Message From President Coker
In July, I had the opportunity to travel to Cincinnati to attend the IAFF’s 52nd Con-vention. The Convention is held every two years and is es-sentially like a union meeting that is attended by 2,000 mem-bers from all across the U.S. and Canada. While at Conven-tion, delegates represent their home locals and discuss, de-bate, and vote on resolutions that will give the IAFF direc-tion.
It is only when one at-tends events like the Conven-tion, the Legislative Confer-ence, or the Affiliate Leader-ship Training Summit, that you really get a genuine under-standing of the size, influence, and professionalism of the IAFF. There is literally no piece of the fire service that the IAFF doesn’t touch or impact positively.
One area that our union is providing some much needed leadership is in the realm of fire fighter cancer prevention and awareness. The delegates at the 52nd Convention voted to adopt Resolution 35 which would allocate 3 cents of your dues each month to go directly to cancer research. That 3 cents per member per month may not sound like much but it will generate $90,000 a year to combat a silent killer that is becoming more and more prevalent among our ranks.
There was some debate on Reso-lution 35, as there always is when you discuss raising the amount of dues that the IAFF keeps each month, but I am proud to say that I voted in favor of this Resolution. My primary motivation for this vote was the memory of our brother Butch Cummings who succumbed to his battle with multiple myeloma in 2012.
When I came home from Conven-tion I thought more and more about Butch. I thought about the fact that, since the last IAFF Convention, 56% of the LODDs that the IAFF has declared were cancer related. Think about that for a moment– 56% of declared line of duty deaths in the career fire service in the last two years were directly related to occupa-tional cancers. Those numbers should scare you into washing your gear regular-ly, especially after fires, and hooking up the plymovent if you don’t already. I began to research multiple myeloma and found there is significant science that sug-gests it impacts firefighters at rates 50% greater than the general population. It also generally strikes those who are 70 years of age and older. It is worth men-tioning that Butch was only 59 when he passed away.
Over the years, the IAFF and various other state union leaders, have worked to develop pre-sumptive disability workers compensation laws. These laws link particular occupa-tions (like fighting fire) with diseases that are prov-en to be a hazard of that occupation (like certain cancers). With these laws in place, the burden of proof to demonstrate that an employee did NOT con-tract a particular disease as a result of the occupation then falls on the employer.
Currently, 42 states, and every Provence in Can-ada, have some form of presumptive disability laws. There are no less than 12 states that name multiple myeloma and oth-er hematological cancers specifically in the language of the state law! Unfortunately, here in North Carolina, we are among the 8 states that have absolutely no pre-sumptive disability protec-tions. A North Carolina firefighter who contracts a disease like multiple mye-loma has to link his or her illness to a specific incident. You and I know this nearly impossible. The fact is that many of these cancers are the result of repeated exposures to car-cinogens over the period of one’s career.
Given that North Carolina firefighters aren’t protected by these laws, I must admit, it was my assumption that Butch would not be eligi-ble to be declared an official IAFF LODD. After Convention, however, I presented the information I had gathered regarding multiple myeloma to our regional District Vice-President, Larry Osborne. Brother Osborne agreed that there was significant evidence to suggest that Butch would likely have been covered under the presumptive laws of several states and encouraged Local 947 to submit his information and go through the LODD application process. So, in early August, with the permission of Butch’s family, we submitted his information to the IAFF. In a few short days, the IAFF declared our brother Butch an official IAFF occupational cancer LODD.
On August 15, we received Butch’s IAFF Medal of Honor at our union office. This is the highest honor that can be bestowed on a member of our organization. While the IAFF’s designa-tion of Butch as an LODD does not change our state law, it does provide his family some signifi-cant benefits provided by the IAFF. In 2015, Butch’s name will be placed on the IAFF Fallen Firefighter Memorial in Colorado Springs, CO. Also, his children are eligible to apply for the IAFF’s McClennan Scholarship which provides $2,500 a year for the college education of children whose parents have been declared LODDs. Butch’s wife Cynthia has informed me that their daughter will be pursuing the McClennan Schol-arship. Finally, in October, we are planning a me-morial dinner for Butch where we will present his family with the Medal of Honor.
This entire process has been a significant education for me personally in a number of areas; presumptive disability laws, firefighter cancer awareness and prevention, and the internal processes of the IAFF’s LODD policy, just to name a few. We can not bring our brother Butch back but we have an opportunity to honor his memory in a number of ways. We can redouble our efforts to win much needed presumptive laws for firefighters in NC. In the 2013-14 General Assembly sessions, HB1000, which would have provided for presumptive disabil-ity in our state, stalled in the Committee on State Per-sonnel for over a year. We will have to wait for a bill like this to be introduced in the coming session but when it is we are going to come out swinging and begin asking for meetings with members of both sides of the aisle so we can tell Butch’s story. We also need to promote good habits among our ranks in the firehouse. There is much we can do to signifi-cantly reduce our exposures to carcinogens and toxins on the fire ground and when we get back to the sta-tion. We will be requesting a meeting with the GFD Safety Officer soon to discuss some of these issues.
