The Fire Fighters, one of the most politically active unions - and one that is plurality Republican - formally endorsed Democratic President Barack Obama and Vice President Joseph Biden for re-election. Its board vote on June 8 was unanimous.
IAFF said it decided after reviewing "the records and positions of the candidates competing for the most powerful elected position in the world, and concluded the choice of the next president of the United States is clear because of the stark contrasts between the candidates."
The board's move is significant for several reasons. One is partisan leanings: President Harold Schaitberger estimates some 42 to 44 percent of his members are registered with the GOP. But Obama drew more than 60% of IAFF members' votes in 2008.
IAFF also has a well-deserved reputation for working with both parties. But it particularly made its political name in 2004 when its early efforts - virtually alone - boosted then-Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., to a win in the key Iowa Democratic caucuses, and eventually the Democratic presidential nomination.
IAFF also has high credibility because 343 of its members, plus its Catholic priest, were killed when the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center collapsed due to the Sept. 11, 2001, al-Qaeda terrorist attacks on the U.S. The IAFF members were busy rescuing some 25,000 other people from the Twin Towers.
And IAFF's board voted for Obama and Biden even as presumed GOP nominee Mitt Romney said the nation would be better off with fewer teachers, Fire Fighters and police - along with fewer public workers in general, a statement IAFF criticized.
"On one hand, the current, sitting president and vice president have consistently shown their commitment with critical and increasing funding for programs that kept thousands of Fire Fighters and paramedics on the job, and provided the equipment they need to protect their communities, during some of the toughest economic times our country and jurisdictions across the United States have ever experienced," IAFF said.
"On the other hand, Romney, as governor of Massachusetts, repeatedly attempted to cut local aid to communities, jeopardizing public safety. He also attempted to strip away the collective bargaining rights of Fire Fighters in the state and repeatedly stated he opposes and would zero-out the federal grant programs that provide critical funding to communities to keep fire fighters working and for life-saving equipment and apparatus. Romney says: Cut fire fighters, police and teachers.")
"The simple fact is, over the past two years IAFF members have been literally assaulted - their rights attacked, their standard of living attacked, their retirement after a career serving their community attacked - and those assaults have been launched at every level by people who say the same things, promote the same policies and have similar records in public office as Romney," Schaitberger explained.