Posts Tagged Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois union president Patrick Devaney

Buffalo Grove Fire Department news (more)

Excerpts from a letter to the editor at the

Your editorial criticizing Buffalo Grove Firefighter Kevin Hauber’s pension award shortchanged the subject of occupational diseases in firefighters. The pension board’s decision was based on Illinois law, and your editorial showed disregard for that law and the medical evidence behind it.

Hauber’s death to colon cancer is not an anomaly among veteran firefighters. Extensive scientific research shows compelling evidence that specific cancers — including colorectal cancers — are strongly associated with firefighting. That evidence is a result of extensive university studies as well as that of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

The editorial also neglected to recognize other critical medical factors: Hauber’s age, family, personal health history, and genetic testing showed he was not a colon cancer risk. Rather, an overriding environmental risk for the 23-year veteran firefighter was cited as evidence of increased risk to colorectal cancer.

Any attempt at empathy for his widow and children was negated by the contention that the pension vote was a misguided gesture. Indeed, it is irresponsible to ignore Illinois law while criticizing the pension board.

Illinois law governing presumptive disability states, “The type of cancer involved must be a type which may be caused by exposure to heat, radiation or a known carcinogen as defined by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.” Furthermore it says that the cancer must “arise as a result of service as a firefighter.”

Hauber was exposed over 23 years to soot, asbestos and formaldehyde. The IARC identifies them as primary carcinogens associated with an increased risk of cancer.

Not every firefighter succumbs to the ravages of colon cancer, just as not all airline mechanics get sucked into jet engines. But a reasonable person takes time to read scientific evidence and why it is incorporated into state law.

— Pat Devaney, president, Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois, Springfield

thanks Dan

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Illinois municipal pensions

Excerpts from the

Illinois lawmakers are considering combining police and firefighter pensions into one fund to save local governments’ money. Republican Rep. Ryan Spain of Peoria has proposed creating a single board and fund for all downstate communities. The bill is still in committee.

“In 2000, most of the Northwest Municipal Conference police and fire pension funds were 100 percent funded,” Mark Fowler, the executive director of the nonprofit Northwest Municipal Conference said. “Over the next decade we saw funding levels declining, despite contributing increased amounts to the pension funds, exposing structural flaws in those pension funds.”

The larger combined fund could also lead to more lucrative investment opportunities.

A 2012 study by the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability found that funds could take more than 10 years to recoup transition costs under the consolidation model, said Pat Devaney, president of the Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois. Some investments have requirements that make them difficult to be moved from how they operate.

Local boards are also more personal and efficient when reviewing applications, he said. “Considering applications for disability is a tedious, time-consuming process,” Devaney said. “I can assure you the (local) pension fund trustees closely scrutinize each application to ensure participants only receive the benefits they are entitled under the statues.”

Legislators could remove some regulations and bureaucratic hurdles to make the process more efficient, said Andrew Bodewes with the Fraternal Order of Police. He suggested reducing the number of actuaries required to analyze the funds and removing limitations on what kinds of funds the police and firefighter pension boards can invest in.

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Oak Lawn Fire Department news

Excerpts from an editorial at the

I have come to expect the Village of Oak Lawn administration to twist any local challenge into an indictment of the firefighters who protect the citizens in the community. 

It’s become a predictable pattern due to Village Manager Larry Deetjen’s unhealthy obsession to slash the fire department staffing levels at any cost.

However, I must admit the latest maneuver by Deetjen did catch me by surprise because it flies in the face of common sense and sound financial stewardship. He recently announced the village might choose to walk away from the grant if he’s unsuccessful in extorting concessions from the Oak Lawn Firefighter’s Union.

First — kudos to the Oak Lawn Fire Department Administration for taking the initiative and being awarded a $1.35 million SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response) Grant from the federal government. The grant to hire seven full-time firefighters was awarded in response to the department’s application for assistance to maintain nationally recognized staffing levels to best provide emergency services.

However, the real winners here are the Oak Lawn taxpayers. Despite Deetjen’s spin, the SAFER grant will save the village over $1.5 million dollars in existing overtime costs over the next three years. Period.

