Bill Gault, President of Local 22 of the Philadelphia Fire Fighters Union came to the press area following the Vice President’s speech to criticize him. Unhappy that Biden made no mention of the contract situation with the City Gault made sure the press knew of the situation. Philadelphia Fire Fighters haven’t had a new contract in four years, getting awarded continuances, basically. There have been no new classes of fire fighters in five years. Givebacks and brownouts have closed seven stations and saved Philadelphia $15 million. The cost of fire fighters is $16 million so, as current conditions stand the City is paying a net of $1 million for services.
These men and women put their lives on the line every time they enter a burning building, do bomb searches or respond to accidents. Attrition is costing them numbers and, as the Vice President said today, small, understaffed crews are a danger to everyone on them.
Mayor Nutter has been a strong ally of this White House but so have unions in spite of getting little or nothing in return. Card check hasn’t passed and the Affordable Care Act is hitting union health plans hard. You’d think the least they could do is come into Philadelphia and give them a hand. That is why Gault made sure to criticize Biden to the press.
The International Association of Fire Fighters is meeting at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia. Their keynote speaker this afternoon is Vice President Joe Biden. The press area has me too far from the stage to get either pictures or video so I’ll only be live blogging today. Wireless access is also not available so I’m piggybacking on someone else’s MiFi gadget. I gave up paying $50/month for one since I only used it a couple times a year.
There are 3200 fire fighters here from all across the country. Walking in I noticed tables with various state delegation signs. It’s very much a male dominated room with no female faces in evidence from where I sit.
The introduction reminds members here of the work Sen. Biden did for them in Washington. “We have an Administration that is keeping you on the front lines protecting communities instead of on the unemployment lines.”
“I owe you a lot more than my career, I owe you the lives of my two boys.” “Your lives are in jeopardy when there isn’t a full complement of fire fighters to respond.”
This Administration has been fighting to keep police, fire fighters and teachers on the job. Thousands have lost their jobs due to budget cuts. “It isn’t true you can do all you can with smaller crews.” “They want to cut $125 million out of grants for fire fighters, cutting 400 more fire fighters.” “They saw this as a great opportunity to go after your very right to bargain. They laid the blame for this recession on you, public sector workers. You guys are the ones responsible for coming up with these wacky securities on Wall Street.”
He’s reminding them how Republican Governors aren’t just coming for their jobs but for their rights.
“Why did they do this? This isn’t your grandfather’s Republican Party. I think this new Republican Party looks to you as the reason for the Great Recession we inherited, the one their policies created.”
He says Romney means well but he doesn’t understand “what you’re all about.”
“Did you think we’d be fighting these fights again in 2012? For the right to work for less? They have different value sets, they act as if you’re part of the community’s problem.”
“How many of you have gone to be wondering if you’re going to be in that same house next month?”
“The vast majority of Americans couldn’t pay you enough to walk into infernos.” “I know it’s your job, you’re heroes.” “The sound of bagpipes still ring in your ears. I used to like the sound of bagpipes until I grew up. I’ve been to too many funerals.”
“You’re in this fight because you care about the family next door, because you care about your communities. That’s who you guys are.”
“In a time when they say everyone has to make sacrifices it seems the only they ask are the middle class guys like you. Rich people are just as patriotic but no one is asking them to sacrifice.”
“5 tenths of 1% of the first dollar you made after your first million” is the amount of increased tax he and Obama want to impose so even the rich are asked to sacrifice.
“I don’t think they don’t care I think they just have a very different value system.” “They have to cut you to make more benefits for the very wealthy.”
“We know how to grow this economy: from the middle class out. When the middle class does well everyone does well. It means you have money to go out and buy things. We should be cutting your taxes instead of cutting your jobs.”
“A job is about your dignity, about your self respect, about your place in the community. You guys are fire fighters and you’re proud.”
“Show me your budget and I’ll tell you what your values are.”
“Their budget cuts eviscerate the middle class. The Ryan Budget cuts 19 million off Medicaid. 20,000 kids lose a chance for early education through Head Start. Medicare would cost seniors $6400 to keep their benefits. They do this to add another trillion dollars whose incomes are above a million bucks.”
“The middle class is a way of life, the ability to send your kid to a park you know is safe, the ability to send them to a good school. It’s about being able to help your parents. It’s about maybe being able to save some money for yourself for retirement. Doing your jobs makes a middle class life possible.”
“You are the community not the problem.” “You have hearts bigger than your heads.”
He spoke about the Aurora shooting and how fire fighters responded to the booby trapped apartment. “You were there, ready to do whatever was needed.”
“We owe you. All the people whose lives you saved, that you changed, including my own.”
Following Biden’s first election to the Senate his wife and kids were in a tragic auto accident. His wife and daughter were killed. He has obviously never forgotten the fire fighters who saved his sons that day.