The Bravest WWW.UFANYC.ORG
OFFICIAL PUBLICATION OF THE
UNIFORMED FIREFIGHTERS ASSOCIATION OF GREATER NEW YORK
VOL. XLV NO. 1, 2009
PHOTO CREDIT: Stephen N. Symbolik
The UFA was joined by former New York State Governor George Pataki in this year’s St. Patrick’s Day
he April 9th Union Meeting has been rescheduled to Tuesday, April 21, 2009 at 10:00am at Terrace on the Park, in Flushing Meadows Park, Queens. The Executive Board recommends all members hired in the last 2 years attend. Layoff issues, including family health coverage if layoffs should occur, will be discussed and addressed. The UFA has learned that the City intends to go forward with its previously announced plan to close 16 firehouses. Engine 4, Ladder 53, Engine 161, and Engine 271, plus seven additional undisclosed companies will close on July 1, 2009. Five more firehouses are slated to close on January 1, 2010. In protest, on Friday, March 20th, the UFA, along with City Council Member James Vacca, (D-13 Bronx, Chair of the Committee on Fire and Criminal Justice Services), other City Council Members, unions and, and citizens from the four night closing districts rallied in front of City Hall prior to preliminary budget hearing on FDNY/EMS services. To counter these proposed cuts and closings, the UFA will work with the targeted communities highlighting the dangers closings will present to firefighters and to the public. If this plan moves forward the effects upon the safety of both firefighters and the public will be drastic. Response times will soar and the added workload will negatively impact all boroughs of the city. As I said to reporters in front of City Hall, and as I was quoted in The Chief, legislators and the Mayor are served notice: “If you close firehouses, you lose the support of the UFA, you absolutely will lose the support of all UFA members and every family member of every UFA member that lives in the City of New York.” It’s paramount that neighborhoods and communities need to get involved. For example, on March 3rd, over 300 people turned out for a town hall meeting in South Beach in Staten Island to protest the night closing (Continued on Page 2)
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(President’s Message - Continued from page 1) of Engine 161. City Councilman James Oddo (R-Mid-Island/Brooklyn), a staunch supporter of New York City firefighters, told the crowd to contact City Hall and let leaders know that Engine 161 should not be closed. Again, I told the community to send a strong message this November: “If you close my company, you lose my vote.” To magnify the issue, the UFA has also launched a print ad campaign targeted at city and state elected officials focusing on the negative impact that a dramatic reduction of fire service will have on their constituents. The UFA Executive Board met with City Labor Commissioner James Hanley at the Office of Labor Relations on March 4th. As part of the discussions we requested budget information from the Department. A follow-up meeting is scheduled for March 31st. We intend to make several recommendations for alternative budget cuts other than field operations. Currently, the Department is approximately 350 firefighters over headcount. Closing additional companies will push that number significantly higher making layoffs a possibility. At the beginning of the year, I testified at budget hearings before the New York City Council. The UFA has posted a video on these hearings on its Web site www.ufanyc.org. Members are encouraged to watch Commissioner Scoppetta who, for several hours, answers questions regarding budget cuts. Some elected officials are using these tough economic times to attack the pension and health benefits of firefighters and other city employees. The picture that has been painted in the papers is filled with inaccuracies and deliberately misleading information. For example, the Independent Budget Office said that instead of the $200 million in pension savings included in the Mayor’s budget, the actual figure would be $35 million. Of major concern is the Mayor’s focus on New York pension tier changes that would increase the retirement age for future firefighters. Through a now multi-month misinformation campaign designed to demonize firefighters, the City claims they are paying more for firefighter pensions than for salaries of current firefighters. The smear campaign against our firefighters is not even based on facts. Instead spin and half-truths are being spoon-fed to the public, editorial pages, and elected leaders. The current pension system for firefighters has always been a contributory pension and not merely a gift from a benevolent employer, as some bureaucrats like to imply. The current system benefits both the public and the city and is fair to firefighters. Any increase in pension costs were largely due to the tragic deaths of 343 firefighters on 9/11 and the forced early retirement of many others because of health reasons tied to the aftermath of the terrorist attacks. In response to this ongoing media assault on the FDNY pension system, the UFA ran a full-page advertisement in The Capitol to begin setting the record straight. This newspaper is widely circulated among elected officials in both City and State governments. The purpose is to inform our elected officials and correct inaccurate media reports being fueled in large part by the Mayor in his run for reelection. Be assured the UFA is doing everything possible to maintain your health and pension benefits to prevent any significant changes. Fighting fires in New York City remains one of the most dangerous jobs in America. We have earned, and will continue to earn, every cent of our salary and benefits. On a lighter note, I would like to thank all members who marched in the 248th annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Manhattan. The UFA Executive Board and I were honored to have former New York State Governor George Pataki join us. Your representation in the parade reminds the public of the essential role firefighters play in the safety of the City. As we navigate through these very difficult times, I encourage you to frequently go to the UFA Web site for updates and information that will affect you and your families. It’s important, as brothers, we remain united as we prepare to fight the Department and the City on their proposed draconian budget cuts. As always, stay safe!
