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As Congress and President Joe Biden have struggled over the last three years to recruit and retain federal wildland firefighters at a time when their vital services are increasingly in demand, union leader Randy Erwin has represented the workers at the bargaining table and in the media.

As president of the National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE), Erwin made it clear the stakes were monumental as many of the nation’s nearly 19,000 federal firefighters are leaving the dangerous job due to poor pay and working conditions just as stronger, longer wildfire seasons are destroying more land and homes than ever.

“Recruitment and retention in [Western states] will go from difficult to impossible, which would significantly jeopardize our nation’s ability to fight wildfires and protect communities,” Erwin told National Public Radio last summer when salary supplements for the nation’s firefighters were approved as a temporary remedy.

With those gains set to expire in September, Erwin is again out in front of the issue, capturing the consequences in a June statement with two words: “Mass exodus.”

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The Johns Hopkins Changemakers Profile is a monthly feature spotlighting the impact of Johns Hopkins alumni in positions of influence in Washington, D.C. policymaking circles.