Vote to Boycott Tribute
By Steve Friess
LAS VEGAS (Aug. 14) - The International
Association of Fire Fighters voted unanimously on
Wednesday to boycott a national tribute to
firefighters who died on Sept. 11, in an angry
response to President Bush's rejection of a bill
that included $340 million to fund fire
Bush is expected to speak at the Oct. 6 ceremony
in Washington D.C., where the National Fallen Fire
Fighters Foundation is hosting its annual tribute
to those who died in the line of duty during the
The ceremony will honor 343 firefighters who died
responding to the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and
Washington, as well as about 100 others who also
died in the year.
The IAFF, the umbrella organization for the
nation's professional firefighter unions, is
enraged by the president's rejection of a $5.1
billion appropriations bill that included $150
million for equipment and training grants
requested by some of the nation's 18,000 fire
It also include $100 million to improve the
communications systems for firefighters, police
officers and other emergency personnel as well as
$90 million for long-term health monitoring of
emergency workers at the Ground Zero site where
New York's World Trade Center towers once stood.
Firefighters and survivors will be urged to skip
the Oct. 6 event in protest, said R. Michael
Mohler of the Virginia Professional Fire Fighters
Mohler made the boycott motion before about 2,000
union leaders convening in Las Vegas for the
IAFF's first national conference since Sept. 11.
"The president has merely been using
firefighters and their families for one big photo
opportunity," Mohler said. "We will work
actively to not grant him another photo op with
BUSH ACCUSED OF "NEGLECTING HEROES"
Bush said Tuesday the bill was bloated by less
important projects and a White House spokeswoman
said Bush remained committed to firefighters and
other emergency groups.
"The president is committed to our nation's
first responders," White House spokeswoman
Claire Buchan, traveling with Bush in Des Moines,
The firefighters' boycott vote followed anti-Bush
speeches by Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle,
and IAFF general president Harold Schaitberger in
which accused the president of neglecting the
heroes of Sept. 11.
Schaitberger ridiculed as insincere Bush's
videotaped remarks shown Monday at the conference,
in which Bush expressed sympathy and admiration
for the firefighters who responded to the Sept. 11
"Don't lionize our fallen brothers in one
breath, and then stab us in the back by
eliminating funding for our members to fight
terrorism and stay safe," Schaitberger said.
"President Bush, you are either with us or
against us. You can't have it both ways."
Daschle, a South Dakota Democrat, told the
firefighters: "I strongly urge the President
to reconsider. If he refuses to do so, however, I
am prepared to do everything I can as majority
leader to see that you get the resources you need
to do your jobs safely and effectively."
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