We were fortunate enough to spend some time with the International Association of Firefighters yesterday as they prepared to march on the statehouse. You didn’t have to look very hard to figure out where they were. By the time we arrived firefighters had already filled up a main hall and were overflowing outside on a relatively warm March day in Columbus.
Before getting together to interview General President Harold Schaitberger (bio), we were able to catch the majority of his rousing speech to the membership gathered at Local 67 in what can only be described as a sardine-packed hall. The thought did occur to me whether they were over the room limit, but I figure if anyone can get away with violating fire codes it’s a room full of firefighters! To capture the scene I was forced to stitch two photos together in a panorama.
At the end of this speech it almost seemed like we didn’t need to do an interview. It felt like “nuff said”. I’m glad we did though, because President Schaitberger was just as fired up and eloquent across a conference room table as he was in front of his membership. Here’s our interview:
Is it clear where the IAFF stands? Is it becoming clearer to the GOP the pain they have just inflicted upon themselves? It should be. Schaitberger makes the point that he realizes many in the group consider themselves Republican, but there was no indication that anyone was excited about what this current crop of Republicans in Ohio is doing to their profession.
One thing I found striking was overhearing conversations and observing these firefighters in their element. I saw several with babies. It’s a heartwarming and striking scene to see a big tough firefighter gently handling a newborn. These folks have a true compassion and work ethic that is stunning. I overheard several people talk about the work they did the previous night. It should make those on the right shouting them down at rallies about not being at work feel downright ashamed.
The final thing I got to witness was the group marching up Broad Street on their way to The Statehouse. I know we’ve talked about bagpipes before but I have to say that they never get old. Hearing them come up the street followed by hundreds of firefighters on a mission was a thing of beauty. The group was so large that it took a full 3 minutes for them to walk by me.
Thanks to all the firefighters of IAFF Local 67 for the hospitality! A random member directed us to the conference room and someone else got me two kinds of pop not knowing which I’d prefer. You will also notice a new ad on the site directing people to their website http://iafffightingback.com. We appreciate the support and are glad to offer the visibility to their efforts. We’re glad to be in the fight with them!