Incumbent Uniformed Firefighter Association President Gerard Fitzgerald is being challenged by FDNY Marine Engineer Andrew Ansbro, who started his civil-service career as a member of the NYPD in 1996 before joining the FDNY as a Firefighter in 2001.
Mr. Fitzgerald was first elected to the top post in 2017 in a heated contest with retired Firefighter Kenny Specht which required a run-off in which he bested his opponent by a 3 to 2 margin. Before that, Mr. Fitzgerald was UFA vice president.
Despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and civil unrest linked to the death in police custody of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the UFA campaign is in full swing on social media platforms like Facebook.
Ballots where mailed out on June 1 and are due book by 9 a.m. on June 22. The election is being administered by Election Services United.
To run for union office, candidates need the signatures of 150 active members. While retired UFA members can't vote or sign nominating petitions, they can run for union office
Under the strictures of the UFA constitution, candidates can be disqualified if they speak to the media in the course of the campaign.
In a re-election video pitch available online, Mr. Fitzgerald touts his role in winning the permanent re-authorization of the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, which has provided compensation to tens of thousands of 9/11 first-responders who died or were sickened by their exposure to the toxic fumes around the WTC and lower Manhattan.
On 9/11, 343 members of the FDNY died on the day of attack and 225 have subsequently died as a consequence of their 9/11 occupational exposure on that day and from the several months work that continued at the lower Manhattan site.
Last June, a top WTC Health Program physician testified before Congress that half of the Firefighters that were part of the WTC response and clean-up efforts suffered from "persistent respiratory conditions."
Over the last few months the COVID19 pandemic has posed an unprecedented occupational health challenge for Firefighters and their families. According to the FDNY, at the height of the outbreak 13 percent of active duty Firefighters were sidelined by the highly contagious virus.
According to the FDNY, no Firefighter has succumbed to the virus. Four FDNY EMTs and two FDNY Fire Prevention Inspectors did.
"Long before I was on the executive board, I was in Washington lobbying for the VCF, the original Zadroga [Act]," Mr. Fitzgerald said on the campaign video. "Throughout all of that I have continued the fight. I met with many members of Congress and reached out to other union leaders across the country...With many others, we were able to be successful in fully funding the Victims' Compensation Fund. I think you need experience to navigate through these troubled times."
In a campaign flyer the incumbent listed the passage in Albany on his watch of the "cancer look back" bill that codified the established occupational link between firefighting and that disease, the issuing of second set of boot for firefighters "after" a 30 year fight" as well as improving communication between the union with rank and file "through digital media."
Mr. Fitzgerald is on union leave from his assignment at Engine 318 in Coney Island, Brooklyn.
In his campaign material Mr. Ansbro, listed his union service as a union delegate when he was assigned to Engine 58 in Harlem and most recently as a Marine Engineer delegate. He also ran unsuccessfully for UFA vice president in 2017.
The challenger recounted on his flyer that he "began attending UFA rallies when Mayor Giuliani attempted to shut Firefighters out of Ground Zero in 2001" and was also "active during annual Lobby Day."
Mr. Ansbro committed to increasing the UFA's public visibility and to "show up at jobs and speak to the media about our lack of resources and its effect on fire operations...and if I should be fortunate enough to take office I assure you that your voices will be heard loud, clear and often."
Down ballot, Robert Eustace, UFA vice president, is running unopposed. Back in January he won a special election race where he beat retired Firefighter Eric Bischoff 3,146 to 2,146.
The special election was prompted by former UFA Vice President LeRoy McGinnis leaving that post to become the Deputy Executive Director at the FDNY Fire Pension Fund.
In that same special election, Firefighter Vincent Speciale, Engine 55, was elected to replace Mr. Eustace as recording secretary. In the current contest he is being challenged by Gerald Singleton out of Engine 202.
UFA Treasurer Edward Brown, Ladder 48 and Health & Safety /Sergeant-At-Arms Michael Schreiber, Ladder 116 are both running unopposed as is Manhattan Trustee Christopher Viola out of Engine 65.
The race for Staten Island Trustee is a three way race between Matthew Tafone, Engine 159, Erik Bille, Engine 153 and Eric Bischoff, who is retired.
Brooklyn incumbent Trustee John Kelly, Engine 201, is running against Douglas Carroll, Ladder 119.
Bronx Trustee William Greco, Engine 68 is being challenged by Thomas Kelly, Ladder 17.
In Queens Trustee Matthew DesJardin, Engine 325 faces Dennis Tveter, Ladder 127.
Earlier this year, UFA members rejected a dues increase by a vote of 2,779 to 2,034. Under the proposal, the dues would have gone from $29.10 to $38.15 every two weeks. Currently, $23.85 goes to the UFA, with $3.25 earmarked for the Washington, D.C.-based International Association of Firefighters and $2 going for the UFA's scholarship fund.
A huge hike in the dues charged to the UFA's retired members was approved, however, by one vote, 2,381 to 2,380. Retiree dues will more than triple, from $18 to $60 a year.
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