Salutations, I hope this edition of straight streams finds you and your families well and in good spirits. Once again, I would like to thank you for the opportunity to serve as President of your Union. As I enter the last year of my term, I reflect on all the great things this Union has done for my family and me. I am thankful for those before me that paved the road I now walk along. I hope that the benefits you have received by being part of this Local have inspired you to get involved, take charge of your future, and lead your peers. WE WANT YOU!!
Local 2546 welcomes and needs you to serve. The new Firefighters must get involved and take hold of their future. If interested, please email me email@example.com Please answer the call and I look forward to discussing your availability. You can be part of the change and strength we need!
COVID: Brothers and Sisters, it is with the hope that our world will return to some sense of normalcy this year. Approximately half of my family and I have received the COVID vaccine and now feel relief. I am thankful that God has given the scientists the wisdom to provide us with the vaccine and that you have a choice to get the shot(s) if desired. We all hope this will help us open up our Country to safe gatherings and travel. I have spoken to many about the virus and the opportunity to get vaccinated. It is fascinating how opinions vary regarding COVID and how some have changed since we first spoke. Some of my friends said the vaccine is unnecessary others said it has not been studied enough and even think it’s a political stunt. Many members who were unsure now feel enough time has passed to provide the efficacy and have decided to receive the vaccine. Whatever your belief is, my wish is you stay strong and healthy through this pandemic.
BYLAWS: By now, you should have received notification from your district Vice-President Regarding the upcoming bylaws proposals over 60 days ago. Please take the time to review them and be prepared to vote at the Local’s office on April 12, 2021 on these revisions. You will find a copy of the proposed bylaws in this edition of Straight Streams. Most of these proposals are to streamline or correct our processes and reflect efficiency. I look forward to seeing you on voting day, April 12, 2021
IAFF: This year was IAFF’s President Harold Schaitberger's last year. Many thanks go out to Harold for his leadership and development of the programs we utilize to secure our benefits. He was principal in promoting many of the innovations that you now use to accomplish your job. Under his leadership, the IAFF started providing financial analysis and comprehensive pay studies to reflect where we stand concerning our comparables. Thank You for serving! You have made a difference in my life President Schaitberger!
Stay well and be safe, and God Bless Firefighters
Future Home of Local 2546
752 Commerce Drive recently received its inspection for plumbing and electrical rough-in. The air conditioning rough-in work has begun, and our general contractor feels confident that construction should be complete and ready to move in sometime in late June or July. Your new Union Office will provide enough office space, meeting area, and offices to conduct the work of Local 2546 for years to come.
Sisters and Brothers,
I hope as you read this edition of Straight Streams, life finds you and your families well. I want to thank you all for your continued efforts through the Pandemic these last few months. I’m thankful to report that we haven’t lost any of our Local’s members to COVID as I write this article and pray it remains the same by the time you read this.
Here are some updates from the Secretary’s Office since our last publication.
Many of our Units Collective Bargaining Agreements are expiring this year. My office has been requesting multiple Municipal Financial Analysis and Wage Comparisons from the IAFF. These studies are a great tool offered by the IAFF that helps your DVPs and their negotiation team be successful.
Just remember that your DVPs can't do it all themselves. Please tell them your ideas and participate in the process. Please fill out any surveys they send you and attend the negotiation sessions whenever possible. If you've never sat in on one of those meetings, you'll have a direct insight as to just some of what your representatives deal with daily.
Note on the surveys. You may receive a text message or email from IAFF SMART, depending on how your DVP chooses to gather information. Please read the text before deleting it, and don't mark it as SPAM. You may hinder your ability to receive updates or future surveys from your representatives.
Local 2546 Elections:
Nominations have been received for the Offices of Treasurer and West Manatee DVP thus far. I want to thank those members nominated for stepping up and taking on the responsibility of being a representative for our Local. I wish you luck on your upcoming campaigns, and I'm here to help you in any way I can to be successful if elected.
If you have ever considered running for office within this Local but feel like it would be too great a task to take on with your current level of understanding of union work, consider becoming a Steward for your DVP. Stewardship is a significant entry-level role within the organization that can help you prepare to run. It is also a great chance to see if this is something you want to do in the first place. I'm not saying this to deter anyone; I want you to be aware of the workload that comes with these positions. At the end of the day, the more of us who step up and help, the lighter the load for all.
Your DVPs were tasked with asking members if they would like to be on the Local's Committee. I want to thank those of you who have stepped up and submitted your names. We will be reviewing the Local's current policy for elections and updating it to meet the latest NLRB guidelines.