LEGISLATIVE UPDATE By James Slevin, UFA Vice President, Legislative Chairman
The Fight has Just Begun s you are aware, the fight in Albany is tougher than ever. This year we are focusing on maintaining what we have. Our Legislative priorities include the LOD Widows COLA and the extender legislation (Heart Bill, Cancer Bill, ITHP and Tier II). Right now we have every indication that the legislature intends to pass them but we will continue to lobby and push our agenda. With any of the extender legislation, all incumbent members will maintain those benefits regardless of the legislatorâ€™s actions. The State Constitution protects those benefits. Only new hires would be affected if the extender legislation is not passed. We do not want to have different benefits for different members and we will aggressively push our agenda. We do have other bills that we have introduced in Albany, but it is unlikely they will be passed this year with the increased scrutiny of our benefits. We will keep you updated in regards to these items and new issues that arise.
Many members have asked what they can do to help out in the fight. The easiest is to contact your legislator and let them know how you feel about our issues. The UFA Political Action Section of our website which can easily be located by clicking on the tab located on the left side of the screen with the subsection Legislative Contacts, allows you to enter your home address and it automatically lists all your representatives. It has links to all of their websites and you can easily send a message to them. In the coming weeks we will have more detailed information on the website with talking points and pre-formatted letters that you can send to them to support the UFA legislative agenda. The list of Bills we are supporting are listed below. Check the site often for updated information. Our current agenda includes: A3425 or S1406 PERB EXTENDER Extends for an additional two years the effectiveness of provisions establishing dispute resolution during collective negotiations. S2312 or A5808 GENERAL BENEFITS EXTENDER Extends certain temporary benefits and supplementation programs. Heart Bill, Cancer Bill, HAT Bill, and ITHP. S3426 or A1409 TIER II PENSION EXTENDER Extends application of Article 11 of the retirement and Social Security law to all police officers and firefighters who joined the system before July 1, 2011. A4905 or S2343 LINE OF DUTY WIDOWS COLA Increases certain special accidental death benefits for surviving spouses and children of certain police and fire personnel.
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GENERAL COUNSEL’S COLUMN by Michael A. Block, Esq.
WORLD TRADE CENTER RESPIRATORY INJURIES THE PENDING LAWSUIT he horrific events of 9/11/01 and its aftermath continue to have a devastating effect upon the physi-
cal and emotional health of New York City firefighters.
