WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The IAFF and the IAFC often work together on fire service issues. Sometimes they agree, and other times they don't. But no issue has been as divisive as that of "two hatters" for the two organizations.
Last week the IAFC issued a position paper stating its stance on the issue of secondary employment, supporting the rights of volunteer, career, or paid on-call firefighters to serve multiple organizations or communities.
On Tuesday, Nov. 4, IAFF President Harold A. Schaitberger issued a letter to the IAFC stating that its "position remains that secondary employment of IAFF members -- which, for the IAFF includes part-time, paid on-call, volunteer or otherwise as a firefighter, emergency medical services or public safety worker -- is wrong, is unsafe and is against the IAFF's Constitution when it negatively affects another IAFF member's safety or livelihood."
In the letter, Schaitberger said IAFC's "statement is clearly an attempt to meddle in the IAFF's internal affairs."
IAFC spokeswoman Edie Clark said the organization has no response to IAFF's letter and stands by its position taken last week.
The organization representing leadership positions in the fire service released the paper partly in response to a resolution passed by delegates at the IAFF's 2008 Convention in August which clarified language concerning secondary employment.
"There were a few words in the (language) that made it so people didn't understand what a violation was," IAFF spokesman Jeff Zack said of the policy he says has existed for decades. "The delegates had a long discussion on it and came up with language that mirrors what is in the letter."
"Two hatting" by IAFF members is no secret. Zack said IAFF's policy is enforced at the local level, and relys on local members to bring charges when their local is affected.
He is not aware of any recent charges stemming from the policy and said that in the past it has not been strictly regulated.
"It's not like the IAFF goes out searching for these people," he said. "This is an issue where when locals become affected by members 'two hatting,' they attempt to fix the problem by issuing charges" with the union.
Zach said the main purpose of the letter was to state that the IAFF does not believe it is the IAFC's place to comment on one of their internal policies.
"We do not and would not allow any outside group or individual to have a say in the way we conduct the business of representing our own members and affiliates on this or any issue," Schaitberger said in the letter.
The IAFF plans to leave the enforcement of the policy up to the locals and clarified that the only effect charges have are on someone's membership to the union.