This committee will only have to meet 2-3 times via Zoom to accomplish the policy update. This is a perfect opportunity for those of you who want to check out how we work through the committee process and give you an insight on union work.
Human Relations Committee:
Like the Elections Committee above, your DVPs have submitted the names of those willing to participate in this Committee. Again, I want to thank all of you for stepping up to be considered.
This Committee will work on issues of equity and fair treatment of all firefighters regardless of their race, ethnicity, sex, sexual orientation, etc.
The goal is to have this become a permanent committee of the Local with elected terms. We will create the inaugural Committee and will work collectively to develop the length of service terms, bylaws, and other Committee Nuances. The IAFF currently has an elected Human Relations Committee, and we will be looking at their model for guidance to fit our Local's needs.
Union Training Opportunities:
Last year the Florida Professional Firefighters (FPF) held virtual seminars throughout the summer months of topics usually offered at the annual convention due to COVID. This could happen again this year, so please stay tuned for updates from your DVP's if any offerings are made available in the coming months. If you're interested in stewardship, I highly recommend participating in these seminars.
These are just a few things we're working on, and there are many moving parts to our organization. Opportunities to participate in your union are always available. Please contact your DVP, Steward, or the office if you need anything from the Local.
If you’d like to participate in either the Human Relations Committee or the Elections Committee, you can also contact me directly at Secretary@iaff2546.com.
I thank you for reading this, and please stay safe.
Always your Brother,
Brothers and Sisters of Local 2546,
I hope all is well with you and your families. We have had a challenging year with lots of changes due to the pandemic and everything that has come with it. Virtual meetings have become normalized and in person meetings have become a thing of the past. Here are some of the things that we have been working on:
I have had the great opportunity to be a part of this committee. As you may or may not know, there has been a bill filed in the Senate, Senate Bill # 84. This bill is calling for a change to the Florida Retirement System, that would affect anyone hired on or after July 1, 2022 but would not affect anyone hired prior to that date. The bill would require anyone hired on or after July 1, 2022 to be placed into the Defined Contribution Plan also known as the “Investment Plan.” This would not allow this group of employees to have the option to be part of the Defined Benefit Plan also known as the “Pension Plan.” Fortunately, on March 31 there was an amendment brought forth that would carve out the Special Risk Class from this bill. This would allow new employees in the Special Risk Class to have the option to choose between the two Retirement Plans. This bill still has further to go, but it has made it through Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee and Appropriations Committee. Since about 92% of Special Risk Class Employees have chosen to be in the Defined Benefit Plan this is a big deal for future employees.
I have continued to be a part of the Cedar Hammock negotiations team and Charlotte County negotiations team. I have been working with our builder on the remodel for the Local’s new office space. I have also recently been assigned with Charlotte County District Vice President Brendan Betancourt to serve on the FRS Communications Task Force.
Things don’t seem to slow even with the Pandemic lingering around. Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions or concerns. As always, thank you for allowing me to serve as your Treasurer!
Johnny Rigney, Jr.
Brothers and Sisters,
First, let me thank the Executive Board for unanimously confirming President Vets' appointment to be your Business Agent. I look forward to continuing to work hard every day for our Union. I will do what I can to ensure you never regret your decision in me. As a brand-new Firefighter in Orange County in Orlando, I was fortunate enough to have my Engineer Marlin Ellis also be our Battalion Union Rep.
I signed my Union card 17 years ago. When I did, he told me, "You get out of the Union what you put in." A month later, he took me to my first Union meeting, and I was hooked. Fifteen of my 17 years in the fire service, I have been a Union representative of some sort.
When I served as Interim Secretary, it was surprising to see the work done daily. Once again, I was hooked. I look forward to doing the work for the working man. Our profession is easy to be proud of in so many ways, and I enjoy talking with people from general citizens to elected officials on your behalf. Unfortunately, some forget the sacrifices we make to serve. I will be quick to remind them.
I'm looking forward to helping our DVPs with upcoming negotiations, issues they're having, or wherever the local calls me in the 12 Departments we represent.
We are working hard to ensure a terrible FRS bill doesn't hurt our pensions and looking to advance protections in your Firefighter Bill of Rights and Pathogen presumption legislation.
Your Union has made changes to our scholarship program to provide educational assistance for our members when working towards fire service career degrees or paramedic school. If you have any questions regarding this, please don't hesitate to reach out to me or your DVP. This scholarship is an excellent opportunity to get some help with your educations.
This Union is a passion of mine, and I look forward to serving you all.
Welcome to Local 2546
When you see these members take a moment and welcome them into the Org.