As many of you know, shortly after 9/11 the United States Congress passed legislation creating the Victim Compensation Fund (“the Fund”). In addition to providing substantial financial awards to the families of firefighters lost in the tragedy, the Fund compensated firefighters who were injured on 9/11 or its aftermath. The Fund, however, was closed several years ago. Certain elected officials, principally Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and Congressman Jerrold Nadler, have introduced new legislation to resurrect the Fund. The latest version of the proposed law is moving slowly through the U.S. Congress. It is unclear whether it will ever be enacted and the Fund reopened. However, my law firm is involved in a massive case pending in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York before Judge Hellerstein. We seek to recover damages for firefighters and others who suffered injuries as a result of the failure by the City of New York and private contractors to provide proper respiratory protection as required under the applicable OSHA rules. The suit focuses on individuals who worked during the rescue/recovery phase at the WTC site. The Federal Government provided a $1 billion dollar insurance fund to cover the City and its contractors for any liability they may have in this litigation. Over $100 million dollars from that fund has been spent paying the lawyers hired to defend the City and its contractors. Adding to the controversy, not one penny has been spent to pay the claims of injured workers. At the same time, given the thousands of plaintiffs in the matter, it remains a complicated and difficult job to resolve the cases. Judge Hellerstein has appointed two law professors as deputies or “Special Masters” to assist him in evaluating the medical claims of each injured worker. The Court, together with the Special Masters, is now supervising the creation of a computer database to facilitate review of the workers’ medical histories and other information relevant to their claims, such as dates of WTC service, results of diagnostic tests, and type of prescription drugs taken. The Court has ordered the database to be completed by January 2011, a little less than two years’ time. The Court has also divided the cases into five “waves” of roughly 2,000 workers each. Older cases, those filed closest in time to 2001, are in the first wave. The latest-filed cases are in the fifth wave. Additional waves may be created as new cases are filed. On a rolling basis, by wave, information on each case will be entered into the Court’s database. The questions needed to be answered by each worker are very specific. This information will be (Continued on page 5)
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(Continued from page 4) used to: 1) confirm and rank the severity of the injuries suffered by each worker; and 2) select sample cases for trial.
The Court intends to use guidelines established by the American Medical Association, among other cri-
teria, to determine the severity of the injuries at issue. Depending upon the type of injury in a single worker’s case, he will be placed on one or more of several “charts” (subsections) of the database and ranked on those charts. At this time, there are charts for upper and lower respiratory injuries (such as asthma, RAD, and sarcoidosis), gastrointestinal injuries (such as GERD and esophagitis), among others. There is also a working version of a chart for other injuries, but this has yet to be finalized. A fully operational database will enable the Court to understand the injuries claimed, and increase the likelihood of resolution of all of the cases. We do not expect, however, that the defendants will simply accept the information submitted at face value and stop fighting the cases. To the contrary, we expect the defendants to challenge any information contained in the database. Defendants will likely seek their own confirmation of the injuries, through review of each claimant’s medical records and/or even hiring doctors to examine certain workers. Defendants will also argue that some injuries predate WTC service or are caused by other sources. None of this is surprising, given that defendants continue to deny that they did anything wrong in their management of the WTC Site. Because of strict deadlines to bring these types of claims, you are encouraged to contact the firm immediately if you are suffering from an illness or injury you think may be connected to your service at the WTC Site. Please contact Michael Block, Esq. or Andrew Carboy, Esq. at (212) 732-9000 at once if you have any questions or are interested in bringing a claim. (Right) Friday, March 20th, UFA President Steve Cassidy, Executive Board Members, and City Council Member James Vacca protest in front of City Hall against proposed firehouse closings.
