAFF was a significant partner with Iowa in the 2018 elections and made a much-appreciated investment. We were not successful with the outcome of the election, but we have seen and felt the impact of that investment with an increase of our political influence.

Leading up to or Iowa caucuses in 2020, the IAFF made a huge presence and investment. The personal visits during the entire month of January from the GP, GST, DVP Woolbright and all the IAFF staff were a great motivator to our members and created solidarity and understanding within our locals. We also saw support from our neighboring states who came to Iowa to assist with the effort. Obviously, the outcome of the caucus was less than ideal; however, that exposure and visibility continues to elevate our standing within the political arena.

We lost a fire fighter Senator due to a resignation and we will be losing another fire fighter House Representative after this session closes. Fortunately, we have two fire fighters who are stepping up and running for Senate in 2020. Chris Brase out of Muscatine Local 0608 and Steve Gorman from Council Bluffs Local 15. We will be working very hard to get our fire fighter representation back in the Capitol.

There has been significant improvement and engagement with our legislative efforts. We have been continually building and cultivating relationships with legislators and having a greater presence at the Capitol for several years. These efforts have been made on both sides of the isle and we were seeing the benefit of our hard work.

The IAFF brought in the Political Capacity Development Program (State PTA) to Iowa. This was well attended, and our plan is to continue to build out our political capacity to get legislators elected who support our members.

Iowa remains a Republican stronghold with the Governor and both chambers having the Republican majority. Despite the legislative make-up, we have had successes.

In 2018, we were able to create a funding stream for the Public Safety Officer Spousal Benefit Fund. This fund was created in 2016 to offset medical and healthcare costs for the surviving spouse and family of those lost in the line of duty. The funding is provided through lottery proceeds with the IPFF receiving an annual deposit of $50,000 to support those families. The fund allocation has no sunset and continues into perpetuity.

In the 2019 legislative session we had significant support and momentum for legislative improvements in regard to our presumption coverage with the inclusion of PTSD. Our bill passed the House with a 99-1 vote. Unfortunately, this legislation was sidelined by the COVID-19 pandemic with the session being shut down and will need to be re-introduced next session. It has been, and will continue to be, a priority to build relationships at the Capitol, regardless of party affiliation.

We continue to expand our social media efforts and community outreach. This has been a focus area for us, and we have seen a 40% increase in followers on Facebook and a 60% increase on Twitter in the last two years. The IPFF Executive Board has been discussing the addition of a Communications Director position within the IPFF. We had a plan to present resolution to the membership for discussion at the 2020 Annual IPFF Convention.

Overall and prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Iowa was on an upward trajectory. Our members and executive board have been working hard on many fronts however we could not do it alone. The entire IAFF team has been there for us. We cannot mention all the names of the IAFF staff who have assisted and contributed to our success, from the GP & GST offices, Political/Governmental Affairs and Communications Departments, whenever we needed something, they were there for us.

We especially want to recognize the hard work and leadership of our District Vice President, Mark Woolbright. We have seen firsthand how much he fights for Iowa and all of the 2nd District to get us what we need to be successful. We appreciate your work and what you do for us. On behalf of the membership of Iowa,

IPFF President Doug Neys

Missouri

The MSCFF year started with a new President and new organizational chart approved at the convention with the intent on smaller locals have more of a presence at the table. We started with a number of meetings to put everyone on the same page, followed by the hiring of new lobbyists and a legislator advisor. Hitting the ground running, the legislative agenda was set with cancer presumption and PTSD legislation. The PTSD legislation got voted out of a Senate committee and several meeting on cancer presumption were moving the conversation in a positive direction. Then COVID-19 hit and put us all in a different position of protecting our members. With that being said and a total group effort from DVP Woolbright, Lobbyist Mark Habbas, John Bardgett, and the Executive Board of the MSCFF, the Governor signed an executive order for fire fighters saying if COVID-19 was contracted it would be presumption in the line of duty. Moving forward, it is my opinion the council is moving in the right direction and working together, no small task with new changes. More to come in the future. Thanks brother for all you do!

MSCFF President Demetris Alfred

Kansas

On the legislative front, the 2019 session was both interesting and somewhat of a success. The Kansas State Council of Fire Fighters joined forces with the Kansas State Fraternal Order of Police in proposing expansion of the current statute at the time regarding presumptive coverage of certain cancers contracted in the workplace.

With the combined efforts of the fire fighters and police officers in the state, an updated law is now on the books recognizing the additional cancers, such as cancers of the brain, prostate, melanoma and others to presumably be contracted by duty-related activity if contracted by an officer or fire fighter member of the Kansas Police and Firefighter Pension System. The new legislation was passed out of both chambers unanimously and signed into law by Governor Kelly.

Presently, in the 2020 session, the same public safety groups are pursuing legislation defining infectious diseases that are contracted while employed as a fire fighter or police officer and having them recognized as presumptive by K. P. & F. This proposed legislation passed the Senate unanimously and is assigned to a committee in the House, awaiting a hearing date.

Regarding activity in the local unions of Kansas, several longtime local officers stepped down from their respective positions. Matt Schulte has stepped aside as President of Local 135 in Wichita. President Schulte did a tremendous job while leading Local 135 and should be congratulated on a job well done. Also, Secretary-Treasurer Pat Young decided not to run and declined nomination for re-election as Secretary-Treasurer of Local 64 in Kansas City. Pat served 34 years in office and was awarded the IAFF Leadership Award for distinguished service at the IAFF convention held in Seattle, Washington, in 2018. Since leaving office, Pat was nominated and, by unanimous membership vote, elected Secretary-Treasurer Emeritus of Local 64. It is expected that other long-time state and local union officials may be leaving their current office prior to convention.

I want to thank all of the members of the 2nd District for their continued efforts and support of the issues facing this great organization and wish all continued success.

Finally, great appreciation and thanks to Vice President Woolbright and his staff for the services rendered to the membership over the last decade, and I look forward to much success in the future.

KSCFF President Robert S. Wing