Matthew Anderswon - North Port Fire Rescue
Jeffrey Gibble - North Port Fire Rescue
Anthony Schiavo- North Port Fire Rescue
Matthew Simmons - North Port Fire Rescue
Eric Walsh - North Port Fire Rescue
Zachary Wiegele - North Port Fire Rescue
Saxon Wiskowski - North Port Fire Rescue
Nicole Tyler - North River Fire District
Juan Leyva - City of Venice Fire
Trevor Sturm - West Manatee Fire Rescue
Congratulations on Your Retirement
Rommel Arostegui- City of Bradenton Fire
Brad Fraser- Charlotte County Fire & EMS
Chief Bill Van Helden - Charlotte County Fire & EMS
Matt Taylor - Longboat Key Fire
Jeff Wright - Punta Gorda Fire
Paul Kurtz - Sarasota County Fire Department
This year will be my last with SCFD and as your DVP. I will have worked for this Department for 30 years and have been your DVP for the last 9 years. It’s a weird feeling to be happy and sad at the same time. With that, now comes a new chapter in your history and a new leader to move you all forward. We don’t know who that will be yet but I promise to always be around to help and provide past history on important issues.
This year we go back to the table to negotiate another contract. I have posted your membership priority survey to the union website for review. Pay was your number one priority and I agree. In my opinion, if the membership keeps the negotiations fixed on two issues, pay and language, we stand a better chance of achieving both. As always, you all will determine that outcome because like I said earlier, this is your future now. We are looking at ways to hold general membership meetings for the contract negotiations to provide information and get instant feedback from our members. We are looking for a large facility or open complex so we can maintain social distancing. If you have any suggestions, please contact Jose or myself.
Looking towards the future, I encourage anyone who is interested in Union work to get involved now. We are always looking for motivated members to help with upcoming negotiations. We don’t know who will be your Chief in the future and it’s imperative the new DVP has the tools and support needed for their upcoming fights. Remember to check the union’s website regularly for updates on concerning issues and to post concerns of your own. If you’re having troubles logging in or using the website, please call Sylvia at the office (485-5193) and she will gladly help you with both.
On Scene at House fire
Brothers and Sisters,
Everyone is in different places in their career. The common thread that has brought us all to this calling is to serve others as a team. We are expected to sacrifice for those who we don't know and to risk self for each other so all may go home safe. I have had the privilege to give of myself for 27 years. My career also gave the impact of worry and the demands of our schedule on my family.
In my years I have seen a great many different things. Changes in the world, changes in politics, and five different Chiefs. Each of these have had profound effects on the Fire service and how Venice Fire Department does its job.
I mention all of this to bring up a point I hope that you all will also consider. Through all of the challenges and changes both good and bad, the best outcomes are when we are united. Doing this does not always serve your personal interest, but in the long term you will be served best when the whole moves forward together.
There are always going to be issues that land at our feet. Don't let these be opportunities to divide. Issues can be a challenge to overcome to make us stronger or a cancer that will ultimately take away our strength.
The best advice for you in your career is that if you see division, fight it. Fight it like your future depends on it, because it does.
It has been an honor serving as DVP. It is time to pass the torch.
Please take care in unity,
Fire Rescue Aerial Ops Training
Fire Boat Training
Brothers and Sisters,
As some of you know, I am moving on from the DVP of Longboat Key to serve as the Business Agent for the Local. I look forward to the challenges that the position is going to be taking on. But first, I want to thank my Sisters and Brothers at LBK. For almost 14 years, their belief in me as either their Steward or DVP is where I got my start. Their trust in me allowed me to move on to bigger things. I am still always available to talk and THANK YOU for everything you've done for me. LBK will have nominations and an election for the DVP position this month; I look forward to helping my successor be successful.
Longboat has started negotiations. We made our initial offer and are waiting for the Town to complete its cost analysis to return to the table.
Our Station 1 is coming along nicely. The crews are in their new bunks, and the new kitchen and day room are close to completion. Our Station 2 was a complete rebuild and is on schedule to be completed by the end of May.
I am proud to say that 90% of our personnel will be vaccinated by the end of next month. We're looking forward to a return to some normalcy. We have hired a new member who will be starting in the middle of April. Tanner Broxston will be joining the Fire Service as a brand-new Firefighter/Paramedic.
To all, Be safe.
Station 2 Nearing Completion
Brothers and Sisters,
It has been very eventful at Englewood Fire.
We had 3 promotions to the rank of Lieutenant. Brothers Jeremy White, Josh Jacobs, and Mark Miller. Congratulations on your promotions and good luck in your future endeavors.
