High Stakes in the Year Ahead

  LOU PAULSON

When looking back at the events of 2017, it’s hard to imagine that the coming year could bring challenges that will rival what we’ve seen to date. 

In only the final three months of this past year, our state experienced devastation at an entirely unprecedented rate. In the north, the Tubbs Fire, the Nuns Fire and several other blazes burning in unison claimed the lives of 43 Californians and destroyed nearly 9,000 structures in a little over a week. It was the deadliest series of wildfires in California history, an incident capable of leveling entire neighborhoods in just a matter of hours. Only a few months later, disaster struck the Southland, with the Thomas Fire, the Skirball Fire and others prompting evacuations and disaster declarations in counties from Santa Barbara to San Diego. At the time this message was written, many of these blazes were still burning out of control, and our members from across the state are working around the clock to defend the lives and property of those who live in the affected areas.

Sadly, incidents such as these are quickly becoming the new normal in our state. 

While fires like the ones described above may have seemed unimaginable only a decade ago, a changing climate has made it so that we can now say, with relative certainty, that similar incidents will take place in 2018 and beyond. I can also say, again with relative certainty, that when they do, the men and women of the California fire service will stand ready to answer the call.

The fire ground, however, won’t be the only place we’ll face new challenges in the coming year.

At some point in 2018, the United State’s Supreme Court will hand down a verdict in the matter of Janus v. AFSCME, a case that aims to undercut union rights for firefighters and millions of other public sector workers. For years, anti-labor advocates have sought to dismantle our ability to organize and advocate on behalf of our members, and this latest attempt represents one of the most brazen attacks in their ever-growing war against organized labor. Should the decision not be in labor’s favor, union solidarity will be tested across the nation, meaning that our organizing and union education efforts will be more important than ever before.

No matter the outcome, you can be sure that California Professional Firefighters will remain strong, standing against the opponents of the working class and advocating for our members and their families, both on the job and off. 

The coming year will also be a critical one on the political front, as the statewide election in November will decide the offices of governor, as well as the seven other statewide constitutional offices. 

The race for governor is of particular importance to our union, as the victorious administration will have the opportunity to shape statewide policy for the better part of a decade. Issues such as collective bargaining rights, retirement security and firefighter behavioral health are all subject to the upcoming administration’s political will, as are decisions about mutual aid and training resources needed to combat the threat of wildfires like those seen in the latter half of 2017.

In the next few months, California Professional Firefighters will be meeting with candidates for each of the contested statewide constitutional offices as part of our endorsement process. When we do, the metric by which we measure these candidates will be the same as it always is – who will stand with us on the issues that matter most to firefighters. These issues, including staffing, on-the-job safety and retirement security, are what are important to our members. They should also be important to any candidate hoping for our support. 

While the challenges of 2018 will test our ranks, California Professional Firefighters has demonstrated time and time again that, through this solidarity, we can achieve amazing things. 

I fully believe that this next year will be no exception.

Stay safe and have a happy new year.