Despite what Deetjen might have you believe, the seven firefighters who stand to be hired using the grant will not be used to increase the daily fire department staffing at an additional cost. Instead, they will be used to backfill daily vacancies caused by a significant decrease in personnel over the past decade — an unfortunate result of Deetjen’s quest to reduce public safety levels in the village.

The only real decision is to pay for personnel using Oak Lawn taxpayer dollars or by bringing federal dollars back to Illinois. It’s that simple.

Although I would normally disagree with Deetjen’s recent statement to the village board that decisions regarding staffing a fire department are business and not about public safety, in this case it can be both.

I hope the village manager and mayor can temporarily set aside their animosity and take a win for the fire department, the village and its taxpayers.

Either way the Oak Lawn firefighters will continue to provide the exceptional emergency services you’ve come to know and expect.

Pat Devaney, president of the Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois

thanks Dan

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Unpublished letter to the Chicago Tribune – response to an editorial

Excerpts from

Firefighters Respond to Tribune Editorial

When the Chicago Tribune printed another one of its ferociously anti-union editorials on April 8, 2016, it decided to target the fire fighters union (rather than its usual target—AFSCME!). Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois President Pat Devaney responded to the editorial’s many misstatements but the Tribune never printed his response. We reprint it here as a powerful reminder of why collective bargaining rights are important to every employee.

Is Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner anti-union or pro-taxpayer? 

Unpublished letter to the Chicago Tribune from Pat Devaney, President of the Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois
Efforts to strip working men and women of collective bargaining rights for living wages are usually highlighted by cherry-picked anecdotes to cloud the truth.

Such was your recent editorial about Governor Rauner’s crusade to destroy organized labor’s rights to collective bargaining. (April 8: Is Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner anti-union or pro-taxpayer?)

Your editorial specifically advocates the elimination of firefighter staffing standards that have been in effect in Illinois since 1986. Staffing levels, according to standards established by the National Fire Protection Association and National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety, are critical to public safety.

What your editorial conveniently ignores is that Illinois firefighters in 1986 agreed to forfeit their right to strike in exchange for the law that requires municipalities to negotiate safe staffing levels for fire departments. Your editorial intimated current law was some sort of gift from Springfield when, in fact, it is a law that guarantees citizens the protection they need in times of emergency response.

Today’s anti-worker sentiment emphasizes money over public safety. Unfortunately, it’s the same sort of argument that Michigan politicians used to destroy its public water system in Flint. Fact is, there are more important matters than money.

Your editorial highlighted a 2009 incident involving the death of a Rockford man at the hands of a police officer. According to your reasoning, this is the poster child for the abolishment of arbitration in police and fire disciplinary cases.

You then transition into your crusade against firefighting staffing laws. So let’s use your method to highlight a specific reason that firefighters negotiate safe staffing levels.

On March 28, 2010 Homewood firefighter Brian Carey died in a fire rescue attempt of an elderly resident, who also perished. Carey was first on the scene of a roaring house fire and attempted to rescue an elderly man trapped inside. Although woefully short­staffed, he entered the structure without hesitation.

After an exhaustive investigation into the fatalities, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health blamed under-staffing during the fire response as a factor in Mr. Carey’s death.

Professional first responders firefighters and paramedics rely on industry standards and statistics to determine how best to protect the citizens we serve. And staff levels are critical to public safety, not to mention the safety of firefighters who risk their own welfare in emergencies.

The Tribune performs a serious disservice to its readers when you hide the purpose behind public safety laws. There’s more to public service than money. You are entitled to your opinion about the appropriate function and operation of government.

But don’t ignore the public’s sacred right to safety when you advocate for the Governor’s misguided proposals.
Thank you,

Pat Devaney, President
Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois

thanks Dan

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State legislation concerns local municipalities (more)

More articles discussing IL HB 5485 on fire department staffing (manning):

This article is from the Illinois Observer:

Firefighters Chief: Mayors “Confused or Lying” on Fire Department Staffing Bill

Illinois’ top firefighter union is firing backing at suburban mayors over their efforts to torch fire department staffing legislation in Springfield.

On Tuesday the DuPage Mayors and Managers Conference ratcheted up their opposition to a proposed law, House Bill 5485, that would mandate fire department staffing requirements for local municipalities.

