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 don’t cut police and fire. It’s the last thing you touch…..There’s plenty of other fat floating around the city that the controller should be looking at. Hall also noted Laguna Honda Hospital, the City’s convalescent home, is closest to Station 20. "You can’t 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:

• As the future of EMS under DPH was vague, it was LOCAL 798 who stepped up to the plate to facilitate the then proposed merger and paved the path for all DPH medics to be grandfathered into the SFFD.
• LOCAL 798 bargained for a substantial increase in base pay for EMS Rescue Captains as part of the merger.
• LOCAL 798 bargained for the creation of over 35 new supervisory positions for EMS Rescue Captains as part of the merger, which coincidentally, with the exception of one member, are filled with laterals from DPH, and will be for many years to come.
• LOCAL 798, thru Prop. H., enhanced the service retirement of EMS Rescue Captains from miscellaneous to a considerably upgraded Public Safety Retirement.
• LOCAL 798, thru aggressive lobbying, was successful in updating the CCSF Administrative Code to encompass EMS personnel as it related to retirement/disability/death benefits.
• LOCAL 798 has, and continues to do so, litigate working conditions on behalf of EMS Rescue Captains at a high economic cost to the membership.

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.


In March, 2004, Treasurer Tom O’Connor 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 firefighter’s 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 (that’s us) has prevented some urban fire departments from participating in the program. To address these and other concerns, the nation’s 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.


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 someone’s 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.


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