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International Association of Fire Fighters Shuts Down Federal Political Donations

Let’s try to compose ourselves here. There has to be someone interested in actual non-birth certificate-based news.

So, let’s launch into an eyeball-grabbing discussion of the International Association of Fire Fighters. Because they actually did something interesting yesterday: they withdrew from national politics.

Extreme right-wing conservative and so-called Tea Party politicians are coming after fire fighters, paramedics and all public workers with a vengeance across the United States. They are attempting to take away basic American rights like collective bargaining and your right to negotiate for a good quality of life for your families. They are working to eliminate your pensions and retirement security. They want to silence your voice by gagging you with legislation they call Paycheck Protection. They are taking away the long-held right of dues deductions from paychecks to try to weaken the finances of our union. They want to hurt all unions and drive down wages and benefits with Right-to-Work laws.

Not only are extremist Republicans trying to destroy us — too few Democrats are standing up and fighting for us.

Over the past two years, politicians from both parties have failed to address our issues in Washington, DC. Now, anti-labor members of Congress and their allies are championing measures that would undermine pension security, tax employer-sponsored health benefits, force newly hired fire fighters into Social Security and attack federal fire fighters. And with no pro-fire fighter legislation likely to be advanced in the 112th Congress – it’s time to take a stand.

With the survival of our union and the ability to preserve and protect the rights, wages and benefits our members deserve in jeopardy in the states, we have re-evaluated how to get the best results for our political dollars.

With the full support of our union’s Executive Board, we are turning off the spigot to federal candidates and federal parties, party committees and the super PACs that are created to support them.

The IAFF will still work in local politics at the state level, where they believe some politicians, mostly Democrats, have been more responsive to their needs and concerns. But they’re not going to just drop money down a hole to Washington politicians who don’t respect them. That’s really a sea change in American politics and labor. David Sirota describes it as labor finally taking a stand. I say it’s just one labor organization wanting to get value for their money.

Maybe it’s a coincidence that the President, just yesterday, told a local station in Cleveland that he strongly opposes anti-union efforts in Ohio and Wisconsin, and that “public employees should not be blamed for a financial crisis they had nothing to do with.” But labor has a right to look at actions and not words. And they don’t have much return on investment to show for it.

I’d much rather see labor invest its time and money in organizing the unemployed than in hitching their wagons to electoral politics at the national level, where they’ve mostly seen slippage in the past several decades. The labor-progressive movement that’s being built at the state level has a lot of potential and that ought to be the major focus. All it means is a few less invites to DC cocktail parties. I think labor can manage.

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David Dayen

David Dayen