New professional fire fighters on the job in Illinois are learning the foundations of the labor movement thanks to advocacy from the AFFI.
“We have a very good relationship in Springfield, Illinois, where our capitol is,” said Chuck Sullivan, AFFI president. “So, we had Illinois State Representative Lance Yednock, who is also an operating engineer, introduce a bill that would require every fire fighter hired in Illinois to receive a 90-minute presentation about the AFFI and the IAFF [during training] and then some local snippet of various strikes that occurred in the 1970’s right here in Illinois.”
Sullivan said the bill encountered opposition regarding its effect on the duration of the academy and its implications for volunteer fire fighters.
“We narrowed the bill’s scope to include all full-time fire fighters hired in Illinois. Regardless of union affiliation or not, you were still going to be required to do the training in order to graduate,” he said. “We were successful in both the House and the Senate with very few opponents at the end of the day, and the governor signed that into law.”
The amendment to the Illinois Fire Protection Training Act (H.B. 2215, Public Act 101-0252) was enacted in 2019, and for the past 18 months, training has been ongoing at three major academies and in larger municipal academies across the state. A small team of three committee members conducts in-person sessions using detailed PowerPoint presentations and videos.
“Congratulations to the AFFI for their insightful recognition that understanding labor history is crucial for keeping our members connected to their union,” said Mark Sanders, 8th District Vice President. “This initiative comes at a timely moment, as labor experiences a resurgence nationwide, and AFFI’s union has effectively secured the future by bridging the gap between the past and the future. It highlights the significance of vigilance, grows new leadership, and has a profound impact on our union, our profession, and our families.”
“Labor is more vital and more united than ever before,” said General President Edward Kelly. Efforts like the AFFI’s labor history training remind us of the hard work of those who came before us, as well as the promise of what unions can deliver together for fire fighters, our families, and all working people.”
This is not the only triumph for the AFFI. “The Fiery Struggle,” a book outlining Illinois’ fire fighter labor history, is now a must-read for new members in specific AFFI locals. Additionally, the Abraham Lincoln Museum reached out, expressing interest in featuring AFFI labor history items for display.
The AFFI is now set on inspiring new recruits, highlighting past achievements, and gearing up for greater future accomplishments.
“It’s important for our members to understand the role and historical accomplishments of the union. Previous generations, who went on strike or advocated for collective bargaining laws, worker injury protections, and retirement security, have paved the way for the benefits our members enjoy today. We aim to make the new generation aware that the positive aspects they currently experience are a result of union organizing and advocacy at their state capitol,” said Sullivan.
The AFFI will eventually have a link on the State Fire Marshal’s website for the 90-minute presentation where recruits can take the training online. The organization has also developed a new task force in collaboration with the local government focused on recruiting and retaining new fire fighters and paramedics.
To learn more about the AFFI’s Labor History Committee, visit the link here.