From the Desk of Ricky Walsh IAFF 7th District Vice President
Brothers and Sisters,
The political season is winding down, and I have had a revelation…I have turned the corner after
speaking with many of our conservative members. They have convinced me that I have been misguided,
and now I am going to work to fix my efforts on your behalf for the past 26 years. I now believe that
collective bargaining for public employees is a bad idea. Yes, I have been convinced.
Not only that, but I now believe that defined contribution programs are better for workers than defined
benefit pension plans—yes, I do! I am now also convinced that government regulations regarding fire
fighters’ and other workers’ safety are getting in the way of progress and economic recovery in this
country; and I am now convinced that recognizing corporations as people is a great idea, and unlimited
expenditures from the rich are good for our political process. I believe that “job creators” (small
businesses), even the ones that don’t create jobs, should not pay taxes; and I believe that it is the middle
class in this country that put us in the economic crisis we are in today; and I believe that we are taxed
too much and that all the infrastructure in this country must have been created on the “eighth” day out
of thin air and once built does not need maintained; and I believe that we need more defense spending
just in case the next 20 largest navies in the world combine into one to equal the US Navy; and I believe
that if we just eliminated all social safety nets that neighbors would take care of neighbors; and I believe
in trickle- down economics even though it did not work the first time (it just needed more time to kick
in); and I believe that mandating medical insurance is a bad idea BUT mandating car or home insurance
is a great idea; and I believe management would have given us all we have today if we would have just
given them a bit more time; and I believe that if we give the Olympia mansion to Rob McKenna and the
White House to Mitt Romney, all the ills in the United States of America will disappear and that when a
two-class system is born out of such a scenario, we bottom feeders will be grateful.
And what can I do to fix this, you ask? Well, I have been told to get on board with conservatives and help
lobby for elimination of all of the above. It has been suggested that if we can just eliminate regulation,
business will flourish. If we get rid of minimum wage laws, then job holders will be paid for the merit of
their work and job creators will be benevolent with the sharing of profits. Collective bargaining
agreements—make them illegal so the cities, counties, fire districts and states can get back on their feet
as they only contain “overly generous benefits.” Eliminate taxes and privatize roads, sewer systems,
water systems, fire departments, police departments and parks. And schools --we need to promote and
lobby for school voucher systems so the rich kids can get the best education, and the poor kids can get
janitorial jobs working at the rich kids’ schools.
Don’t stop reading yet.
If you say that Ricky Walsh could never believe that, you are right. I am being very sarcastic. I don’t
believe it and if I did, I would hope that you would call for my immediate resignation or demand a recall
election. And certainly, I would hope that you would lose faith in my ability to serve and represent you
in any venue. But this is exactly what a certain group of individuals believe and have adopted for their
political platform, and some of our IAFF members, as well other union members, plan to give them their
money, work and vote for their campaigns!
The following is word- for-word the adopted Republican platform in regard to labor and retirement
Security For Those Who Need It: Ensuring Retirement Security.
The situation of public pension systems demands immediate remedial action. The irresponsible
promises of politicians at every level of government have come back to haunt today’s taxpayers with
enormous unfunded pension liabilities. Many cities face bankruptcy because of excessive outlays for
early retirement, extravagant health plans, and overly generous pension benefits. We salute
the Republican Governors and State legislators who have, in the face of abuse and threats of violence,
reformed their State pension systems for the benefit of both taxpayers and retirees alike.
Freedom in the Workplace
The current Administration has chosen a different path with regard to labor, clinging to antiquated
notions of confrontation and concentrating power in the Washington offices of union elites. It has
strongly supported the anti-business card check legislation to deny workers a secret ballot in union
organizing campaigns and, through the use of Project Labor Agreements, barred 80 percent of the
construction workforce from competing for jobs in many stimulus projects. The current Administration
has turned the National Labor Relations Board into a partisan advocate for Big Labor, using threats
and coercion outside the law to attack businesses and, through “snap elections” and “micro unions,”
limit the rights of workers and employers alike.
We will restore the rule of law to labor law by blocking “card check,” enacting the Secret Ballot
Protection Act, enforcing the Hobbs Act against labor violence, and passing the Raise Act to allow all
workers to receive well-earned raises without the approval of their union representative. We demand
an end to the Project Labor Agreements; and we call for repeal of the Davis-Bacon Act, which costs
the taxpayers billions of dollars annually in artificially high wages on government projects. We support
the right of States to enact Right-to-Work laws and encourage them to do so to promote greater
economic liberty. Ultimately, we support the enactment of a National Right-to-Work law to promote
worker freedom and to promote greater economic liberty. We will aggressively enforce the recent
decision by the Supreme Court barring the use of union dues for political purposes without the consent
of the worker.
We salute the Republican Governors and State legislators who have saved their States from fiscal
disaster by reforming their laws governing public employee unions. We urge elected officials across
the country to follow their lead in order to avoid State and local defaults on their obligations and the
collapse of services to the public. To safeguard the free choice of public employees, no government at
any level should act as the dues collector for unions. A Republican President will protect the rights of
conscience of public employees by proposing legislation to bar mandatory dues for political purposes.
That is right—read it slowly! If I or any of this Union’s elected leadership were to be serious about
promoting and endorsing the stances listed above on issues critical to our Union, our industry and our
nation, you would bounce us out on our ears at the next election. If we were to tell you that to “better
work with conservatives” we are going to support the repeal of collective bargaining and promote “right
to work,” there might be a lynching….or at least a good old fashioned ass whupin’! Even Union members
who lean to the right, would come down and join the mob wanting to get a pound of flesh, but at the
same time they will be working for those policy -making candidates who promote the above and are
willing to take away our middle class way of life. Promoting themselves as fire fighters for “candidate X,”
throwing the rest of us under the bus, and we are all just to accept such hypocrisy from those members!
