Iowa firefighters showed up for Joe Biden during his latest two swings throughout Iowa, but state union members have yet to officially endorse him.
The state group won’t offer an endorsement to any candidate until after its state convention June 20 and 21, when delegates from across Iowa will meet and cast their votes.
Doug Neys, president of the Iowa Professional Fire Fighters, said it certainly seems like the spotlight will be on his group as they make their decision. But, he said, it’s a role they’re happy to take on.
“Iowa is not the largest state in the union, but we swing a big stick for these presidential elections and we have a responsibility to do our best to try and select the best person to be in charge of the most powerful country in the world,” Neys said. “It’s a big responsibility we don’t take lightly.”
The International Association of Fire Fighters endorsed Biden soon after he announced his bid for president. Biden has been vocal about his support for unions – and firefighters in particular – for years.
While the IAFF quickly signed on to endorse Biden, Neys said the Iowa Fire Fighters had nothing to do with that decision.
Still, the group knows Biden has always supported them.
“God made man and then he made firefighters,” Biden said during a stop in Iowa in April.
“I owe — and this is not hyperbole — I owe the fire service in my state and the fire service across the nation so much on a personal basis,” Biden said in this Des Moines Register video. “We don’t realize what they do until, in fact, you need them. They, the fire service in my state, they saved the lives of both my sons when I lost my wife and daughter. They used the jaws of life and it took them hours to take my kids out and get them to the hospital and save their lives.”
It takes more than a speech to earn the Iowa fire fighter’s support, though.
The Fire Fighters focus in on issues that are important to them, Neys said, such as how certain policies will impact jobs, public safety and the ability of his men and women to go home at the end of the day and “put food on the table, raise a family, earn a good wage and then be able to retire with some dignity.”
“Some of the other stuff — the guns, the abortion and all that other noise — we don’t get into that,” Neys said. “It’s none of our business. If a person feels that is a higher priority than their retirement or security, then that’s okay.”
Since the group is so focused on policy issues, they don’t stay inside party lines.
“Our membership — I will admit our membership is as purple as they come,” Neys said. “We’ve got members way on the right, we’ve got members way on the left, we’ve got members in the middle, we’ve got members who don’t care and we’ve got members who are sick of it.
“We are a pretty good cross-section of America within our own organization,” he said.
Neys can’t be sure Biden will win the support of their union, but he said he attended Biden’s stop in Ottumwa earlier this week and appreciated his message.
“He did mention unions and building a stronger middle class. We like to hear that here,” Neys said. “As a labor organization, union is not a dirty word. It does help a lot of people.
“And that’s what built this middle class way back when,” he added. “They draw a direct correlation between union memberships and density and to a decline in household wages and well-being. We like to hear that message.”
A 2-minute endorsement video created by the International Association of Fire Fighters shows clips of Biden hyping organized efforts and exclaiming “unions built the middle class in this country!”
IAFF President Harold Schaitberger later says Biden will “stand up for all the patriotic Americans who want nothing more than to earn a decent wage, send their kids to college, have affordable healthcare and a decent and secure retirement.”
He praises Biden for his performance on the international stage and his strong relationship with leaders across the world.
“He knows while we can debate and argue over policy issues, we must put personal differences aside to sole the big problem for the American people,” Schaitberger said in the video. “The endorsement of the IAFF was approved because Joe Biden will be a champion for the public’s safety in America, fighting for policies and legislation that improve the lives and livelihoods of not just fire fighters, but all who work for a living.”
by Paige Godden