Dear Local Officer,

On behalf of the AFFI Executive Board and Staff I hope this communication finds you and your members safe and healthy.

As we continue to work through the global pandemic we are beginning to face new challenges.  Many municipalities are starting to feel budget constraints as this crisis evolves and are now looking to your membership to help mitigate these issues.

The AFFI is here to support our members and Local leadership through various resources including expertise in bargaining via your District Vice President, data exhibits, legislative efforts, and education.

We have created and posted new educational videos to assist you with concession bargaining, municipal financial analysis, exposures to Covid-19, and communications strategies.

We are also launching 2 new webinar sessions to provide further insights on the impacts of the pandemic in a broader spectrum.

Session 1 will feature Ralph Martire from the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability.  Mr. Martire will discuss budget impacts on a broad scale due to the pandemic.  There are 2 available sessions that you may choose to participate in:

Thursday, May 14th at 10:00am and Thursday, May 21st at 10:00am.

Session 2 will feature Professor Bob Bruno with the University of Illinois School of Labor and Employment Relations.  Professor Bruno will be discussing how essential workers are important to a vibrant economy.  There are also 2 available sessions to participate in on this topic:

Tuesday, May 19th at 10:30am and Tuesday, May 26th at 10:30am.

If you would like you to participate in either of these seminars please email the AFFI Office with your name, local, and which session(s) you would like to participate in.  You will receive a confirmation email with the link to join the session or sessions you signed up for.

Please stay tuned as we develop further educational resources for you to engage in over the following weeks.  Thank you for what you do on the frontlines in your community and stay safe!

Fraternally,
Luke Howieson, AFFI VP at Large

Check out our latest online education 

We are proud to announce 5 new online seminars. Newly added topics include Concession Bargaining, Financial Analysis, COVID-19 Exposures & Social Media Education.

 

When the call comes in about the next emergency, we are in immediate motion. From structure fires to vehicle accidents to medical emergencies, our firefighters and emergency medical technicians are often the first on the scene.

The coronavirus crisis doesn’t change our members’ desire to put their lives on the line to help others. It’s what we take an oath to do. But it does make everyone think twice as they head to the scene.

What if this patient is unconscious or there is a language barrier? How will we know if we are exposing ourselves and our families to this deadly virus?

In Chicago and other Illinois communities, there is a debate about providing first responders notice if a residential address we are responding to has someone who is COVID-19-positive. The reason is obvious: If we know the disease is present when we respond, we can prepare and wear extra protective gear.

Our association has urged its more than 15,000 members in 224 communities to treat each patient as having COVID-19, to protect themselves. But we agree with Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul: Each community has the authority under Illinois law to institute these necessary protective protocols, and firefighters and emergency medical services personnel should receive these patient notifications.

The more information we have as we prepare to respond, the better the outcome for all involved. When someone calls 911 for help, we want to be able to administer the best care possible and keep everyone safe and healthy. We always have and always will respect everyone’s privacy. It’s one of the reasons why our profession is consistently rated as one of the most trusted and ethical in America.

 

— Chuck Sullivan, president, Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois, Springfield

Dear Member,

Since March 12 the AFFI has been working with the Governor’s Office, leadership in both chambers of the General Assembly as well as the Attorney General’s office concerning COVID as a rebuttable presumption illness.

As you know, the IL Worker Compensation Commission (IWCC) issued an emergency rule/amendment on April 16th that stated COVID-19 was a rebuttable presumption for firefighters and paramedics. In the same rule they also expanded the occupations to include several of our brothers and sisters who are essential workers and first responders.

On April 24th the Illinois Retail Merchants and Illinois Manufacturers Association filed a lawsuit against the IWCC stating that it far exceeded its rule making authority. In order to avoid costly and time consuming litigation, the IWCC withdrew its emergency ruling on April 27th.  At the request of the AFFI, our Illinois AFL-CIO submitted a letter to the Chairman of the IWCC asking for clarification on how the withdraw affected our current language in statute, read his response.

As we have said since the beginning of this pandemic, the AFFI and our attorney’s undoubtably believe that COVID-19 is already a rebuttable presumption based on the following language in current statute:

Any condition or impairment of health of an employee employed as a firefighter, emergency medical technician (EMT), or paramedic which results directly or indirectly from any bloodborne pathogen, lung or respiratory disease or condition, heart or vascular disease or condition, hypertension, tuberculosis, or cancer resulting in any disability (temporary, permanent, total, or partial) to the employee shall be rebuttably presumed to arise out of and in the course of the employee’s firefighting, EMT, or paramedic employment and, further, shall be rebuttably presumed to be causally connected to the hazards or exposures of the employment. This presumption shall also apply to any hernia or hearing loss suffered by an employee employed as a firefighter, EMT, or paramedic.

