IAFF Accuses Politicians of Using Smoke Screen

International Association of Fire Fighters

WASHINGTON – Fire fighters and paramedics are fighting back against politically motivated attacks on their pensions. The International Association of Fire Fighters today launched a public education campaign calling out politicians like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie who use first responders as scapegoats for the financial woes of the nation's states and cities.

In a full-page ad in today's USA TODAY, and in upcoming TV spots and viral videos, the Fire Fighters are asking for public support for the work they do and the benefits they've earned. "After a Career Saving Lives, Politicians Want to Take Our Life Savings," declares the USA TODAY ad.

The print ad can be viewed here: http://www.iaff.org/11News/PDFs/USATODAYPensionAd.pdf

The viral video can be viewed here:

"This is truly an unfair attack, a political attack. It's really just a smoke screen," said IAFF General President Harold Schaitberger, who noted that 10 national, state and local organizations last week issued a release disputing politicized misinformation about pension solvency. "We're adding the voice of fire fighters to the growing campaign to protect vital public services."

In an article posted by In These Times today, Schaitberger calls for dialogue, instead of an escalating war of words.

"In an era of revenue shortfalls and budget deficits, fire fighters have become scapegoats of mayors, governors and corporate opportunists who have grossly misrepresented the facts in the public discourse over unfunded pension liabilities," he wrote.

"What they're not saying is that they are responsible for the unfunded liabilities," Schaitberger continued. "They are responsible for riding the wave of pension plan investment profits and putting off making annual pension payments for years. They are responsible for creating pension payment holidays and failing to make actuarially required payments. Now their misjudgments leave them facing much larger pension bills."

Ultimately, the blame for the fiscal problems of local and state governments rests at the feet of Wall Street speculators who crippled the U.S. economy with what amounted to fraudulent investment schemes, Schaitberger said. And he accused the same speculators of lining up to get their hands on fire fighter pension money.

"We recognize that these Wall Street speculators are urging politicians to turn over our pension funds to them, in the form of riskier defined contribution retirement plans," he said. "They have no problem risking our future if it lines their pockets."

Schaitberger said the IAFF would defend its members vigorously, taking the case directly to the public. "Our entire careers have been dedicated to protecting our neighbors and our neighborhoods," he said. "We believe our neighbors will stand with us against these unfair political attacks."

The International Association of Fire Fighters represents more than 298,000 full-time professional fire fighters and paramedics and is the leading advocate for the health and safety of first responders. More information is available at www.iaff.org.

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