We also swore in a new fire Commissioner, Mark Knauf. Commissioner Knauf is a fair and honest pillar of the Englewood community and I trust that we will have a very successful working relationship and future.
We are also getting ready to push 4 more firefighters through Paramedic school this spring, while the previous 4 in school will be finished up.
We are getting ready to sit down for contract negotiations and I feel confident that they will go well.
We have great management with open eyes leading from the front of this organization.
Stay Well, Stay Safe, and Stay diligent.
Fire Rescue Aerial Ops Training
On Scene at a Brush Fire
Brothers and Sisters,
In January I was honored to be a part of the 55th IAFF Convention where I was able to participate in the election of a new General President, and General Secretary Treasurer. This is a monumental time in our IAFF history as many of us have only known one General President, Harold Schaitberger. President Schaitberger’s impact on labor and our Firefighters cannot be overstated. I look forward to the future of our Union, with the newly elected President Elect Ed (Edzo) Kelly, and General Secretary Treasurer Elect Frank Lima.
Our membership has also stepped up to numerous calls for action to help the community in regards to COVID and vaccination sites. January also began our role with COVID vaccinations in the homes of those identified as vulnerable. I personally got to experience the impact that our members had on these individuals in receiving their first and second doses of the vaccine, allowing them to regain some sense of normalcy, some having not been able to see family for the last year.
Your negotiation team has been and continues to work extremely hard on research and negotiating with Administration in attempts to settle on contract changes that will help advance our Department into the future while addressing previous areas of opportunity.
We saw the retirement of Chief Bill Van Helden after an amazing 42-year career dedicated to public safety in South West Florida. This led to the promotion of Chief Jason Fair to the position of Public Safety Director.
I am extremely proud of the work that we continue to do day in and day out, there is no doubt that this last year has been challenging to say the least. However, I have never been prouder to be a Firefighter surrounded by my amazing Brothers and Sisters who dedicate themselves daily. I look forward to the future of Charlotte County Fire-EMS and until the next update, stay safe and healthy.
Stay healthy, stay strong, and remain unified.
Congrats to Todd Dunn for winning Honorable Mention in the "Best Social Media Video" category for his submission to the IAFF Media Award contest
Confined Space Training
On Scene at a Brush Fire
Chief Bill Van Helden Day
Proclaimed February 16, 2021
By the Charlotte County Commission
Enjoy your Retirement Chief!!!!!
Welcome Chief Fair
Sworn in February 16, 2021
FF Bennett, participating in FF survival and RIC training
Hello Brothers and Sisters of 2546,
As always, I hope this article finds you and your families doing well. As for us in the City of North Port, we are doing good. It is crazy how quickly time goes by and how quickly change comes and goes. What I mean by that is, look around and notice how things seem to “go by”. Life doesn’t wait for you; it happens no matter what. We just lost a long-time public Works manager recently who went to the hospital because he didn’t feel well and never made it home. Life also seems to “go by” without explanation sometimes, so enjoy every moment.
On a brighter note, we have Station 86 coming out of the ground and as of today, they are about to start the steel infrastructure, dang is it huge! It seemed like just yesterday the Commission had their gold shovels in hand. Our training structure is HOPEFULLY in its last stages so we can break ground soon!
Our call volume as I’m sure is with everyone is going up and it shows how many people are coming to Florida. We are dumping our Rescues more and more frequently these days. Fires have seemed to slow to only a few a quarter, I believe it is from more people staying/ working from home thanks to COVID.
As far as the COVID topic, we are doing just fine. There have been no serious issues and our members are staying healthy. We have been a vaccination site for the public assisting with up to 2,000 shots a day. This has been taking place at our Suncoast Technical College South campus site off of Toledo Blade which has created a lot of work for our members, but we are making it happen.
Lastly, we are about to step into negotiations and as with anyone who is in the same situation, the future is unknown so it will be challenging to say the least. Fortunately, we have worked really hard to gain a trusting relationship with our officials so we have that on our side. I will be hoping to give good news by the next Straight Streams. Keep working hard, keep training to be the best and as a good friend of mine once said… “Life’s a garden, dig it!”
Station 86 Ground Breaking
Hello everyone. Hope all is well with each of you and your families.
Here's a brief update on what's been happening in and around the BFD.
Back on Christmas Eve of 2020 Adam Roman and his wife expanded their family by adding little Lylah Ann and Steve and Aubrey Rissler added
Brooks to their growing brood on January 12th of this year. By all accounts everyone is doing well. Congratulations to you all.