Furthermore, the following is an excerpt from the Illinois Department of Public Health website that specifically mentions that COVID-19 is a respiratory illness.

The Illinois Department of Public Health, local health departments, and public health partners throughout Illinois, and federal agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), are responding to an outbreak of respiratory illness caused by a novel coronavirus called COVID-19 that was first identified in December 2019 during an outbreak in Wuhan, China.

In addition to this, the AFFI has been working with the General Assembly on emergency legislation that would specifically include COVID-19 as a rebuttable presumption and remove the 5 year minimum employment requirement for this specific virus.

Suffice it to say, that with the above information, the letter from the Chairman of the IWCC and the hope that legislation is adopted and signed, each of our members who become sick and test positive for COVID-19 will be covered.

As always, if you have questions or concerns do not hesitate to contact your AFFI District Vice President or Legislative Representative.

In Solidarity,
Chuck Sullivan, President
Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois

 

The AFFI wants to make you aware of funding available and information that your fire department administration and local government need to engage in. We realize many employers will experience some form of financial strain due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is vital that you review the following information with your administration to ensure that they are attempting to recover as many dollars as possible to maintain service delivery in your community.

FEMA Public Assistance Program: Please view the attached flyer created by the Illinois Fire Service Institute in cooperation with the AFFI and the Illinois Fire Services Association. The flyer provides a reference for fire departments seeking to apply to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Public Assistance Program. There is further information available on the United States Fire Administration website as well.
SAFER Grants: The fiscal year 2019 Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) application period is now open. The application deadline is Friday, May 15, 2020, at 5:00pm (EST). There is $350 million available in federal grants to add firefighters to departments in need. The IAFF can assist by reviewing your grant application through May 15th. Please view this link for further information on SAFER and the IAFF grant resources. It has not been determined yet if the SAFER grant requirements will be relaxed as they were in 2008/09 to be used to retain current firefighters.

IFCA Survey: The President of the International Fire Chief’s Association (who happens to be my fire chief in Champaign – Gary Ludwig) has asked that each fire chief in the nation complete this survey to determine the financial impact that the COVID-19 pandemic will have on your department. Responses are needed by April 28. This information will allow both the IAFC and the IAFF to provide information to Congress as they seek federal funding in upcoming stimulus bills. Please make your fire chief aware of this and encourage them to complete it.

Each of the above has two goals in mind from our prospective – keep our members employed and our communities safe. The AFFI is working hard to provide each of you with the most up to date information. As I have said in previous updates, no one has a playbook for this.

Lastly, I am sure many of you are already aware that the IL Worker Compensation Commission executed an emergency amendment that made it crystal clear that COVID-19 is a rebuttable presumption and considered to have been acquired on duty. We are one of just a handful of states to take action on this. It happened a mere 9 days ago and in today’s world is considered “old news”. Let me just say that our relationship with all levels of government is extremely important.

You can be assured that your AFFI is here for you. My promise to you is that we will do everything in our power to get us through this.

In Solidarity,

Chuck Sullivan, President
Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois

Dear Members,

Exactly one month ago we created the AFFI COVID 19 Committee. Since that time your Executive Board and Staff has spent countless hours communicating, researching and advocating for our membership.

As of today, there are 170 AFFI members in quarantine and an additional 84 that have tested positive and are isolated. We have also lost a member due to COVID complications. Brother Mario Araujo from Chicago Local 2 passed away last week. In total, 32 of our locals have been involved in an exposure and a total of 269 members have been impacted since our data tracking began. Many have completed quarantine time and returned to work.

It is imperative that each local president notifies their AFFI District Vice President as their members are exposed. We will be able to track your local and our committee will be able to assist you immediately. Click here for the AFFI on-line COVID-19 library.

Through these trying times the education mission of the AFFI remains on task. Last week an “Ask the Attorney” video providing guidance and legal opinions on various topics related to the pandemic and our workplace was shared with our local leaders. Within the next week a video discussing the potential financial fallout for local governments will be shared identifying steps that can be taken to evaluate your contract and research municipal financial documents. Click here to visit the AFFI member training site.

Lastly, your AFFI has been in constant contact with the Governor’s office as well as leadership in both the Senate and the House concerning our rebuttable presumption worker compensation language. When I say constant, I mean multiple times a day. We are hopeful that language, in some form of Executive Order or Emergency Rule, is forthcoming and will codify that COVID-19 is rebuttably presumed to have happened on duty. We are using every avenue available to make that happen.

The amount of work each of our members and affiliates are doing is incredible. At the same time, we realize it is exhausting and stressful. Please know that your AFFI is here for you and we will do whatever is necessary to assist or help find a solution to any issue you may have.

