Firefighters go public with appeal for pay raise

State Rep. Joe Casello called on Mayor John Dailey to take control of the negotiations for firefighters’ pay increase.
Photo by St. Clair Murraine
Firefighters marched from their statewide headquarters to City Hall.
Photo by St. Clair Murraine

By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook Staff Writer

Tallahassee firefighters have taken their effort to get a pay increase to the streets.

They brought a long a few heavy hitters from the local and state political arenas to help their cause. Family members and friends showed up to express their frustration in front of City Hall last Wednesday.

Brooks Miley, wife of Tallahassee firefighter Chase Miley, was there with their 1-year-old son, Dane.

“I just want to represent my husband and many friends who are in a firefighter career; bring awareness to how poor firefighters’ pay is in this state,” Brooks said, adding that her husband was at work at the time of the rally. “I’m sad that you have these men and women who have to sacrifice so much and most of them still can’t provide.”

Tallahassee Professional Firefighters Association went public with its appeal for higher salaries after 10 months of unsuccessful negotiations with the city’s government. At the heart of the matter is the rate of pay that is so low some firefighters qualify for food stamps. Several firefighters appealed to the City Commission directly about a month ago.

The firefighters are seeking a 4 percent  raise across the board. They also want a reduction of the 4 percent that they pay toward their pension.

State Rep. Joe Casello joined the firefighters in front of City Hall. City commissioners Jack Porter and Jeremy Matlow were also there advocating for a raise for firefighters.

Casello, a former firefighter who represents Boynton Beach, said he is a former local politician who has been engaged in similar negotiations.

He called out Mayor John Dailey to end the stalemate.

“There is no need that these negotiations be delayed any longer,” Casello said. “I have sat behind closed doors as a city commissioner in Boynton Beach and I know how the job gets done. I put it all on him (Dailey). The onus is on him and the city commission to serve these men and women and do them right.”

In a statement to WFSU, Dailey expressed optimism that a deal will be reached.

“We’re right in the middle of the process and we’ll continue,” Dailey said. “I have full confidence that we’re going to come to an agreement, but we’ve got to let the process work its course.”

The local firefighters are currently without a contract, while Tallahassee Police Department recently settled on a three-year contract. The increases for TPD personnel ranged from 4.1 percent to 4.4 percent.

The increases for firefighters could be higher when a settlement is reached, Deputy Fire Chief Rich Jones said in a statement.

“We at the City have put forth a strong proposal with compensation increases for every single firefighter up to 6.5 percent while union leadership has not taken this offer to their members for a vote.” 

Matlow said commissioners have been update once since the negotiations started in March. He questioned the hesitancy in giving firefighters and first responders a bump in pay.

Consideration should be given to the fact that firefighters are often the first at the scene of an accident or a fire, Matlow said.

“The city has taken a position that we don’t value that. If we valued that we would have gotten a deal that pays a fair wage,” said Matlow. “Somebody showing up for work every day shouldn’t have to go home and have hard conversations with their family about how they are going to pay their bills.”

Porter, who historically has voted the same as Matlow in commission meetings, said pay increase for firefighter should be a priority.

“We are here to do the right thing,” Porter said. “We are not here to stall. Public safety is our No. 1 priority. We are here for the community. We need to negotiate in good faith.”

Many of the firefighters, who marched from their statewide office at the intersection of MLK Boulevard and West Madison Street to City Hall, said they will return until a contract is negotiated.

 “We are here to sound the alarm,” said Mike Bellamy, district vice president of the Tallahassee Professional Fighters. “We need you to support the firefighters.”

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