More recently Rommel "Rooster" Arostegui crossed his finish line and road off into the sunset after over 25 years of service on April 2nd. He may very well hold the record for our Department as the longest serving Charge EMT ever. Congrats to you my good friend on a job well done. Enjoy the next chapter of your story.
Taking his spot is our newest hire, Garrett Mumford. This young man I've known personally for almost 20 years has already proven to be a great addition to our Department's ever evolving succession plan. Welcome, Garrett. Its great to have you with us.
In the mean time, we're dealing with all the same sort of stuff every other Department in our Local and State deals with. Calls, COVID, budgets, policies, procedures, politics, etc.
You name it, it's the same no matter where you serve. The struggles and successes are all very similar. We're certainly not perfect and there's plenty of room for improvement but what makes us different, is you. What separates us from the herd, is you. Your attitude, your outlook, your swagger. Your professionalism and attention to detail are key. We are on the verge of change and poised for greatness. Hang in there. Better is coming and its just around the corner.
Thanks for having me. For allowing me to serve you and to be a part of one of the greatest professions with some of the greatest people I've ever known.
Stay Safe, Doug
BFD receiving a grant from Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation.
Brothers and Sisters,
I hope everyone had a Happy Easter and the opportunity to spend time with family.
As many of you know, our team has started contract negotiations with the City. Our first meeting went well. As always, I support anyone who would like to attend. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact me.
PGFD has been on standby at one of the Covid Vaccine Sites in the City. I encourage everyone to participate in working these details and speaking to the citizens in our community.
Last, I would like to congratulate Jeff Wright on his marriage and retirement. Hoping you have a healthy and happy retirement. Best of luck with all that life has in store for you.
As always stay safe,
Greetings from Southern Manatee.
Things have been status quo since our last article. In January Chief Robert Bounds was promoted to Fire Chief and Chief Gorski, resigned as the Fire Chief and was given the position of Deputy Chief; responsible for our infant ALS Engine program. Right now, we are in “cruise control”; with no elections or contract negotiations scheduled for this year. As for COVID, currently no employees are quarantined and about 40% of personnel have been vaccinated.
Next, I would like to take this time to thank Fire Marshall Leslie Adent. 03-31-21 was her last day after 31 years of dedicated service. FM Adent started her career as a volunteer Firefighter with the Oneco-Tallevast Fire Dept. She was then hired full-time and worked her way up through the ranks, ending her career as the Fire Marshal. Congratulations Leslie!
I would also like to congratulate one of our members; Frank Meola. Frank also started as a career Firefighter with Southern Manatee, then transferred to Fire Prevention as an Inspector. With FM Adent’s retirement, the Fire Prevention Bureau needed a replacement. An assessment was conducted and Frank finished first and has been promoted to Deputy Fire Marshall. Chief Robert Bounds will hold the title as Fire Marshall, but DFM Meola will be responsible for leading the Fire Prevention Bureau. Congratulations Frank and good luck!
I hope that 2021 is a better year for all of us. Please stay safe and healthy.
Change of Leadership Ceremony
SMFD Change of Leadership Ceremony
February 26, 2021
Enjoy Your Next Chapter Chief Goski ... Welcome Chief Bounds
Brothers and Sisters,
North River has had a lot going on in the past few months. It has been a big first quarter with the MDA Boot Drive, the delivery of a new fire boat, the progress of the ALS program and a new hire.
The MDA Boot Drive was a success for the most part. We did get rained out one day but had a good turn out and great weather for the two days and were able to collect a total of $9,000. A big thank you to Joel Baker for the hard work that he put in to organize the event and a big thanks to all that came out to collect.
North River has taken delivery of a new fire boat that has been in the works for a while. The boat is a custom build by Munson in Washington state. The boat has a total length of 33 feet from motor guard to bow, is powered by twin Yamaha 300’s, has a 500 GPM pump, and many other great features to serve the District.
The ALS program is steadily moving forward. Two medics from each shift began rides in March with Sarasota County Fire Department to complete task books and prepare for their sign offs with our Medical Director. A big thank you to Sarasota County and everyone involved with helping move the program forward.
I would like to welcome a new hire, Firefighter Paramedic Nicole Tyler, to North River. Nicole has signed up with the Local.
Volunteering for a Good Cause
FB-516 is in service
Greetings Brothers and Sisters of Local 2546 and welcome another addition of Straight Streams.