Photo Credit: Stephen N. Symbolik
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Grievance Arbitration Update by Joseph A. Miccio, Recording Secretary and Michael Axelrod, Esq. nfortunately, during the processing of our many grievances and improper practices, the UFA has hit substantial roadblocks which have stalled their progress. As a consequence, these delays have prevented the UFA from aggressively addressing many of cases which we have been pursuing. Not the least of our issues is the difficulty in the scheduling of arbitrators. The UFA is currently one short on our panel due to the passing of Arbitrator Maurice Benewitz and the City’s reluctance to appoint his successor. Over the years, Dr. Benewitz presided over many of our cases, resulting in a notable number of favorable rulings. Our other arbitrators, Arthur Riegel and Al Viani, have always worked well with us and have attempted to schedule cases, but have difficulty finding a City attorney from the Office of Labor Relations (OLR) to handle the cases. The attorneys in that office stay for one or two years, then leave, creating a “revolving door”. Each time one of the City’s attorneys is successful, he or she is given more cases, which creates a backlog and makes it difficult for scheduling. Once cases are scheduled, oftentimes the attorney has already resigned. When the City assigns a new attorney, the date is scheduled substantially in advance to allow the new attorney time to familiarize him or herself with the case. When the case comes up for hearing, or if it is extended to a second or third hearing date, often the new attorney has already left OLR. This cycle causes delays to the ongoing cases, both in our grievances and our improper practices at the Board of Collective Bargaining. Steve Cassidy has raised this complaint to the other leaders from the Municipal Labor Committee (MLC). We have found that we are not alone, as the other City unions have encountered the same difficulties in having their cases go forward. MLC Chairman Harry Nespoli has met with both City Labor Commissioner James Hanley and Office of Collective Bargaining Director Marlene Gold, raising these complaints as well. The MLC has received the same answer the UFA has received: “This is a problem which the City has with its arbitration.” The MLC, along with Steve Cassidy, will continue to push the City to process these cases. Many of them are old and have reached that status because of the difficulty on the City’s part to retain counsel at the Office of Labor relations to handle them. The above notwithstanding, we are still trying to resolve matters. UFA Labor Counsel, Michael Axelrod, is working to address these procedural problems so that at least some of the cases can be expedited. Below is a current status: 1. CSU Referrals to BITS (Improper Practice/Scope of Bargaining): Pending before the Board. Awaiting decision. 2. Light Duty Change of Work Schedules: Deferred by the Board of Collective Bargaining to a grievance hearing. Arbitrator Arthur Riegel was assigned, and a date was set for November. However, the attorney handling the case left the office and failed to notify her supervisors of the November date, thereby delaying this case from going further. Axelrod worked out an arrangement with Riegel that the substantial paperwork creating the history including this case, the 2000 grievance before Arbitrator Al Viani regarding assignments off-the-chart, as well as other grievances and improper practices contain enough information to avoid the necessity of having a hearing and delaying this matter further. In order to prevent further delay, the UFA’s background information with an explanatory brief was filed by Axelrod with the City and the arbitrator on December 16, 2008. Once again the City’s lawyer resigned, and there is no attorney handling this matter, Arbitrator Riegel has indicated (Continued on page 7)
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(Continued from page 6) that he is attempting to eliminate unnecessary hearings and move this case in an expeditious fashion utilizing previously submitted evidence and testimony. For your information, since this case started in 2000, we had six labor relations attorneys work on it. A telephone conference is scheduled for March 30th. 3. Increased AFID (3rd day) Improper Practice: Multiple conferences have been held before OCB Hearing Officer, Michael Fois. We agreed last July that the UFA would file proposed stipulated facts, witnesses and exhibits, which was done by us preliminarily in August. The Cityâ€™s lawyer has resigned, there has been no response, and the case has been in limbo although we just learned that another attorney was assigned. There is no expectation, however, because of the complexities of this action, that they will be prepared in a timely fashion. Axelrod continues to press this matter. 4. Medical Leave Details (Lifts): Grievance pending before Arbitrator Al Viani for approximately three years. A meeting was held December 18th after which the City attorney handling the case resigned. Arbitrator Viani is attempting to reschedule this matter with another date to be set in the near future. 5. Surprise Inspection (Raid) & Drug Testing E-168: Grievance filed. Arbitrator Arthur Riegel assigned. Date was set but was adjourned due to the resignation of the City attorney. 