Seattle Fire Fighters Union, IAFF Local 27 recognizes the powerful moment of change that we are in. Many community members have come together in protest, joining millions of people across the country, to demand racial justice. These weeks-long protests were sparked by the killing of George Floyd, but are a culmination of issues and have been exacerbated by confrontations with police. The passion and commitment to spur change is clear.
This is a moment for all organizations, such as Local 27, to evaluate ourselves to ensure that we are living up to our mission and values, and that our priorities and actions are consistent with our ideals. We know that in the past Local 27 has not always done that, so we want to be clear that Local 27 is unequivocally opposed to any racial bias, discrimination, or hate in our union, in our department, or in our city. We are also committed to continuing our efforts to support inclusion, acceptance, equity, and unity. These are fundamental principles of our union.
“…so we want to be clear that Local 27 is unequivocally opposed to any racial bias, discrimination, or hate in our union, in our department, or in our city.”
Local 27 has a long and proud history of fighting for the wages, hours, and working conditions of Fire Fighters since 1918. During the course of our 100 year history, our union has fought for justice and respect in the workplace and a better life for our members and all workers, while being slower to acknowledge and address the inequities within our own union and our country. In spite of our unyielding commitment and sacrifice for worker rights we have overlooked or sometimes even avoided our responsibilities to women and people of color in our unions. Recognizing our implication in past transgressions is important to not only improve our organizations and truly represent all of our members, but it is instructive to help us put into perspective the protests that we are witnessing today and to determine our course forward.
We hear and we support the call for racial justice, economic equality, and systemic change in our institutions and organizations. We know that Black communities have long experienced structural discrimination that results in poverty, segregation, marginalization, inequity, and violence. We have also heard some call to defund or abolish the police. We are very troubled by the consequences of reducing or eliminating the ability of police to protect people and respond to violent crime. We favor a responsible and balanced approach to change. Fire Fighters also depend on police officers so that we can respond safely and effectively to fire and medical emergencies in our community. Our role does not include providing security or mitigating violent threats, so we find it difficult to imagine losing the police. We rely on police officers for our safety at scenes of violence, on the roads at car accidents, and in homes where domestic violence is occurring, just to name a few. Police officers are very important to Fire Fighters and to the people of Seattle to ensure that our ability to respond effectively is preserved. Fire Fighters willingly put our lives at risk to help those in need but like doctors who take the Hippocratic Oath of “first, do no harm” we cannot, and will not, do our job in a way that requires violence or physical confrontation and harm to people.
Our vision is simple – we want our community and our police to put human life, dignity, and public safety first, for everyone. Seattle Fire Fighters support both the people of Seattle and Seattle police officers. We recognize the history of racism that has existed in many forms and organizations and we stand against these systemic and institutional injustices.
But we also support police officers because they are people and they are workers. They serve our city and deserve our respect. We oppose the institutionalized abuse of power and agree that police departments should be held accountable so that the police maintain a legitimate functional role in public safety in our city.
Seattle Fire Fighters respond when called to whomever, wherever, and whenever we are needed, often at great risk. We respond to fires, medical emergencies, car accidents, and any situation where people are in trouble and need help. Fire Fighters depend on a high degree of trust from the public to do our job and we fiercely protect this trust. As our country grapples with racial injustice we want to reiterate our immutable commitment to respond and care for all people, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender identities, sexual orientation, religion, or socio-economic status. Our mission is simple: to protect lives and property. We do not discriminate in our work. Every single person in our city is treated with the same high level of care, commitment, and respect. We take great pride in this. It is a hallmark of our department and our profession.
Seattle Fire Fighters are listening to the people of Seattle. We hear the anger, the anguish, and the frustration. In challenging times such as these we can separate or unite. We can debate and defend our beliefs or work harder to be understanding and generous and draw upon our adaptability and better selves to engage and create a better future for everyone.
Seattle Fire Fighters Union, IAFF Local 27
Ladder Co. 8
Seattle Fire Department