Apathy is Not an Option

“Unprecedented” is a word that gets thrown around a lot these days … too much for my liking. If you’re a firefighter in California, though, the reality is inescapable: the last year has truly been unprecedented. 

The numbers alone are staggering: Since last fall, California has endured the largest, the second largest and the seventh largest fires in its history. Since last fall, five of our brother firefighters died battling these three catastrophes – the Mendocino Complex, the Thomas Fire and the Carr Fire. We’ve also seen one of our brothers – Long Beach Fire Captain David Rosa – lose his life to random violence.

Beyond these tragedies, our profession faces quieter, but no less deadly dangers: the daily exposure to cancer-causing chemicals that shorten our lives; the silent torture of post-traumatic stress and firefighter suicide; the relentless day-to-day threats caused by chronic under-staffing, attacks on our health care and retirement security and the simple toll of a job that is twice as dangerous and twice as violent as it’s ever been.

With so many life-and-death crises facing our profession, the upcoming election may seem like almost a sideshow. But brothers and sisters, I’m telling you: These challenges are exactly why the election is so critical … to our lives and our futures as firefighters and as Californians. 

We can’t afford to sit this out. If we don’t look out for our lives and livelihoods now, we will fail each other and especially fail our future brothers and sisters.

In California, it starts at the top of the ticket. So many of the choices that affect our lives, health, safety and security on the job are made by the governor of California. This year, there will be a new governor, and when it comes to protecting your job, your health, your safety and your retirement, the choice could not be clearer.

On one side is a candidate who has stood with firefighters on our core concerns for decades, even when it put his political future at risk. As mayor of San Francisco during the depths of the Great Recession, Gavin Newsom stood up to more extreme political forces and refused to cut even one firefighter. As lieutenant governor and as a candidate, Newsom has personally committed himself to protecting retirement promises to our firefighters, ensuring full mutual aid funding, fighting contracting out of our jobs and recognizing the health-and-safety threats posed by job-related cancer and post-traumatic stress injury. 

By contrast, Newsom’s opponent, John Cox, has shown no such commitment. In fact, he doesn’t seem to even want to talk to firefighters. When CPF was considering its endorsement, John Cox refused to meet with CPF’s Executive Board. He was asked several times. Said “no” every time. Mr. Cox is on record supporting the elimination of secure pensions for our future brother and sister firefighters. He’s endorsed contracting out a variety of public-sector functions. He’s been absolutely silent on core issues like staffing, job safety, PTSI and other issues. We’d have liked to hear what he had to say, but when a guy won’t even talk to us, how can we? 

I’ve heard from some of you who don’t like Newsom’s positions on some personally important issues, particularly gun rights. Frankly, I’ve got my own disagreements in some of these areas. But as your union, it’s our responsibility to judge candidates for where they stand on the issues that affect your life as a professional – your safety on the job, the security of your family, and the benefits that you have earned working in one of life’s most dangerous occupations. 

On these issues, the ones that matter to your job, your safety and your future security, it’s not even close. Gavin Newsom has a record of standing with us. His opponent doesn’t. 

Some of you have asked me why CPF doesn’t just stay out of the race. Why endorse anybody? It’s simple: we can’t afford … you can’t afford … to stay out. Everything that matters to us on the job comes as a result of decisions made by elected officials. If we’re not at the table, we are going to be on the menu. 

Sitting on the sidelines isn’t an option. We need to be in the game, and I truly believe we need to stand with those who have stood, and will stand, with us. 

I encourage you to read the material in this publication, get the facts and make an informed choice. Talk to your local union leadership – many of you have local contests that will make a huge difference for you right there at home. 

Most importantly, just get out and vote. Your future depends on it.