The proposed legislation is slated for a hearing in the Senate Executive Committee, Wednesday.

Under the bill, communities outside of Chicago would be required to collectively bargain staffing levels with their firefighters, a practice that the mayors say would result in no local accountability and potential safety issues for residents.

“When minimum staffing levels are required to be part of fire department contract discussions, and outside individuals become involved in those discussions and dictate outcomes, it takes away our ability to work together to decide that is best for each of our communities,” said Downers Grove Mayor Martin Tully. “It can result in unnecessarily increased city budgets, which means higher taxes for our citizens.”

Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois union president Patrick Devaney is having none of it, blasting the mayors’ claims.

“The DuPage Mayors and municipal groups are either confused or intentionally lying about the effects of the bill,” Devaney told The Illinois Observer. “The legislation halts trial lawyers’ attempts to unravel the 30 year history of bargaining over safe fire department staffing levels across the state.”

The mayors also describe the bill as another unfunded mandate from Springfield.

“This bill will negatively affect the outstanding mutual aid system in place in this state which ensures that no matter what the situation, the right number of firefighters and equipment are sent to the scene,” said Roselle Mayor Gayle Smolinski.  “We believe this bill is unnecessary and does more harm than good.”

But Devaney argues that only harm would be to “politically connected law firms”.

“The only losers will be the politically connected law firms that stand to lose millions in taxpayer dollars to continue frivolous litigation over the issue,” Devaney said.

The Chicago Sun-Times published the following editorial:

Pols and pundits distort truth on firefighter staffing

Laws are what separate democracies from totalitarian states, laws based on trust and promises kept.

Have we lost that compass?

Local politicians and their supporters have used this space recently to argue that local governments can’t live up to an agreement made many years ago with firefighters in Illinois. Although the pols and pundits have done a great job of distorting the truth, as they often do, the facts remain the same.

In 1986, firefighters gave up their right to strike. Instead, the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act gave firefighters the right to binding arbitration over several worker issues to ensure that the public’s safety was always protected regardless of any labor/management disagreement that might exist in a particular jurisdiction.

That Act explicitly identifies what issues can be taken to arbitration: wages, hours and working conditions. The act also excludes specific items from being heard by an arbitrator. Manning is not listed as an excluded item for firefighters (as it is for other occupations) due to the importance of assembling adequate personnel to mitigate the emergencies firefighters face every day.

Although Illinois firefighters and their employers have negotiated safe staffing levels for nearly three decades, the Great Recession spawned a small group of legal theorists that have attempted to rewrite Illinois statute through the court system. Some municipalities have been too willing to throw away millions of tax dollars to fight the 1986 law and have failed at every level. In fact, the biggest waste of tax dollars came from a challenge by the village of Oak Lawn.

Since 1992, manning requirements have been part of the Oak Lawn’s collective bargaining agreements. When the global financial crash hit in 2008, the village used the crisis as an excuse to unilaterally eliminate emergency responders.

Firefighters went to arbitration and were upheld. The village appealed to the circuit court and lost, then to the appellate court, where they lost again. Finally the Illinois Supreme Court upheld the lower court decisions by refusing to hear the case.

The cost to Oak Lawn taxpayers? A cool $2.5 million.

But where did that tax money go? Not to first responders. Not to fixing potholes or repairing decaying sewers. It could have been abated back to property taxpaying homeowners but it wasn’t.

The $2.5 million was dished out by the Oak Lawn Village Board to lawyers. No one’s sidewalk was fixed with that money. No one’s life was saved, no bad guys jailed and no taxpayer used the money to buy his kid a new pair of shoes.

Taxpayer money went to lawyers who are now financing a propaganda campaign to fool readers into believing that continuing to allow firefighters to negotiate over safe staffing levels will somehow hurt taxpayers in Illinois.

Property taxpayers have every right to fight for lower taxes. But let’s take aim at the real waste within the system. It’s time to call out the local politicians who point fingers at first responders with one hand and use the other to funnel money to their lawyers and political backers. HB 5485 should be passed — quickly — to end the costly dispute that is enriching attorneys and costing taxpayers dearly.

Pat Devaney is president of the Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois.

thanks Dan

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