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Tallahassee Firefighters negotiations drag on

By Thomas Spiers

Tallahassee Professional Firefighters explain contract negotiations with city. | Fight Back! News/staff

Tallahassee, FL – On March 21 at the Bruce J. Host Northeast Branch Library in Tallahassee, around 100 people, including firefighters and their families, packed into a presentation room. They gathered to get information and vent their frustrations regarding the stalled negotiations between the city of Tallahassee and the Tallahassee Professional Firefighters-IAFF Local 2339 (TPF). The event was sponsored by Leon County Commissioner Bill Proctor.

The negotiations between the city of Tallahassee and the Firefighters have been at the forefront of public and political debate since negotiations started in March of 2023. For over a year now, members of TPF have made their grievances known at city commission meetings. Tallahassee Firefighters have been routinely rebuffed and ignored.

The city commission has the power to direct City Manager Reese Goad to accept TPF’s proposal with a majority vote. While progressive Commissioners Jack Porter and Jeremy Matlow have made their support for the firefighters loud and clear, their conservative counterparts Curtis Richardson, Dianne Williams-Cox and Mayor John Dailey outnumber them 3-2, leading to frustratingly prolonged negotiations.

TPF’s main concern is pay, which they argue has not kept up with inflation. Starting pay for entry-level firefighters is $44,000 a year, but payments into pensions account for more than half of a firefighter’s salary. The take-home pay for firefighters ends up being in the range of $22,000 to $25,000. Joey Davis, president of TPF, stated that 75 to 80% of the two lowest-rank firefighters have to take second jobs just to make ends meet.

City of Tallahassee employees receive a raise every fiscal year – this includes administrative staff, bus drivers, police and more. The Tallahassee Fire Department does not fall under this category with the current city budget, so they are not included in this yearly pay raise.

After his presentation, attention was brought to Joey Davis’ recent battle with cancer. Davis was diagnosed last year and is now in remission. Florida’s SB 426, passed in 2019, mandates firefighters diagnosed with cancer receive a lump sum payment to help pay for treatment, as well as time off for treatments. Davis received the lump sum but was repeatedly denied the time off by the city of Tallahassee, even after meeting with city officials about compliance with Florida law.

While firefighters in Tallahassee struggle to make ends meet, city officials vote year after year to increase the Tallahassee Police Department’s budget to total $10 million for the 2024 fiscal year, accounting for more than 36.8% (one-third) of the city’s total budget. It is clear that the city’s budget, managed by Reese Goad, needs severe re-allocation.

The Tallahassee Community Action Committee (TCAC) asserts their full support for the Tallahassee Professional Firefighters and their demands for respect and adequate pay. TCAC will attend future city commission meetings to support the firefighters and share their proposed People’s Budget, which would cut funding for police and re-allocate money to other sectors of the city, such as the firefighters, education and social services.

#TallahasseeFL #FL #Labor #TCAC #IAFF #IAFF2339 #Firefighters