Welcome to the City of SeaTac and the WSCFF 82nd Annual Convention. This year’s event is hosted by Kent Local 1747. The commitment by Local 1747 leadership to ensure we have a successful convention demonstrates strong leadership, precise delegation, and the hard work of the entire Local 1747 team.
SeaTac, which is now part of the Puget Sound Regional Fire Authority, has a long history of hosting or co-hosting our events. Our most recent visit to SeaTac was in 2013 when the SeaTac Fire Fighters Local 2919 co-hosted our 79th convention along with Kent (1747) and Tukwila (2088).
As we learned from the pandemic, the ability to gather is a blessing. It has been more than 16 months since we last met in person, and with issues of importance on our agenda, the ability to see and converse with each other is important. While this convention may seem a little different in the pandemic environment, we have taken steps to maintain our objectives of transparency and democracy. I’m proud to say we collectively have found ways to continue our business, represent our members, and produce a product we are proud of.
The closure of the Capitol campus and resulting virtual 2021 legislative session made lobbying and advocating for WSCFF priorities extremely difficult. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, legislative leaders narrowed their focus to a few policy areas; fewer bills were considered for public hearing time; fewer yet were considered for floor action; and fewer still made it to the Governor for his signature. What would normally take a few hours in person on the hill took several days, and momentum for any legislation was difficult to generate or slow down. It was a mostly successful session for the WSCFF that came up short in a few areas and was filled with frustration.
SB 5115 and SB 5190 both passed because of the pandemic. The new laws mean it will be presumed health care and frontline workers contracted a contagious or infectious disease at work when they file a workers’ compensation claim for that disease when it is the subject of a public health emergency. Claims will be decided based on the new laws. Another area of intense discussion and debate this session was law enforcement reform. Your legislative team evaluated each of the proposals and engaged strongly on those that affected collective bargaining (which we would do for any, and all, workers). We were successful in fending off bills that were disruptive to the labor/ management balance and provided amendments on others.
We successfully advocated for dedicated funding for wildfire response with the passage of HB 1168 and additional money and authority for pre-deployment of fire department resources prior to a State Mobilization. Improvements to Washington’s upside-down tax code were realized with the passage of SB 5096 – excise tax on extraordinary capital gains – while efforts to modify property tax limitations never gained any traction. LEOFF Plan 2 was fully funded in the budget and an additional om buds position was created for the LEOFF Plan 2 Retirement Board. Unfortunately, the JATC funding was reduced. This will be an area of emphasis during the interim and the 2022 session.
SB 5453, introduced as an effort to balance the budget with no new taxes, would have merged LEOFF 1 with TRS 1 (the money saving part of the bill). It also included a benefit improvement for working and retired LEOFF 2 members. Every effort was made by your legislative team to make this bill a relevant part of budget and policy discussions, and it never received a hearing. Both the WSCFF Legislative Team and the LEOFF Plan 2 Retirement Board will be expending tremendous energy this summer and fall to make sure that the benefit improvement aspects of that bill are up for consideration and possible passage in 2022.
MEDICAL EXPENSE REIMBURSEMENT PLAN (MERP)
One of the most important and innovative projects the WSCFF has undertaken was the creation of our own retiree medical trust – the Medical Expense Reimbursement Plan, or MERP. Since its inception in 1999, the MERP has grown in membership and funding. As of our last report, it has amassed over 180 million dollars in the trust account and serves approximately 8,100 IAFF participants. It was always the desire of the WSCFF to develop the MERP into a program that would provide meaningful benefits to participants and be sustainable in the future. I’m proud to say we are doing exactly that.
NORTHWEST FIRE FIGHTERS TRUST (NWFFT)
The Northwest Fire Fighters Trust (NWFFT) is now in its eighth year. The benefits and rates are generous and competitive. The NWFFT board continues to find innovative ways to meet the expectations of the plan participants and their families. Like the MERP program, we have been able to market this benefit and have now ventured into Connecticut and Illinois with ongoing talks in Florida and Texas. It is our goal to offer a plan that provides the best coverage at very competitive premiums. Because it is our plan, it was developed with our issues in mind and will help our members manage healthcare costs.
