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IAFF endorsement of Biden draws ire

The IAFF became the first union to endorse Biden, announcing it last Monday at the candidate’s first campaign stop in Pittsburgh

Kevin Landrigan
The New Hampshire Union Leader, Manchester

International Association of Fire Fighters General President Harold Schaitberger knew his union’s quick endorsement of former Vice President Joe Biden’s 2020 White House run was going to be roundly criticized by some.

“I am forced to reinforce this. We are a very politically diverse union. We have Republicans, conservatives, progressives, independents and in that way we are kind of a perfect reflection of the landscape in the country,” Schaitberger said. “Whatever political decisions we have made past or present there will be a section of our membership that will not agree with that decision. We celebrate that, I understand that.”

The IAFF became the first union to endorse Biden, announcing it last Monday at the candidate’s first campaign stop in Pittsburgh.

President Trump himself signaled how upset the move made him with a two-day tweet storm that included retweets from 60 who identified themselves as IAFF members.

“I’ve done more for firefighters than this dues-sucking union will ever do, and I get paid ZERO!” Trump tweeted Wednesday.

During a telephone interview, Schaitberger said the choice was nearly four years in the making.

“We’ve been thinking about supporting Joe Biden since the late summer of 2015 when we were encouraging him, provoking him to get into the political arena and run back then,” Schaitberger said.

After Biden passed on a 2016 run, citing his son Beau’s passing, the union did not endorse anyone in 2016.

Schaitberger said Biden has a connection with middle-class voters and a long track record of support for issues important to first responders.

As for what to say or do about the Mueller probe and impeachment, Biden hasn’t asked for Schaitberger’s advice.

“I’d say stay focused on the issues he believes the American people need to be represented on, bringing civility and decency back into the political arena and talking about how to restore America’s proper place on the international stage,” Schaitberger said.

The group has a long history of loyally backing candidates whether they are front-runners or not.

In 2003 they got behind then-Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., and chili fest events helped fuel Kerry’s comeback win over former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean.

“Maybe we’ll bring back the chili fests for Joe Biden. Can you tweet chili?” Schaitberger quipped.


©2019 The New Hampshire Union Leader (Manchester, N.H.)