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New York Daily News: Rudy, firefighters feud

Group, already fuming over Ground Zero curbs, irate as he skips forum

Rudy Giuliani never fails to cast firefighters as his heroes, but the nation’s largest firefighters union all but declared war on him yesterday after he backed out of a forum for presidential hopefuls.

His withdrawal from the International Association of Fire Fighters forum exposed simmering tensions between the former mayor and city fire unions over his decision in November 2001 to limit FDNY personnel at Ground Zero.

Before Giuliani’s decision, hundreds of firefighters were allowed to stay at Ground Zero to dig for remains of their 343 missing comrades, an intensely emotional quest.

But citing safety concerns, Giuliani decided on Nov. 2, 2001, to limit the number of FDNY searchers to 25 – touching off brief but furious scuffles between the NYPD and the FDNY and earning Giuliani the lasting animosity of many city fire officers.

This FLAP seems a little too convenient. These issues towards Giuliani by the large and very politically active International Firefighters Union have been simmering for years.

But, if anything it highlights the political nature of organized government employees where the unions are pervasive – unlike the private sector where they have declined markedly in the last decade.

So, let’s look at the union and its leaders first and then the Flap.

The International Association of Fire Fighters union has been very active in American politics.

The union donates millions of dollars to its candidates through its poliical action committee.

More than 70 per cent of its donations go to Democrats.

The IAFF was the first labor union to endorse Kerry in 2004, and dedicated resources to a Kerry presidential victory. Its political action committee, FIREPAC, also doles out millions of dollars in political contributions, mostly to Democratic candidates and causes.

But an IAFF spokesman noted for FOX News that 30 percent of its PAC money went to Republican candidates in 2006, and while IAFF endorsed Kerry in 2004, the group’s New York local chapter supported President Bush in his re-election.

Harold A. Schaitberger, the General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters is a longtime supporter of John Kerry and is a lefty AFL-CIO union boss. He was named as a possible Kerry appointee as Secretary of Labor.

Is Schaitberger a Democrat partisan?

You bet.

OK, now you have the background and the players.

The FLAP:

The IAFF planned a candidate forum for Presidential candidates on March 14 in Washington.

Initially, union leaders including Schaitberger did NOT plan on inviting Mayor Giuliani. A February 28, 2007 draft letter was written by Schaitberger but never distributed to union membership that said Rudy you are NOT invited:

FOX News has obtained a scathing letter prepared by the influential and politically active International Association of Fire Fighters union, written late last month but never released. The letter informs the more than 270,000 members that it would not be inviting Giuliani to a forum for presidential candidates on March 14, citing what the union called Giuliani’s “egregious acts” after Sept. 11.

In the letter, the IAFF, whose president Harold Schaitberger is a longtime supporter of Democratic Sen. John Kerry, blames the former Big Apple mayor for “unforgivable” post-terror attacks decisions, including reducing the number of firefighters involved in the recovery operation and instituting a “scoop and dump” operation to expedite cleanup, which the union says shows a “disgraceful lack of respect” for the victims.

The letter is here.

Now, the Giuliani campaign (after the draft letter began circulating to the press) has cited scheduling conflicts and will not be attending the March 14 forum.

The IAFF is pissed of Rudy’s no show and has promised to distribute the draft letter of Schaitberger (which was never sent) to all of its members.

Analysis:

This is a set-up by the left labor union movement to stall Rudy’s electoral momentum.

The issues between the Mayor and NYFD are of a long-standing nature. And let’s face it, Rudy has never been a fan of the New York Left Labor Unions.

How will the letter impact the presidential race?

Probably not much.

The IAFF will have sent a nasty-gram message to all of its members anyway. And would endorsed Hillary in any case.

But, this will spur other firefighters (who do not agree with their left-wing AFL-CIO partisan leadership) to join in defense of America’s Mayor and join his campaign.

Stay tuned……..

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