The WSCFF is proud to be an active state organization within the IAFF. Our state organization is recognized as a progressive leader in many aspects. We continue to benefit from the work done by those before us, and now find ourselves setting the course for our future. We have welcomed both a new General President (Ed Kelly) and General Secretary-Treasurer (Frank Lima) who have teamed up with our IAFF 7th District Vice Ricky Walsh. We are excited about this transition and look forward to being part of the new direction. DVP Walsh continues to bring the best assistance and education to our district. He has established the 7th District Caucus, mini-educational seminars, new members conference, and the Executive Leadership Series. These programs were developed with the intent of educating and preparing our future leaders and building relationships within the 7th District. Please thank DVP Walsh for his work!
WSCFF STANDING COMMITTEES
The WSCFF has one interim and five standing committees. These committees continue to meet and explore opportunities and strategies to overcome challenges so our organization can become better. I would like to recognize and thank those who serve:
INTERIM DIVERSITY COMMITTEE
- Co-Chairs: WSCFF 8th District Representative Bill Mack and IAFF 7th DVP Ricky Walsh
- Committee Members: Dan Wilson, Local 29; Erin Richardson, Local 31; Anthony John, Local 2024; Randy Scott, Local 2545; Kara Putnam, Local 2819
STANDING EMS COMMITTEE
- Chair: WSCFF 4th District Representative Mike Westland
- IAFF 7th District EMS Representative: WSCFF 3rd District Representative Tim Hoover • Members: Andy Palmateer, Local 315; Kyle Waterman, Local 2595; Tom Chavez, Local 3711
STANDING HEALTH & SAFETY COMMITTEE
- Chair: WSCFF 9th District Representative Keven Rojecki
- Committee Members: Jeremy Dixon, Local 437; Adam Jackson, Local 726; Dan Ward, Local 876; Steve Austin, Local 1296; Chris Mortensen, Local 1433; Neil Agren, Local 3828
STANDING PUBLIC RELATIONS COMMITTEE
- Chair: WSCFF 8th District Representative Bill Mack
- Committee Members: Dennis Lawson, Greg Markley, Jeff Wainwright, Tim Hoover, Debbie Guillot, Laura Holder, Helen Kramer, Therese Murphy
STANDING WILDLAND FIRE & MOBILIZATION COMMITTEE
- Chair: WSCFF 2nd District Representative Jeff Wainwright
- Committee Members: Jeff Miller, Local 27; Kevin Haughton, Local 29; KC Whitehouse, Local 2394; Norby Johnson, Local 3390; Jason Wilkins, Local 3711; Jason Gallagher, Local 4333
I would like to thank all of you for your continued support as your WSCFF President. The positive feedback and encouragement that we are doing good things for the membership makes the work very rewarding. I enjoy and am grateful for the opportunity to serve each of you every day. I want to acknowledge Secretary-Treasurer Markley, the executive board, legislative liaisons, trustees, office staff, and IAFF 7th District Vice President Walsh for their contributions. All have provided input and direction as we navigate the course of work you have entrusted to us. I am honored to be presiding over the 82nd Annual Convention, and I look forward to a successful and productive week.
Our work and activities at convention lead to lasting friendships and partnerships. Here, for the good of the whole, we debate, argue, and disagree, and yet we remain committed to our oaths – to abide by and promote the positions taken by the majority.
Participating in the WSCFF Convention is a privilege that surfaces but once a year and is our investment in the future of the WSCFF. Like those before us, we all must strongly consider the organization at the forefront of our decisions. Although difficult to see at first, issues which appear to be polarizing are sometimes those that provide the glue to keep us together and moving forward in a common direction. We are a strong organization with an incredible history and an awesome future. Let’s leave a lasting and favorable impression worthy of our profession, our union, and ourselves.
Welcome to SeaTac and the 82nd Annual Convention of the WSCFF!