On the surface it would seem like there isn't much going on at the West Manatee Unit. Nothing could be further from the truth. We have several people working on to become Charge Medics which will help alleviate some of the pressure on the other Medics due to being held over. We have Lieutenant testing coming soon. The candidates have all been diligently in the books and studying hard so good luck to them all. We had our first CBA session recently which went well. The real work starts with the financials of the Department and the agreed upon comparables. We received the MFA from the IAFF and the negotiation team will be meeting to go through it to develop a strategy in order gain the most benefit for our Membership. So far it doesn't look like there are any real issues that can't be worked out.
A conditional job offer has been extended to Crystal Tucciarone. Many of our members worked with Crystal during her time with Manatee County EMS from 2012-2019. During that stint, she became a Charge Paramedic with the County and served as an EMS Field Training Officer. She completed Fire School in 2019 and worked briefly for Southern Manatee Fire Rescue. She currently works as an EMT/Paramedic Instructor with Sarasota Technical College. Congratulations Crystal.
Remember to talk to all of you new hires and stress to them the importance of them having a copy of their Pre-Employment Physical and how it relates to Heart/Lung Bill. Without it they will be denied any benefit by Work Comp.
Until the next issue of Straight Streams, stay safe and look out for one another.
Buddy Bowen, WMFR DVP
West Manatee Headquarters Nearing Completion
On Scene at a Boat Fire
Greetings Brothers and Sisters,
It has been an honor to serve as your DVP and I look forward to the future. I strive this year to continue my dedication to you, as the members, and represent the Local in a positive manner. I would like to invite each of you to contact me with any questions, especially if you have any interest in becoming more involved with the Local. I am eager to share and educate to the best of my abilities.
2020 has thrown a few challenges at us and through it all we have continued negotiations for the 2020-2023 CBA. On March 24th the final Tentative Agreement was signed. The first week of April the vote for ratification will be held. We are anticipating it to pass with no issues. I feel that we have a good product and have built a better working relation with management. I thank all that were involved for your dedication of time and effort.
CHFR has presented us with some opportunities. One was establishing a new structured Safety committee. This has given us a level, educated platform to enable the greater process in determining the need for change or improvement for safe operations. Next was the new SCBA committee. This group met with vendors, read through specs and compiled data from the crews to determine the next generation SCBA we are to purchase. Also, a totally new promotion policy was adopted and in the near future there will be more updates and changes to the policy. I feel all will be well received and help project us into a progressive future. With all that was mentioned above, the Management had asked for representation from our members to participate. This has brought the ever elusive “buy in” every organization needs. With more forward progressive thinking and improvements to keep up with the ever-changing needs of the District, the opportunity for positive growth and advancement is ever growing. I encourage you all to continue in being involved.
In conclusion, this year we have hit the ground running. There are no plans on slowing down. I ask you to remember the Brotherhood in all this. This time is a great opportunity to excel. I encourage you to step out of the comfort zone and make some rewarding sacrifices. Helping your Brothers in need. Whether it is doing a swap, lending a hand with a house project, reaching out and lifting up, getting out for adventures and just enjoy the fellowship. This career will ask a lot of you. We are all in this together and our time will be done before we know it. Take the time to share with a member and just cherish the moments. Get out there and create some memories while you can.
As always, thanks to the Executive Board of Local 2546, CHFR Management and Members for the support and placing their trust in me!
DVP Paul Reda
On Scene at a Vehicle Fire
By now everybody knows about the change of leadership in our great IAFF. I am pleased with the new blood stepping into the critical positions of General President (Edzo) and General Secretary (Frank Lima). We interviewed the candidates for office and unanimously endorsed these two dedicated professionals. Those running against them were all qualified and capable of doing an excellent job. That said I am happy that our top choices were elected. We are in very capable hands. Edzo has pledged to improve transparency and member participation. I am confident he will.
I cannot talk about the future of this great organization without acknowledging the incredible growth of the IAFF under the leadership of now retired President Harold Schaitberger. Despite what you may believe, I didn't always agree with his decisions and policies. I respectfully challenged a significant dues increase he proposed several years ago on the premise that many of our members had not been able to get raises and the timing was simply poor. We lost that vote by a narrow margin, but we did not leave our parent Organization over that or any other disagreement. The majority rules in any successful organization. Harold never held that vote against me or our District even though he knew where we stood. We requested and received many vital services from the IAFF in the years that followed that unpopular vote. Harold ran our organization like a well oiled machine. He was deeply respected by all Union leaders and many powerful elected officials in the US and Canada. Harold set the bar high for those who would follow, but he also grew an org that developed their young for transition into any office needed, including his own. Thank you for your service and sacrifice to make our Union what it is today. Good luck in your well deserved retirement Harold.
