‘There’s just nothing left:’ Tallahassee firefighters pushing for higher pay amid contract negotiations

Firefighters speak at commission meeting about contract issues
Published: Sep. 15, 2023 at 10:17 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 15, 2023 at 10:19 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - Several Tallahassee firefighters and their spouses went before the city commission Wednesday night asking for higher pay amid ongoing contract negotiations.

Some said they have had to take on second jobs to make ends meet and their firefighter salary isn’t keeping up with inflation.

“On paper, my $54,000 salary looks pretty good,” firefighter T.J. Roche said during public comment. “However, after taxes and deductions, I bring home just over $33,000 a year to provide for my family. With inflation, the rising cost of goods, services, groceries and gasoline, I’m ashamed to say I live paycheck to paycheck. At the end of the month, there’s just nothing left.”

One public speaker, the wife of a TFD member, said her husband has to work a second full-time job because TFD doesn’t pay him enough to support his family. She said this has taken an immense toll on their family.

“The average week has 168 hours,” she said. “On average, my husband works 105 hours a week. This leaves us with, you know, just 63 hours. But hold on, you’ve got to factor in sleeping and then driving to those two jobs, right. So then, on average, that puts him at about 20 hours to hopefully spend quality time with us.”

Commissioner Jack Porter said she wants the city to bargain with firefighters and come to a resolution.

“I don’t even know what to say,” Porter said. “I mean, frankly, I’m just ashamed of this process and our city’s role in it. And you know, I want to personally apologize, because no matter the disagreement or the issue, all residents should be treated with dignity and all people, but especially our first responders.”

Commissioner Curtis Richardson said he hopes the bargaining process will move forward in a way that allows staff to earn enough money to support themselves and their families.

“I would encourage as we go through the collective bargaining process, and we can’t obfuscate that process, it is a legal process that we have to go through, but we can certainly indicate what our desires are in that respect and hope that those will be adhered to as that process continues.”

Commissioner Jeremy Matlow called on City Manager Reese Goad to address the issue.

“We’ve heard the positions of the firefighters, but we haven’t heard from our city manager,” Matlow said. “We need to hear from you as commissioners, whether that’s in executive session or individually, but we need to have this conversation.”

Neither Goad nor Mayor Dailey commented on the firefighters’ concerns at Wednesday night’s meeting.

Earlier at Wednesday’s meeting, commissioners voted to raise property taxes in order to increase TPD’s budget by $9.5 million. The increase passed 3-2, with commissioners Matlow and Porter in opposition. Commissioners will take a final vote on the tax increase later this month.

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