Continue to take care of yourself and take care of each other. We do better together.

In Solidarity,

Chuck Sullivan
President
Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois

Local Presidents –

Just a quick update from your AFFI. You should be aware that we have been constantly updating the COVID-19 section of our AFFI website and that link is herehttps://www.affi-iaff.org/covid19/ . Please check it regularly.

Our AFFI COVID-19 Committee continues to work hard gathering updated info and assisting Locals that have experienced an exposure or positive COVID test of one of their members. As of this morning there are 133 AFFI members in quarantine and an additional 11 that have tested positive and are in isolation.

Many of us have seen the reports and models that show Illinois is expected to reach its peak around April 15-16, meaning that peak resource use of hospitals and peak number of deaths associated with COVID 19 is still about 15 or 16 days away. Needless to say, our members will be extremely busy and the potential for exposure is great. As of March 29th IDPH released this document that indicates all PPE should be replaced by the resource hospital on a 1 to 1 basis. Again, that was the guidance provided on March 29th and as this pandemic continues to evolve, please anticipate regular updates and changes.

Hopefully by now you and your administration have a plan in place as it relates to exposure reporting, admin/duty injury leave, quarantine locations and staffing issues. As you know, each of your AFFI District Vice Presidents have been working to keep abreast of all things COVID related and should be one of your first phone calls should you have any questions or concerns.

Our Vice Presidents are currently working on creating a FAQ video in conjunction with Attorney Margaret Angelucci and hope to have that available very soon.

Lastly, each of your city managers/Mayors received this info from the Illinois Municipal League. It is information about Public Assistance Grants from FEMA that local governments can apply for to recover costs associated with emergency protective measures. Ensure your Fire Administration and City Hall is aware of it.

Please know we are here to assist you and your membership as we navigate this crisis and we will continue to update you as new information becomes available.

Thank you,

Chuck Sullivan, President

Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois

Brothers & Sisters,
I could begin by talking about how this worldwide pandemic has literally caused us to think in terms none of us could ever imagine and then speculate on the what if’s…. Instead, I want to talk about how the Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois has taken a proactive approach to everything we can possibly involve ourselves in.

The AFFI’s first priority is the health and safety of our 15,000+ members across the state and that will never change. As of this writing we have 86 AFFI members in quarantine as well as 9 who have tested positive for COVID-19 and are in isolation. We anticipate that number to increase exponentially over the coming days and weeks.

While we understand each local government is operating a little differently in regard to EMS response, quarantine, sick leave, admin leave etc., we also understand each of our 224 affiliates have local autonomy and the ability to make informed decisions on what best suits their membership. Please continue to stay informed through contact with your AFFI District Vice President as well as current information provided on https://www.affi-iaff.org/covid19/.

One of the items within the AFFI resource page is the AFFI communication chain. This tool has been working remarkably well. As a reminder here is what that looks like:

The Local affiliate contacts their AFFI District VP with a potential exposure/quarantine situation.
The AFFI District VP notifies President Sullivan and COVID Committee Chairman John Sergeant.
President Sullivan notifies Assistant to the President, Shawn Gillis who creates a record and begins tracking the incident.
Chairman Sergeant assigns a COVID-19 committee member to work with the affected local and the AFFI District VP.
President Sullivan communicates exposures to various Illinois Fire Agencies and State Departments.
The AFFI has become a leading source of information to various agencies and departments due to the flow of information directly from you, the members, literally out on the streets and in the homes and businesses of communities across the state.
We have also interjected ourselves into the supply of PPE. Should your administration not be able to secure PPE, please notify your AFFI VP and we will make every effort to find resources thru various channels when your supply begins to run low.

Your AFFI has been advocating every day asking the Governor’s office to issue an authoritative measure / executive order clearly stating that if any firefighter tests positive for COVID-19 it would be rebuttably presumed to have happened on duty and included in our worker compensation act of presumptive language. We have briefed a handful of legislators on this topic and they have reached out to the Governor’s office on our behalf as well.

We have also asked that Governor Pritzker extend the one-year benefit timeline to those members who are currently on PEDA if their surgeries or rehabilitation have been postponed due to the crisis.

Finally, we are in constant contact with the Illinois State Fire Marshal, the Illinois Fire Chiefs as well as MABAS concerning the deployment of resources should a large number of our members be in quarantine or otherwise unable to work (worst case scenario). Please remember that this is something entirely new to all of us and each agency is doing the best they possibly can with the resources they have. I have been assured that the AFFI will be included in any and all conversations in regards to the deployment of resources.

The AFFI has the true honor of representing each of you. Please know that your entire Executive Board and Staff are working all hours of the day making sure you are kept abreast of a very fluid situation and taken care of should your local experience a potential exposure or quarantine.

