In my travels throughout the United States and Canada, members frequently ask me why our union is politically active. With the 2020 presidential campaign quickly taking shape, I want all of our members to better understand our role in politics, including presidential elections.
First and foremost, I want to be clear - your union will never tell you how to vote. No organization, individual or union should demand that you vote for a particular candidate. It is a very personal decision based on your values, priorities and expectations.
The IAFF understands and respects your right to vote for the person who you believe deserves your support. We all have deeply held personal views on issues that influence decisions on who to support and vote for in any political race, including the president of the United States.
Why is political action important?
Elections have consequences. As public employees, IAFF members are subject to all manner of government – government that is run by politicians who make decisions that affect your lives and livelihoods. That’s why elections can have a more serious and direct impact for our members than for many other Americans.
Whether we like it or not, the political arena is where all the power is – politicians and lawmakers have a big hand in deciding policies that can greatly affect your career, family and economic future.
Why does the IAFF endorse candidates for president?
Your union represents you on a narrowly focused basket of issues – issues specifically related to your jobs as professional fire fighters and paramedics, including retirement security, occupational safety and health, collective bargaining rights, healthcare, wages and benefits, worker rights, staffing and presumptive protections.
As your union, we are your voice on these issues. We will always fight to improve your livelihood, keep you safe and improve conditions for our profession.
How much importance you place on these issues in electing a president is your choice.
It is our responsibility as your union to support the candidate who will have your back when it comes to signing laws, making agency appointments, writing rules and making the important decisions that affect you on the job every single day.
Why do you spend my dues money on Democrats I don’t like?
No dues money is given to candidates. Only voluntary contributions to the IAFF’s FIREPAC are donated to federal campaigns – for U.S. House, U.S. Senate and the presidency.
Your union doesn’t endorse on party lines. We support those who support fire fighters, regardless of political party.
On the presidential level, it is true that the IAFF has endorsed Democrats in past presidential elections based on the records of the respective candidates on fire fighter issues.
The IAFF gives significantly to both Republicans and Democrats. Just last year, in the 2018 midterm elections, we supported and helped elect Republican governors in Maryland, New Hampshire, Arizona, Idaho and Tennessee – and we supported Republican members in the U.S. House and Senate.
It doesn’t matter whether a candidate is a Republican, Democrat or Independent, a conservative or liberal. What matters is whether they understand, respect and support fire fighters. Our history has been to back the candidate who has championed – not simply supported – our issues.
The next time someone at your firehouse kitchen table says the IAFF is only about Democrats, remind them that we are bipartisan and have the record to back it up.
What if my political and philosophical beliefs don’t match with the IAFF?
The IAFF respects and embraces your right to make your decision independent of the IAFF’s endorsement.
Your union works on your behalf on issues that pertain to our profession. We don’t engage in identity politics, nor do we advocate for or against other issues.
Our recommendations are offered as information on where candidates stand on issues that are vital to fire fighters – protecting you on the job, improving your standard of living, protecting your safety and health, securing affordable healthcare, making sure you come home at the end of each shift, providing a secure retirement and other aspects of your work.
Simply put, we provide you with information on where candidates stand so you are better educated on fire fighter-specific issues when you go to the ballot box.
Why should I continue to support the IAFF if our union doesn’t support the candidates I support?
Your IAFF works with political allies on both sides of the aisle, Republicans and Democrats. As a result, we have been successful at advancing legislation benefiting your job, working conditions and financial well-being with the support of both parties.
We make sure your voice as a fire fighter is heard on all matters that pertain to your profession at all levels of government.
While there may be times when you prefer a candidate that the IAFF does not support, you can always count on your union to be looking out for you, your best interests and what’s best for you on the job as fire fighters and paramedics.