For those of you wanting a summary of what's going on in Tally.... here is a quick update on top issues of importance to the Florida Professional Firefighters & Paramedics this session. While there are many Bills being monitored, I will share briefly on the top priorities with the necessary understanding that the legislative process is fluid. What I am writing today (3-30-21) could easily be significantly different tomorrow, let alone weeks from now when this letter actually goes out to the membership. Please view the weekly video updates on the FPF website to be better informed.
SB 84 Rodrigues - No House Companion bill yet.
FRS Closure of Defined Benefit option.
Per data from the current Senate Actuarial Studies this option saves very little money if any, and therefore defeats its stated purpose of addressing the perceived underfunding and stability of the plan. FPF is not interested in negotiating on this matter regardless of other bills that are important to us. We stand firm that the FRS defined benefit option must remain for our future Firefighters.
HB 313 Busata-Cabrera/ SB 970 Hooper
Firefighter Bill of Rights. Bill fixes the informal inquiry loophole and defines informal inquiry”.
HB 949 Fetterhoff/ SB 1314 Gruters - Communicable & Infectious Disease Coverage
The bill expands infectious disease coverage during a Public Health Emergency for Firefighters, EMS, Law Enforcement, & Corrections.
It also allows employers to require Vaccination only after the vaccine has been "fully FDA approved". At the present the vaccinations currently being used are only "emergency use authorized". Keep in mind this is not groundbreaking stuff... you are already required to take other vaccines to be a First Responder. If you refuse, you can be denied related workers comp protections.
HB 947 Plakon / SB 78 Rodrigues - Union Dues
Requires members to re-authorize their dues deduction every time a new agreement is reached or at least every three years. Our members know Florida is a right to work state and that membership is Voluntary, and the super majority still sign up to be members. They also know how to stop their dues deduction should they decide to leave the Union. Few ever do because they recognize the Union provides them a voice on matters of safety in the workplace, representation in disciplinary matters, pay and benefits, and policies and procedures that impact their working conditions.
We are asking you to keep your powder dry at the moment while our lobbying team works with our friends to defeat the bills we oppose and/or pass the bills we support. We will let you know if/when we need your individual help with emails, phone calls, or if other actions are decided necessary.
FPF 7th DVP
In the past year or two I have been forced to deal with the untimely deaths of two very close friends. These events have reminded me how short life can be and just how quickly life can change for all of us. Each loss has also served as a reminder of the importance of doing everything possible, while we are alive, to make life easier for those we leave behind following an incapacitating illness/injury or unexpected death.
As an attorney, as a retired Firefighter and Paramedic and as a friend, I urge every IAFF member to take steps NOW to think about your family and plan ahead. This is not a fun conversation but it is one that is too important to ignore.
LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT
First, every IAFF member needs a will. A will serves as your final directive and lays out for the family you leave behind exactly how you wish your assets to be distributed and how you wish your funeral and burial to be handled. When there is no will these decisions may be left to the probate courts to decide. That process can be expensive and slow and may not end up with the results being as you might have wished them to be handled. Along with your major assets, a will also allows you to dictate the distribution of more specific sentimental items like family antiques, firearms or family keepsakes to specific individuals you want to have them in the event of your death. The will also allow you to select the person(s) you trust to serve as your “personal representative” in the event of your death. This “personal representative” you have selected will then have the responsibility to see that the wishes you have outlined in the will are carried out.
For wills to be valid in Florida they must be executed under very specific guidelines. Wills that are not executed or written properly may be no better than having no will at all.
Once you have a will it is important to update the will with each major life event, including marriage, the birth of a child, the birth of an additional child, gaining ownership in a business, or a divorce.
In some specific instances there may be benefits to establishing a trust as a part of your estate planning. Trusts can provide resources for the care of specific family members in the event of your death and there may be tax and other legal advantages to having them set up. In many instances the trusts are established in the will and are then funded, and only become functional upon your death. An attorney reviewing your long term estate planning goals can advise you if a trust would be beneficial for your specific situation.
A living will allows you to outline what if any medical treatment you want and do not want in the event you suffer a life-threatening or terminal injury or illness. When your wishes are not made known and you unexpectedly suffer a serious life threatening injury or medical condition, it places a terrible and unfair burden on your family to have to “guess” what you might have wanted, or not wanted in terms of supportive or life-extending medical care.
Making these decisions for yourself while you are alive is the responsible move.
