The Vannucchi Papers
|By Jim Vannucchi, Director|
If A equals success, then the formula A=X+Y+Z, where X is work, Y is play, and Z is keep your mouth shut. Albert Einstein
"You dont cut police and fire. Its the last thing you touch ..Theres plenty of other fat floating around the city that the controller should be looking at. Hall also noted Laguna Honda Hospital, the Citys convalescent home, is closest to Station 20. "You cant expect senior citizens to come out in wheelchairs with buckets of water." (SF Chronicle 03.26.04)
The above quote from Supervisor Tony Hall only underscores the outrage expressed by politicians and citizens alike as it pertained to the recommendation from the Office of the Controller to close several firehouses through out the City.
|The initial suggestion to close Stations 14, 18, 20, 24, 26 met the full ire of the populace from every neighborhood and every walk of life in San Francisco at the Board of Supervisors Budget Committee hearings on Thursday, April 29, 2004. To deactivate just one Engine Company of the most vital of government services was inconceivable to almost all that attended.
Thru this medium, LOCAL 798 would like to extend its deepest and most heartfelt thanks to the citizens, leaders of labor, and the firefighters who attended the hearing to help us fight the good fight. Although we acknowledge the difficult task of balancing a budget in these sparse times, to deny a fair and equitable distribution of emergency services is just plain wrong.
In the fall of 2003, a group of EMS Rescue Captains filed a formal grievance with the IAFF demanding the immediate and complete removal of the SFFF LOCAL 798 Executive Board for alleged lack of representation.
After a lengthy and thorough investigation and subsequent hearing, it was the opinion of the IAFF that no violation existed, thereby exonerating the SFFF LOCAL 798 Executive Board from any wrongdoing.
As a member of the SFFD who watched from day one the very difficult marriage of EMS and Fire Suppression unfold, I was troubled by the accusation of lack of representation for several reasons:
Although my skills and abilities as a San Francisco Firefighter require only a GED and a drivers license to be effective, as so glaringly pointed out by the SFFD Paramedic Association, I know a right or a wrong when I see it. And this action against LOCAL 798 was wrong.
LOCAL 798 GOES TO THE HILL
In March, 2004, Treasurer Tom OConnor and I traveled to Washington, DC to participate in the 22nd Annual IAFF National Legislative Conference to join over 700 of our colleagues from across the country to address U.S. Senators and Representatives on issues critical to emergency response personnel.
Tom and I accepted the challenge of being fully engaged in the legislative process and being committed to aggressive political action as we humbly stood before the second session of the 108th Congress. The national priority of homeland security as it pertains to the challenges we as firefighters face each day was the subject matter to impress upon our elected officials.
As Tom and I strolled along the Eastern Seaboard collecting our thoughts in the sleet and near-freezing temperatures,
noting that the ocean was on the wrong side as we walked, we dwelled on how to efficiently lobby on pending legislation such as SAFER and FIRE Act Reauthorization.
Congress enacted the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Firefighters Act of 2003 (SAFER) last year. This new law authorizes funds to hire up to 75,000 new firefighters over a seven year period. Under SAFER, fire departments could apply for federal grants to help pay costs associated with hiring new staff. Although the law has been passed, Congress must still appropriate the funds. This is where Tom and I come in; to effectively lobby to insure that these monies are made available.
While the FIRE Act has proven to be a model of efficiency, improvements are still needed. The cap on the size of grants and the high match required of larger jurisdictions (thats us) has prevented some urban fire departments from participating in the program. To address these and other concerns, the nations leading fire service organizations have proposed a reauthorization of the FIRE ACT, which includes a series of beneficial amendments. Our goal was to educate our representatives on the desperate need to reauthorize the FIRE Act.
As paramount and as productive our lobbying efforts were in Washington, DC, it is abundantly clear that they do not end there. The work we do thru PAC and other vehicles here at home will ensure success overall.
A UNIONS RIGHTS
While visiting the seat of government, I had occasion to view the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. One phrase became etched in my mind; Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or the press; Remarkable.
What is also remarkable is that whenever an article or letter appears in this publication that does not conform to the agenda of a group outside of this Union, the very law that this external group utilizes to attack this organization and then hides behind because it is their right is also the same law that for some mystical reason, does not, in their minds, exist for this Union. Well, it does, and its called the First Amendment.
This Union has one responsibility and one responsibility only; its membership. It will say what has to be said when it has to be said when it is in the best interest of the membership. Because it is the membership whom we answer to.
As a result of this position, officers of the SFFF LOCAL 798 Executive Board have become the subject of Grand Jury inquiries, Ethics Commissions violations, investigations by the Office of the City Attorney and biased journalism thru information provided in that increasingly popular and heroic way anonymously. And I am sure we will continue to be someones favorite target. Regardless, we will not falter on what we perceive to be our sworn duty.
|Treasurer Tom O'Connor and Director Jim Vannucchi spending a few moments with Democratic Congressional Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca 8th) during their recent lobbying excursion to Washington, D.C. Leader Pelosi has always demonstrated strong support to issues that are of vital importance to the fire service.|