We realize this is a stressful and exhausting time to be on the frontlines. As is always the case, our communities look to us in desperate times of need. While we do what we always do and take care of any situation that arises, I ask that we all take care of each other too.

In Solidarity,

Chuck Sullivan, President
Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois

The Federal Government and the pharmacies of Wal Mart and Walgreens have set up three drive thru testing locations for testing first responders and healthcare professionals. The State of Illinois and IDPH were NOT INVOLVED in the site location decisions nor do they have details on the process, hours of operation, number of tests being administered, etc.…..…..and it isn’t for a lack of trying..

If you have specific questions please call the site closest to you for more information. Considering the shortage of available tests, The AFFI recommends those first responders requesting a test should have had an exposure and/or be experiencing signs or symptoms related to COVID-19. Patients will need to stay in their cars for verification of eligibility criteria, ID check and sample collection. For the safety of all those on-site, the test site is not able to service those who walk up. This is NOT for the general public.

Addresses of the clinic(s) are;
Walgreens – Bolingbrook
695 W Boughton Rd, Bolingbrook, IL 60440

Wal-Mart – Joliet
2424 W Jefferson St, Joliet, IL 60435

Wal-Mart – Northlake
137 W North Ave, Northlake, IL 60164

The Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois Executive Board, Staff and AFFI COVID-19 Committee have spent the last few days and weeks attempting to gain as many facts and as much information as we possibly can in relation to this worldwide pandemic.

First and foremost, this organization has always placed the safety and health of our members as a top priority. In that respect we have been tirelessly advocating on your behalf to the Governor’s office, the Illinois Dept of Public Health (“IDPH”), the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (“IEMA”), the Office of the State Fire Marshal (“OSFM”) and MABAS, to name a very few. We have asked and have been granted a voice in many of the discussions taking place.

This crisis is like no other that any of us have lived through, let alone worked through. I want each of you to know that we are doing whatever we can within our power as we face this unimaginable scenario. We know many of you have questions about the coronavirus and it’s effect on the operations of your department and the obligations and responsibilities of your local.

With the assistance of the law firm Asher, Gittler & D’Alba, we are going to provide local leadership with an outline of possible scenarios/situations that you may face as a local. This document will be available in approximately 24 hours.

In the meantime, I would like to provide you with a few updates:

1. I have asked the Governor’s office to extend those brothers and sisters who are currently on Public Employee Disability Act (“PEDA”) provisions that have had their rehabilitation or surgeries postponed, to extend the one year limit if they are nearing the end of the cycle. I anticipate a response soon.

2. I have asked the Governor’s office to mandate that all first responders who contract the corona virus be considered an on-duty exposure. It is the AFFI’s opinion that this is a rebuttable presumption within the Worker Compensation Act already. Some local governments have not proceeded in this fashion as of yet. I hope to have a response to this as well in the very near future.

3. The AFFI and the Illinois Fire Chiefs Association President and Vice President have been in active discussions surrounding COVID-19 issues and have agreed to provide these recommendations (click here) so that you may share them with your administration if desired.

4. We asked IEMA to issue a public service announcement at the daily press briefings requesting that those with cold/flu like symptoms do not call 911 and instead call their healthcare professional or hospital patient advisory line. They have done this the last 3 days.

5. IDPH has issued the following statement (click here) concerning notification of first responders and a positive COVID-19 test.

6. If PPE is needed, these are the avenues to use according to IDPH/IEMA information today:

Have the Fire Chief contact the MABAS regional rep, the local Health Department, the local Regional Health Care Coalition or the resource hospital for supplies.
7. As was mentioned above, we are working on a list of scenarios with our attorney that we will provide local leaders with as soon as tomorrow.

An option that locals may consider when told that the local government has issued a declaration of emergency and the issue of suspension or modification of the CBA or other such items are not adhered to, is here: (click here).

This would allow the local to reserve the right to grieve a portion of the CBA that may have been violated but the timeline to do so is suspended during this state of emergency. If the local government chooses not to agree to it, then the union must file the grievance during this crisis, but the local government must adhere to the timelines in response.

8. The AFFI COVID-19 Committee continues to work extremely hard to assist locals that have members currently quarantined or isolated and they stand ready at all hours.

9. Lastly, I realize that as Local Union leaders you have multiple responsibilities protecting your members rights and ensuring their safety. I also realize you have many tasks to complete when an exposure to this virus happens to a member of your Local.

I am asking that your AFFI District Vice President be one of your first phone calls so that the line of communication is established and our committee can begin to assist you.

Please be assured that this AFFI is with you every step of the way and we will continue to share information as it becomes available. There is no playbook for this, but if anyone can navigate this through creativity, persistence, and knowledge, it’s firefighters…and that’s us.

Please be safe.