It isn’t often that a union can honestly claim to have a true champion serving its interests in the highest echelons of power, but the IAFF shares a special relationship with Vice President Joe Biden. He has been a stalwart advocate for professional fire fighters since his first days in office and has been this union’s true friend throughout his career.
First elected to the U.S. Senate in 1972, Joe was just 30 years old. Like fire fighters, he never backed away from a challenge. In his 1972 Senate race – just two years after he was elected to the New Castle County Council – he ran against a very popular incumbent senator and against the advice of others. He became the longest-serving senator from the state of Delaware, was easily re-elected to six more terms and, in 2008, he was elected vice president.
If you’ve heard Joe Biden speak over the years – particularly when addressing fire fighters – you know he talks about the “three political parties in Delaware – the Democrats, the Republicans and the fire fighters.”
Biden has always had our backs. He has played a leadership role on nearly every piece of legislation introduced affecting fire fighters. He stood up for our right to have a voice on the job by cosponsoring our collective bargaining bill. He helped create the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) and Assistance to Firefighters (FIRE Act) grant programs and worked hard to increase their funding to keep fire fighters on the job and make sure they have the training and equipment they need. He helped shore up our retirements by supporting the Healthcare Enhancement for Local Public Safety Retirees (HELPS) Act tax benefit and opposing efforts to decimate our retirements by forcing fire fighters into Social Security.
But Joe’s relationship with the IAFF is more than the sum of his career. It’s personal. Just a few weeks after winning his first senate election in 1972, a drunk driver struck the car his wife was driving with their daughter and both sons. This horrific accident took the lives of his wife and daughter, but local fire fighters were able to save his two sons.
In 1988, Joe was diagnosed with two brain aneurysms. Fire fighters rushed him to Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, DC during a blizzard so doctors could perform the surgery that saved his life. And in 2005, when his home was struck by lightning, within minutes, fire fighters arrived in time to save the bulk of his home.
Joe Biden understands fire fighters. He understands the value of our work and the value of this union.
Throughout his time as vice president, Biden served as the administration’s point-man on first responder issues. Since day one of his vice presidency, he was a proactive, ardent advocate for professional fire fighters and our interests.
America’s professional fire fighters could have no better friend as president of the United States.
A Blue Collar Background
Born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, on November 20, 1942, Joe Biden split his childhood between Scranton and Wilmington, Delaware. He is the oldest of four children by Joseph Robinette Biden Sr. and Catherine Eugenia Finnegan.
Biden’s father started his professional life as a successful businessman, but after several setbacks he began working in Wilmington, Delaware, cleaning boilers and selling cars. Growing up, Biden’s family was not rich, nor were they poor. Just like fire fighters, they were the true working middle class.
Biden graduated from high school in 1961 and attended college at the University of Delaware. With a double major in both history and political science, he received his Bachelor of Arts degree. He met his future wife, Neilia Hunter, on vacation in the spring of 1964, and they were married in 1966.
After college, Biden enrolled in law school at the Syracuse University School of Law, where he received his Juris Doctor degree.
After law school, Biden moved back to Wilmington to practice law as a public defender in his own firm. From 1970-1972, he served on the New Castle County Council, where he overcame the political odds, prevailing in a Republican -leaning council seat as a Democrat.
In 1977, Biden married Jill Tracy Jacobs. Jill Biden has her Doctorate in Education from the University of Delaware and has been an educator for more than 20 years.