Representative Dacia Grayber makes strides for fire fighter safety in Oregon

April 4, 2024

From fire fighter to legislator: Dacia Grayber’s journey

Oregon State Representative Dacia Grayber (D-Portland) has made a significant transition from a dedicated fire fighter and paramedic to a notable figure in the Oregon House of Representatives.

Starting her career with Tualatin Valley, OR Local 1660, Grayber has maintained her commitment to the safety and well-being of fire fighters throughout her tenure in office.

Her efforts in legislation reflect a deep-rooted passion for public safety and labor advocacy.

Grayber’s move into politics was inspired by her involvement in union activities and a suggestion from a former state representative.

“I was deeply involved in union politics, chairing the Equity and Inclusion Committee in my previous department,” Grayber said.

“Engaging in extensive labor advocacy, I never considered politics as a personal path until the former state representative suggested I run for office.” This encouragement led to significant contributions to fire fighter safety and labor rights.

Expanding protections for fire fighters

One of Grayber’s notable legislative accomplishments was the expansion of cancer presumptions for fire fighters in Oregon.

“We had cancer presumptions in Oregon that we fought hard for, but it was fairly limited,” she explained.

“It didn’t include things like bladder cancer, which several of our members had, and then in discovery we realized it didn’t include female reproductive cancers, which is mindboggling.” Her advocacy has broadened the scope of protection for fire fighters, addressing critical health concerns.

In 2023, Grayber furthered her impact with House Bill 2296, facilitating retired members of the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) to be reemployed without pension benefit reductions.

This legislation aims to alleviate staffing challenges, allowing experienced personnel to return to work, sometimes in less demanding roles.

“It’s helped bridge the gap in hiring and staffing by allowing people to work back in their classification, sometimes in roles that are not as high risk and high stress,” said Grayber.

Championing the Public Safety Workforce Stabilization Act

Grayber also supported the Public Safety Workforce Stabilization Act (HB 4045), which seeks to lower the retirement age for fire fighters.

“It’s a significant win for public safety workers across the state, and one of those wins is lowering the eligible age of retirement for fire fighters from 60 down to 55 for those that don’t yet have 25 years of service,” Grayber remarked.

This legislation represents a key update to benefits, reflecting Grayber’s commitment to the welfare of Oregon’s fire fighters.

Local 1660 President Rocky Hanes praised Grayber’s leadership and advocacy.

“During her tenure, she has championed adding additional cancer protections to our cancer presumption, lowered the maximum retirement age for fire fighters and police officers, and secured funding for apprentice fire fighter programs,” Hanes said.

“We are honored and proud to have her as a member of Tualatin Valley, OR Local 1660.”

Encouraging female participation in fire fighting

Beyond legislative victories, Grayber aims to inspire more women to pursue careers in fire fighting.

She emphasizes the unique perspectives and skills women bring to the service.

“In diversifying the fire service, it’s about a broad range of experience,” Grayber noted.

“Women bring something truly unique and make outstanding fire fighters.

I’m proud to see the number of women I work with more than triple.” Her journey is a testament to the impact of representation and diversity within the fire service.

FSJA Comment

The work of Representative Dacia Grayber in the Oregon legislature highlights the critical link between experience in the field and effective policy-making.

By leveraging her background as a fire fighter and paramedic, Grayber has introduced and supported legislation that directly benefits public safety workers, especially fire fighters.

Her efforts to expand cancer protections, adjust retirement ages, and encourage diversity within the fire service demonstrate a comprehensive approach to supporting the physical, emotional, and professional well-being of those in this challenging profession.

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