6. Denial of Chauffeur Pay (Paige Avenue): Grievance assigned to the late Maurice Benewitz who died before the hearing date. Arthur Riegel was appointed and the first hearing was finally held on April 23rd, almost 2 years after we filed the arbitration. 7. Representation at Safety Interviews: Improper Practice filed July 29, 2008. After delay, City filed its answer and the UFA responded. The case is now pending before the Board. We had meetings with the Department to try to resolve the representation issue. The next date is April 2, 2009. 8. One Year Details (City Island): Grievance, hearing held before Arbitrator Al Viani after substantial delays because of the lack of a City attorney. We are awaiting a new date although we have been meeting with the Department in an attempt to resolve the issue 9. Asbestos Abatement at Lexington Avenue Improper Practice: Conference with Board representative was finally held in November, 2008, more than one year after charges were filed. After multiple City adjournments, the first hearing was finally held March 24th and multiple dates were set for the next two months to determine whether the functions performed at the Con Edison explosion were duties customarily performed by firefighters. However, OLR has not assigned a new attorney. 10. Random Drug Testing: a series of cases filed in 2003 and 2004 have been limping through the system with legitimate reasons for their delay. There were several meetings where a number of our issues were resolved, but there are several still outstanding. Hearings were held in 2007 and it was agreed by the parties that the case would be held in abeyance during the court appeal of the successful police case challenging hair follicle testing. This case, handled by Axelrod and his office was successful at the Board level, reversed in the lower court, successfully reversed for the unions at the Appellate Division, holding that drug testing procedures are a mandatory subject of negotiations. We are still waiting for the decision from the Cityâ€™s appeal to the Court of Appeals. At that time briefs will be submitted by Axelrod and his staff. Once again, the attorney handling this matter for Labor Relations has resigned. 11. Reasonable suspicion Testing Cases: Same as random drug testing above.
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WTC Medicals Affects ALL Firefighters! by William Romaka, Health & Safety Officer, Sergeant -At-Arms
ver 7 years have passed since that fateful day, but the reverberations are still being felt today and have ended up affecting all our firefighters - past, present, and future. Some of the ways we have been touched are very evident, while others are more subtle.
One of the biggest factors driving the WTC Medical Monitoring and Treatment Programs is the fact that since 1997, New York City Firefighters received annual medical exams. It is for this reason that our findings mean more to the bureaucrats than any other WTC related program. The damage to Firefighters can be scientifically/medically measured and not subject to dispute. For this reason, it should mean more to the fire service throughout this country to have these baseline medicals for all who dedicate themselves to helping others. The WTC Medical Monitoring and Treatment Program is also the first of its kind that now tracks the health of our retired members. Before this program, our retirees moved about the country or retired into obscurity only keeping their company members in touch with their individual situations when, and if, desired. The information we now gain from the WTC Medical Monitoring Program can only serve our membership as diseases and treatment become more widely chronicalled to identify trends. The Medical Monitoring Program can serve the post 9/11 membersip by allowing them to anticipate possible future health issues. By having this information available, safeguards can be put into place for the earliest possible detection and treatment. It might also lead us to evidence that could possibly be used for legislative purposes or presumptive laws. Finding diseases or problems at the earliest possible time gives our firefighters the best opportunity to have a treatment or program that can be the most effective for our members. The UFA is working with our legislative supporters to move forward a long term WTC funding bill that will allow us to address our active and retired membershipâ€™s health and treatment needs for now and in the future. Firefighter issues are unique to our chosen profession. The unions and fire department partnered for what may become the national model for medical monitoring. Both active and retired firefighters participating in the program report a high satisfaction rate with the program in exit interviews. Your union is here to assist you, please contact my office with any questions or comments or our retiree representative, Jim Dahl at 646-839-6577 who is well versed in the benefits and different programs available to our retirees. Information is also available on the UFA web site at www.ufanyc.org.
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The morning after, units are still at the scene of a seven-alarm fire that destroyed PS # 9 at Brown Place and East 138th Street in the Bronx on January 3, 1963.
