Firefighters from the City of Atlanta Fire Department were joined by fire departments from around the area to support the firefighters of Atlanta with getting there well deserved pay raise. Some of the firefighters were from Lockheed Fire Department in Cobb County and also marched in the extreme heat.
Atlanta firefighters failed to muster enough votes in the Atlanta City Council Wednesday to override the mayor's veto of the pay raise they had been seeking, the vote fell two short of the 10 needed for an override.
Many Atlanta firefighters said they are ready to quit and go work for better-paying departments in Cobb, Dekalb and Gwinnett Counties while Mayor Shirley Franklin bid for patience. The firefighters had been seeking the same 3-and-a-half percent pay raise as that given to the city's sworn police officers.
“It's really a kick in the gut and it's going to have repercussions for our fire department,” said Jim Daws, the union president.
The council members voted 9-6 last month for a pay raise for the firefighters that the mayor vetoed. The vote worsened by one to 8-7 when councilwoman Clair Muller, who supported the pay raise, voted against overriding the mayor's veto Wednesday.
In the mayor's veto letter to the council dated June 24, Franklin said, “I have stated before and I will state again it is my intention to work with the city council to bring sworn firefighters up to their industry pay standard before the end of my term.” She said a pay increase now would place sworn firefighters — whose starting pay is $34,563 — ahead of the pay for sworn police officers.
The Atlanta firefighters union had marched on City Hall working to convince the Council to override the mayor. They insisted their pay lags 20 percent behind firefighter pay in other Metro Atlanta fire departments and seven percent behind Atlanta police starting pay. Firefighters wore red shirts and march one by one around the capitol building chanting against the mayor.
Union President Jim Daws said he'll start encouraging Atlanta firefighters to quit.
“I'm going to start advertising all the better firefighting opportunities that are available nationwide to our members and there are greener pastures elsewhere for firefighters too,” Daws said.
Just before the vote, Atlanta residents and firefighters told the Council that firefighters simply deserve the same pay raises as police officers.
Councilmember Cleta Winslow told firefighters that the $1.9 million their raise would cost is too much at once. “You may want to come up with a three-year plan. We'll need another 2 percent next year, another 2 percent the next year, and another 2 percent the next year.”