To excuse their actions, they use social issues such as the three big “G’s”…that is right, I will say it, god-gays-
and guns! Well, I must point out the selfishness involved in that kind of thinking. In the name of
their personal beliefs or so-called morality they sell the rest of us down the river. Not only us but their
non-firefighter neighbors as well. Yes, they are willing to work for, campaign for, and give money to
candidates who continue to promote the above- stated platform. They will do that and in the same
breath ask us and our families to trust them, as a crewmember, to go into the most dangerous
places/scenarios in the world. Yeah, I said it and will again…they are willing to sell you down the road
with their off-duty conduct and then want to be part of the team when entering into places that require
110% trust. That, Brothers and Sisters, should not be acceptable to any of us because that is about more
than a differing political view or opinion.
Ninety-five years ago, the Tacoma “firemen” issued an ultimatum to their employer demanding a “two-platoon”
system or ALL of them would resign. I posted a copy of the article on the 7th District Facebook
page, to illustrate to many of you the importance of the word “ALL” and to emphasize that the article
did not say “some” of the firefighters would resign. This job action did not result in firefighters dying,
BUT let’s get our facts straight: workers across America were killed engaging in job actions that resulted
in the many benefits each of us enjoy today. It is a sad commentary that any worker in America would
minimize their efforts by supporting those who want to turn the clock back one hundred years, to take
away a structure that is truly the economic driver in this country and the world.
Here is the adopted Democratic platform, word for word, on labor and retirement issues:
The Republican Party would return us to the failed policies of the last administration, vilifying the
American worker, undermining unions, and arguing that everyone should fend for themselves. We
oppose the attacks on collective bargaining that Republican governors and state legislatures are
mounting in states around the country.
Democrats believe that the right to organize and collectively bargain is a fundamental American value;
every American should have a voice on the job and a chance to negotiate for a fair day’s pay after a
hard day’s work. We will continue to fight for the right of all workers to organize and join a union.
Unions helped build the greatest middle class the world has ever known. Their work resulted in the
40-hour workweek and weekends, paid leave and pensions, the minimum wage and health insurance,
and Social Security and Medicare – the cornerstones of middle class security. We will fight for labor
laws that provide a fair process for workers to choose union representation, that facilitate the
collective bargaining process, and that strengthen remedies for violations of the law. We will fight for
collective bargaining rights for police officers, nurses, firefighters, emergency medical technicians,
teachers, and other public sector workers – jobs that are a proven path to the middle class for millions
of Americans. We will continue to vigorously oppose “Right to Work” and “paycheck protection” efforts,
and so-called “Save our Secret Ballot” measures whenever they are proposed.”
That is the kind of collective effort from the party of workers, in all industries, that has given rise to the
greatest middle class the world has ever known; and I submit for consideration that America has truly
defined “middle class” as recognized by the world. To take actions to destroy it is un-patriotic and un-
American. Some defend their actions by saying “it” went too far, and I say it has not gone far enough.
Jobs are not about paychecks but about dignity, and paychecks are about recognition of work well done.
Capitalism cannot exist without labor, and this partnership can only co-exist if profits are divided fairly
Your Union and workers united to bring dignity and justice to the workplace, and while unions can be
successful with rogue members--the “tails trying to wag the dog”--it makes it more difficult. We need to
come together with facts and not sound bites, and all of us need to commit and engage in the
democracy this Union promises in its Constitution and Bylaws. Participate and debate, but at the end of
the meeting we leave the union hall as one with one goal. One right-leaning member even went so far
as to profess he was a “good Union member” even though he promoted candidates who promote the
elimination of collective bargaining and defined benefit pension systems--to which I say PHOOEY! You
are not a good union member when you are willing to break ranks and go out on your own and give the
finger to a majority decision—you are a poor union member! There is no room in any collective force for
individual agendas. History not only shows this but dictates this concept.
I don’t mean to be offensive, and I am sure some did not even get to this place in the article. BUT the
conversation needs to occur, and I am calling out those with minority agendas! I have stood in front of
local union meetings stating what is written above only to have a member walk out, not engage in
dialog, and then cut and dice me AFTER I leave the premises. Can you believe it—they had an
opportunity to debate the issue and chose the “weak” path? You can have your opinions, everyone
does, but show strength enough in your beliefs and opinions to engage in the democratic process of this
union and promote them at the union meeting or State Council functions. BUT be united in the will of
the majority in the end. That is your responsibility as a member of this great IAFF, your state association
and your Local affiliate.
I believe this election is a turning point for organized labor and certainly for everyday workers. America
will define itself in November. They will pick a path….we will pick a path. For those on the fence, I am
asking for your help when you cast your vote. For those too far to the right…know this, I believe the
conservatives will pursue the Republican platform (above and posted at www.iaff7thdistrict.org) and
will achieve it if elected to offices, whether at a local, state, or federal level, and you (and ALL OF US) will
have to live with it. I will still work to keep and improve what is taken for granted, by some, as I know
you will expect my office, your state council and local affiliate to pull the “rabbit out of the hat” once
again. Be thoughtful when voting; think of others, because I am sure we will get what the winning party
Until next time, be safe.
P.S.—For those who would like to invest in the United States, the Nationwide 457 plan now has a fund
called Eaton Vance, that makes dollars available to governmental entities for the rebuilding of America.
Follow me and invest actual dollars into America.