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As in the past, the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) will strongly oppose this bill. Its own top priority is an item in President Clinton's fiscal 1998 budget that would provide $2.5 million for federal investigations into every firefighter line-of-duty death. The IAFF believes this is necessary because so many cities have reduced firefighter staffing and are cutting corners to save money, thereby placing lives in jeopardy. The investigations would be conducted by the National Institute of Occupational Safety & Health.
Also of concern to the IAFF is a national collective bargaining bill that would bring all paid personnel under collective bargaining agreements. At present, about a third of the 225,000 paid fire-rescue workers are not covered. Opposition will come from state and local officials who believe this could lead to strikes, but the truth is that most collective bargaining agreements contain an anti-strike provision.
There are many other legislative items involving the fire-rescue service, but these seem to be the top priorities. Hopefully, where they are in agreement such as the anti-terrorism and radio spectrum issues the fire organization will work together. On issues where they disagree, each will push its own point of view and work hard to prevent their bills from being buried in committees. Given the forces at play in the early months of this 105th Congress, it's going to be a formidable task for everyone.