March 19, 2017
Sisters and Brothers,
It has been a very busy start to the current Legislative Session and the coming weeks will require action on the part of you, our PFFM members.
The number of bills that need to be addressed by our union is quite high this time around. LD 182 is a bill to ban flame-retardants in new upholstered furniture. The Public Hearing has been held along with a Committee briefing where DC Jay Fleming, Boston Fire Department, spoke on behalf of the PFFM. Jay laid out the case showing that FR’s do not have the life safety benefit advertised and can be harmful to firefighters. We have some good support on the Committee, from both sides of the aisle, but there is opposition to contend with. Working with our coalition partners from the Environmental Health Strategy Center, we have offered compromise language as a result of concerns from Committee members.
However, we are facing push back from some on the Committee and allies of the American Chemistry Council saying it is not clear that flame-retardants cause cancer in firefighters. Although on the surface this may seem true, we have presented quite a stack of evidence to support our position. This is a tough battle and we are facing the weight and money of the chemical industry. We have seen this before.
The Work Session has not been scheduled yet but it should be soon. When is it scheduled we need to fill the room with firefighters to let them know we care about cancer among our ranks. The Committee needs to make its decision looking us in the eye and letting us know if they stand with us or not. When we have the date for the Work Session we will let you and are counting on you to attend.
LD 848 is a bill to grant rebuttable presumption for PTSD in the Workers Compensation System. The Public Hearing is this coming Thursday, 1pm in the Cross Building Room 208, which is the Labor Committee. The IAFF is sending up Dr. Suzy Gulliver of Texas A&M, who is an expert in the field of first responder and military behavioral health. We also have lined up a number of PFFM members who will testify. This is a high priority issue for all of us and we need to bring it out of the darkness and into the light. To many of our members deal with the issue of PTSD and this bill will help to lighten that burden. We need a strong presence for this hearing also. We have a good chance a passing this legislation, but Committee members need to see us there so they understand the importance of helping those who need understanding and treatment.
There are also at least four Right to Work or related bills that have yet been scheduled for Public Hearing. There also bills on returning Revenue Sharing to full funding. Both of these issues go to the heart of what our union is and to providing state mandated revenue to the towns so we can avoid layoffs. We will need your support in Augusta when the time comes.
You can easily see that we have our hands full for the next few months. If we work together, show up to be seen and heard, I believe we can win on each and every one of these issues. But it will take work and commitment on your part and the part of your Executive Board.
We will be making requests for you to come to Augusta and to also contact your legislators. It is imperative that they see you and hear from you.
I know that many still ask, “what has the union done for me”, fair enough. But we also need to ask, besides paying dues, “what have I done for the union”. We can’t do our job on the fire ground alone, and we can’t do our job in the political arena alone either. If all of us fight together, we can reach all our goals this session.
Thank you for your support and the work you do. Stay safe.