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COMPENSATION ACCRUAL FUND OF THE UNIFORMED FIREFIGHTERS ASSOCIATION OF GREATER NEW YORK - LOCAL 94 I.A.F.F., AFL-CIO 204 EAST 23RD STREET, NEW YORK, NY 10010 TEL: (212) 683-4723 FAX: (212) 683-0693
Board of Trustees
Annual Membership Report
Page 10 TRUSTEES: STEPHEN J. CASSIDY Chairman ROBERT STRAUB Treasurer JAMES M. SLEVIN JOSEPH A. MICCIO WILLIAM ROMAKA JOHN G KELLY, JR. DONALD RULAND STEPHEN G. HUMENESKY EDWARD BROWN DANIEL MURPHY
In compliance with Directive 12, Employee Benefit Funds â€“ Uniform Reporting and Auditing Requirements, issued by the Office of the Comptroller of the City of New York, set forth below is a report of the financial condition and operations of the Fund for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2007. The Compensation Accrual Fund of the Uniformed Firefighters Association is a defined contribution pension plan that provides retirement benefits to New York City firefighters, fire marshals, marine engineers, pilots, and uniformed wipers pursuant to collective bargaining agreements between the City of New York and the Uniformed Firefighters Association of Greater New York, Local 94, I.A.F.F., AFL-CIO (the UFA). Participants are eligible to participate in the plan on the date they commence employment. Benefits are funded through employer contributions, which are established by the collective bargaining agreements. The value of Fund assets, after subtracting liabilities of the Fund, was $124,980,773 as of December 31, 2007, compared to $116,737,438 as of January 1, 2007. During the fiscal year the Fund experienced an increase in its net assets available for benefits of $8,243,335. Additions to the Fund totaled $17,598,852. These additions included investment income of $7,388,663, and contributions of $10,210,189. Deductions from the Fund totaled $9,355,517. These deductions included benefits paid to participants of $9,031,175 and administrative expenses of $324,342. For additional information write or call: Board of Trustees Compensation Accrual Fund of the Uniformed Firefighters Association 204 East 23rd Street New York, NY 10010 (212) 683-4723
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Doing More...With Less! 50 YEAR COMPARISON HUGE INCREASE IN RESPONSES 1958 72, 942 Responses 2008 473, 335 Responses This huge increase in response activity is at a time when the number of FDNY companies has decreased! 1958 364 Companies 2008 357 Companies This huge increase in response activity is at a time when the number of members of the FDNY Uniformed force has decreased! 1958 12,124 Members in the Uniformed Force 2008 11, 620 Members in the Uniformed Force
by Herb Eysser
FLORIDA RETIREES Retired firefighters and officers in the Brandenton - Sarasota, Florida area are looking to start a retiree’s group on the Gulf Coast. Suncoast Retiree’s meetings to be held on the last Wednesday of every month at Mulligan’s Grill, Bobby Jones Golf Complex. Contact James O’Brien (L-120 ret) for more information at 941-932-7971. www.ufanyc.org
Uniformed Firefighters Association Of Greater New York 204 EAST 23rd STREET, NEW YORK, N.Y. 10010-9998 Tel (212) 683-4832 • Fax (212) 683-0710 www.ufanyc.org
STEPHEN J. CASSIDY President ENG 236 JAMES M. SLEVIN Vice President
JOSEPH MICCIO Recording Secretary
ROBERT STRAUB Treasurer
WILLIAM ROMAKA Health & Safety Officer Sergeant-at-Arms LESTER LAYNE Fire Marshal Representative
STEPHEN J. CASSIDY Editor-In-Chief
DONALD RULAND Trustee-Staten Island
JOHN G. KELLY, JR Trustee-Brooklyn ENG 201 Chairman, Board of Trustees STEPHEN G. HUMENESKY Trustee-Queens ENG 301 DANIEL MURPHY Trustee-Manhattan
EDWARD BROWN Trustee-Bronx
STEPHEN N. SYMBOLIK Managing Editor
PRESORTED STD. U.S. POSTAGE PAID PERMIT # 14 HUNTINGTON, NY
The Official Publication of The Uniformed Firefighters Association of Greater New York - UFANYC.org