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I do not know whether you are aware of this or not, but in fact they have already, in Canada, taken fire fighters to basically an internal court in the union and said we're going to kick you out because you are volunteering on your own time. This is causing us a major problem in areas like the D.C. suburbs, where you have paid fire fighters in D.C. who live in Virginia and who want to go back home in the evening and weekends and protect their towns but they are being told, because they are a member of the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) in D.C., they can't do that.
Now the president of the local IAFF union in D.C. is a friend of mine, and it is causing him tremendous heartburn. But I think this, down the road, is going to have an impact on our ability to protect our towns and communities because it is actually discouraging hundreds if not thousands of people who want to volunteer.
So I would ask you, perhaps you have not taken a position on this, but perhaps the Commission could look at this issue and see what the potential impact would be if in fact the IAFF would enforce this edict nationwide. What would the impact be on those neighboring towns that can't afford a paid department and rely on those paid fire fighters who in their off hours decide they want to volunteer?
I don't know whether you got involved in this issue in Virginia or not, but, as you may know, it is becoming a very serious issue.
Governor GILMORE. Mr. Chairman, I see we are equally reticent personalities in terms of these kinds of critical issues.
Mr. Chairman, labor issues should not impinge upon the national interest. As governor, I focused a great deal of attention on State employees. I admire them and respect them and worked very hard for their pay and benefits and so on, because I thought it was right. It was good for the public interest to do that. But rules should not be set up by labor unions that impinge upon the national interest when the time comes to be in a position to properly respond.
I believe the chairman is right, and we will certainly recommend this issue to our Commission for further study and recommendation.
Mr. WELDON. Thank you. It is a very delicate issue. And I work with both the unions, they are good friends, and the volunteers, but it is coming to a head. And the last thing we need right now is a major national, in effect, internal fight between people who ultimately just want to protect our towns. And it is being driven from the top down, not from the bottom up.
Governor, you have been an outstanding witness and you have done an outstanding job, as has the Commission. Please thank all the commissioners. We are going to have another hearing on this issue come early to mid-January, so we may be calling you back. We are probably going to be bringing in some other witnesses that are being suggested by our friends on the minority side, maybe perhaps Dr. Hamre and others.
We look forward to continuing this discussion. But it was important to get your word out today because so much is happening so quickly in the whole homeland security debate. Thank you very much.
This hearing stands adjourned.