As I said, we can’t bring Butch back. The loss his family has suffered will be felt everyday for years to come. But what we can do is redouble our efforts around the issues that have hit Butch’s family the hardest. Cancer is a silent killer among firefight-ers. We honor Butch’s memory by changing our hab-its on the fire ground and in the firehouse. We honor Butch’s memory by working to secure financial bene-fits for those who make the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty and contract these deadly diseases. Fi-nally, we honor him by continuing to be there for his family when they need us. We’re going to do all of those things and a whole lot more. Rest easy, brother. We’ll take it from here...
Captain Dave Coker,
President IAFF Local 947
Who Are We And What Do We Do
The Professional Fire Fighters of Greensboro (PFFG) Local 947 is the local affiliate of the International Association of Fire Fighters. We are the labor union representing Greensboro’s sworn Fire personnel. The mis-sion of our organization is:
"To be a vehicle for positive change within the Greensbo-ro Fire Department that utilizes and promotes trade-unionism among the members and the community, builds political power for the good of the fire fighters, promotes the most advanced and safest practices of our profes-sion, and participates in charitable events in the commu-nity in which we serve."
Additionally, we are affiliated with the Piedmont Triad Central Labor Council, the Professional Fire Fighters and Paramedics of North Caroli-na, and the North Carolina AFL-CIO
Dear Greensboro Residents
Dear Greensboro Resident,
Since 1884, when Steam Fire Engine Co. Number 1 was placed in service,
Greensboro’s fire fighters have saved countless lives, protected millions of
dollars in property, and provided the citizens of this great City with first class
service. We have come a long way since those early days of horse-drawn
fire pumps but our commitment to duty and our mission has never wavered.
That mission is to protect life and property in the City of Greensboro.
During these tight budget times we want to take the opportunity to remind the
residents of Greensboro of the key role that your fire fighters play in public
safety. In addition to responding on all structure fires, your fire
hazardous material mitigation.
emergency medical care at the EMT-B level.
the tank farm with a specialized foam task force.
public education programs for citizens of all ages.
specialized patient extrication in serious motor vehicle accidents.
a technical rescue team that specializes in all urban search as rescue
a specialized bike team that responds to emergencies on Greensboro’s trail
During these troubling economic times your fire department has
tightened its belt and continued to provide the residents of Greensboro with
the service they deserve. As we continue, as a city, to
navigate very tough budget times it is our hope that engaged residents will
continue to convey to elected officials that they:
1. Want, need and highly value the professional services of of the Greensboro
2. Are opposed to ANY reduction in fire department staffing as staffing cuts
will jeopardize citizen and fire fighter safety.
3. Are opposed to the elimination of ANY fire companies throughout the city
because this will also jeopardize citizen and fire fighter safety.
4. Are willing to pay their taxes to maintain the level of fire and rescue
services that citizens currently enjoy.
In conclusion we want to thank you, the residents of Greensboro,
for allowing us the privilege to serve you as your fire and rescue
professionals. We hope when the time comes you will convey to your
elected members of Council that you wish to maintain the high level of service
that we provide to you on a daily basis.
The Professional Fire Fighters of Greensboro-Local 947
You can contact your member of Council here:
Firefighters for Responsible Government (FFRG)
Firefighters for Responsible Government (FFRG) is the local Political Action Committee (PAC) of PFFG Local 947. Our mission is to educate members of the Greensboro City Council on issues that are important to firefighters and help elect candidates to office who support our issues.
Here is your way to make a difference in our local elections. By supporting Fireifghters for Responsible Government you'll allow us to motivate those who can make the biggest difference in our work environment: our local government leaders.
Things you should know about where your money goes:
1) It stays in North Carolina.
FFRG is a state and local PAC, so no money can be spent on elections outside the state of North Carolina. Currently, our primary focus is on raising PAC money to contribute during the Greensboro City Council elections. Our goal is to help elect firefighter and employee-friendly Council members who strive to understand our issues.
2) You won't miss it.
You'll lose more money with change falling between the cushions in the couch this month.
3) No member dues are used for PAC contributions.
State and federal laws prohibit the use of union dues money for the purpose of making contributions to local, state, and federal candidates. Contributions to FFRG are voluntary and are from our members, their spouses, and family members.