Chief Leader - December 26, 2006
A press report earlier this month that Hillary Clinton was seeking to meet with prominent national unions including the International Association of Fire Fighters prompted us to call IAFF Secretary-Treasurer Vinnie Bollon to ask whether the race for President was on the agenda.
Mr. Bollon said the meeting hadn't taken place yet, and that he didn't expect the IAFF to make an endorsement until next November or thereabouts. He also hinted, however, at which way the union is leaning, and made clear that there is one possible contender who has no shot at its endorsement.
The IAFF in recent years has gotten increasingly involved in national politics, playing a more prominent role in John Kerry's campaign for President in 2004 than it had in Al Gore's 2000 run, and then boosting its activity further in the recent congressional elections.
Mr. Bollon said, "We definitely made a difference in Virginia, where the locals were all out working almost every district" on behalf of James Webb, the Democrat who narrowly defeated Republican U.S. Sen. George Allen. "That was a labor of love, and that was a good win," helping to swing the Senate into Democratic hands.
The former president of the Uniformed Fire Officers' Association said the IAFF hoped that both the UFOA and the Uniformed Firefighters' Association would back its choice for President in 2008. That would be a change from 2004, when the UFA bucked the international and much of the city labor movement to endorse President Bush for a second term.
Asked whether his confidence stemmed from the sense that Mr. Bush's dismal performance over the past two years had prompted UFA President Steve Cassidy to see the light, Mr. Bollon replied, "It should have, but I don't know."
He then made note, however, of the strong relationship Senator Clinton has forged with both city fire unions, which enthusiastically endorsed her this year. "Steve's his own man, but I would think they'd be inclined to do something nice for her," Mr. Bollon said.
Mr. Cassidy responded, "Our position is we haven't even thought about it. We don't know who's declared on either side of the aisle. And we don't have an obligation to be in the presidential arena, although last time we were."
He further made clear that he will keep his options open regardless of how his international goes by saying, "I think the strength of the IAFF is that it gives all its locals autonomy."
Mr. Bollon said that the IAFF will invite all the major candidates for President to its legislative conference in March, with one notable exception.
"I wouldn't bet on Giuliani," he said of our former Mayor, who created ill will with city firefighters on a number of 9/11-related fronts, ranging from his handling of problems earlier in 2001 with new Fire Department radios to his attempt to bring an early end to the search for bodies at the World Trade Center site and then allowing cops to arrest firefighters during a raucous protest of that move.
"The rest of the country should know him the way we do," Mr. Bollon said of Mr. Giuliani.
Mr. Cassidy declined comment on the ex-Mayor, but the impression given by both city fire union leaders in the past was that if Mr. Giuliani's head was on fire, they'd try to put it out with a shovel.