DESIGNATION OF HEALTHCARE SURROGATE
Like the personal representative for the will, you should also pre-select the person (s) you trust to make any medical life support decisions that may need to be made under the guidelines established in your living will. This person is known as the “healthcare surrogate” and you designate this person on a separate form that is a part of your overall estate planning.
DURABLE POWER OF ATTORNEY
Your attorney can discuss with you the risks and benefits associated with having durable power of attorney (DPOA) executed as a part of your overall estate planning.
In the event you are incapacitated and are unable to handle your own personal, business and financial affairs, a DPOA will allow someone who you have selected and trust to act for you in many specific situations that are listed in the document.
DPOA are common between married couples as they allow one spouse to handle everything from business decisions, pension decisions, real estate and other financial issues if their spouse should suddenly become incapable of handing these matters for themselves. Head injuries, strokes and many other medical conditions can make a DPOA an important part of the overall estate plan.
Any estate planning attorney you speak to about your needs will generally offer the four documents listed above (and possible a trust if appropriate) as a package all to be completed and executed at the same time. Likewise, as you move through life, it is important to revisit each of these documents of a regular basis and with each major life changing event.
I have too often seen IAFF members, who thought they would live forever, leave their families financially strapped and in trouble when they die far earlier than they anticipated. There simply no excuse for this.
On top of the legal documents discussed above it is also important that IAFF members provide solid financial protection for their families in the event of their death. A consideration of your life insurance needs should be a part of your overall estate plan and term life insurance is the most affordable way to provide this protection.
Many young firefighters and paramedics will argue about the need for life insurance pointing out that they are not married, don’t have children and don’t have serious assets like a home. My response is simply this….you are not married YET, you don’t have children YET and you have not purchased your first house YET…but you probably WILL do these things in the future. For the majority of IAFF members as life carries forward there will be families and assets to protect at some point. So, because life insurance gets more expensive as we age, the sooner you secure the life insurance protection you WILL need, the cheaper it will be.
Most financial planners will tell you to stay away from “cash value,” universal or whole life products and stick instead to simple term life insurance protection. Term policies are offered in annually renewable policies and in what are called “level term” policies where the company agrees to guarantee renewal of the policy and agrees to limit the cost of the police for a specific period of years…..like 15-year, 20-year and even 30-year level term policies.
It also is not advisable to have the majority of your life insurance provided by or through your employer as a career change could leave you without insurance.
Think about how much money your family would need to survive comfortably in attempting to replace your income should something happen to you. How would they cover the mortgage payment or pay off the house, provide for health insurance coverage and college educations for children in the event of your death?
A good independent insurance agent or your credit union can provide you guidance on these questions and can help you shop for the best and most affordable life insurance coverage for you. Additionally the IAFF Financial Corporation has an insurance division that can help members locate quality insurance products. They can be reached at https://www.iafffc-insurance.com
Remember, after you have been seriously injured, after your cardiac event or after your cancer diagnosis is the wrong time (and too late) to start thinking about protecting your family with life insurance.
CHECK & UPDATE BENEFICIARY DESIGNATIONS ON ALL BENEFITS
Finally, most IAFF members have a variety of other items provided to them through their employers that provide some form of benefit in the event of their death.
Your employer may provide some amount of life insurance, an accidental death / dismemberment policy or disability income policy as a part of your compensation package. Your employer probably had you fill out a beneficiary form on each of these benefits when you were first hired but your circumstances might have changed in the years since you were hired. Likewise, your pension may provide survivor benefits in the event of your death and if so the pension plan (or FRS) will have a beneficiary form that needs to be completed and updated regularly as well. Finally, your remaining unused vacation and sick leave benefits may also be provided to your beneficiaries in the event of your death, and if so, your employer will want to have an updated beneficiary designation form completed and signed by you for those benefits.
As a part of your estate planning it is important to revisit and check the status of the beneficiary designation forms for each of these benefits regularly. It is important that you have a full understanding of what benefits your family can count on in the event of your death and you should ensure that those benefits go to who you want them to go to.
Please take this advice to heart. Have these important discussions with your spouse and family now, before it is too late. Take action to get your estate planning house in order.
1. Talk to an attorney who specializes in wills, trusts and estate planning to get the legal documents completed to address your specific circumstance. If you need help finding an attorney in your area please feel free to contact me.
2. Take action to meet with an independent insurance agent or your credit union to discuss life insurance.
3. Meet with your employer’s human resources / benefits representatives and make sure that your pension and other employment related beneficiary forms are up to date.
Please take care of this for your family.
All the best,
DONNELLY + GROSS
2421 NW 41st Street, Suite A-1
Gainesville, FL 32606