Jackson, MS fire fighters secure a major pay raise after two decades

October 10, 2023
money pay rise increase wages

Fire fighters of Jackson’s Local 87 have been granted a notable pay raise after the Jackson City Council approved the 2024 budget, dedicating the necessary funds for the wage hike.

The pay raise took effect from 1 October 2023.

Long-awaited financial boost

It has been over five years since Local 87 inked a contract with the city, and even longer since their last wage adjustment.

Low morale and hurdles in firefighter recruitment and retention had become palpable.

Jackson Local 87 President RaSean Thomas expressed: “This pay raise was a top priority for us and its inclusion in the city budget significantly boosted morale.”

Strengthening relationships for progress

Guided by the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) and other stakeholders, the Local 87 leadership enhanced their rapport with prominent figures like Rep. Bennie Thompson, Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba, and city council members.

Chris “Blue” Bartley, IAFF National Coordinator for Collective Bargaining and State Initiatives, stated: “Getting this pay raise was a major win. Building and maintaining relationships with pivotal figures is vital for future successes.”

Efforts towards achieving a fair wage

Despite the city administration’s initial openness for negotiations, they only assented to extend the current contract’s provisions.

However, the urgency of the wage situation became clear when, on 31 July, numerous Jackson fire fighters convened at city hall, insisting the pay raise be incorporated in the 2024 budget.

Highlighting the pressing need, several fire fighters initiated a three-week sick-out protest in August.

Thomas highlighted: “Over two decades without a considerable pay bump was long enough. The city needed to prioritize our members.”

Despite some resistance from the fire chief, Lumumba intervened, ensuring the fire administration adhered to the contract.

Finding funds and looking ahead

The wage deadlock was broken as city officials identified means within the budget to enhance fire fighter compensation.

A significant chunk of this was located in the fire department’s budget. Although the city requires a minimum of three fire fighters per apparatus, the budget provisionally allows for a fourth.

The funds for this fourth position, previously used for other expenses, will now fund the pay hikes – around $8-10 thousand annually based on rank.

Future steps for Local 87

The leadership of Local 87 plans to persistently work towards negotiating a fresh contract, focusing on improved longevity pay and introducing new provisions, leveraging the relationships fostered during this episode.

FSJA Comment

For the Fire and Safety Journal Americas, this development underscores the vitality of consistent negotiations, community involvement, and the significance of building relationships with key stakeholders in realizing advancements in workers’ compensation.

The Jackson, MS fire fighters’ successful push for a pay raise sets a precedent and offers insights for other organizations seeking similar objectives.

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