by Michael D. Robbins
Director, Public Safety Project, PublicSafetyProject.org
August 17, 2010
PUBLIC SAFETY EMPLOYEES
Sworn firefighters, from the lowest level Firefighter up to the Fire Chief, and sworn police officers, from the lowest level Police Officer up to the Police Chief, are by far the highest paid city employees, with the best pay, benefits, and pensions. Generally, the firefighters earn somewhat more than the police officers.
Firefighters can retire at age 55 and police officers can retire at age 50 with up to 90% of their single highest (spiked) year of pay as their annual pension (3% per year of service). Retired firefighters and police officers live just as long as everyone else, and upon death, the surviving spouses assume the full pension as their own. Therefore, many or most of the firefighter and police pensions will be paid out for more years than the employee worked. Also, the pensions include free medical insurance for the employee and one dependent for life.
If the employee claims a disability upon retirement, or even up to five years after retirement, whether real or not, and whether caused on the job or not, half the pension income is tax-free. Many common health ailments that are caused by heredity or poor health habits are presumed to be job related under laws lobbied for by the firefighter and police unions.
The ultra-high compensation for public safety union employees is primarily the result of their very politically active labor unions, which provide “Firefighter Association” and “Police Officer Association” endorsements, thousands of dollars in campaign support, and many hours of volunteer support to the City Council candidates who will give them the biggest increases in pay, benefits, and pensions.
Also, the firefighters have plenty of time off duty to work on political campaigns, due to their work schedules, and they can get away with working on political campaigns while they are on duty but not responding to emergency calls. In fact, the firefighters union contract explicitly states that a BA or MA Political Science college degree qualifies for the additional Education Incentive Pay. Thus, the taxpayers are paying extra money to firefighter union members who learn Political Science to campaign and help elect their new bosses on the City Council with whom they will “negotiate” their raises. And to make matters worse, this extra “incentive” pay falls under the category of Special Compensation and spikes the firefighters’ pensions for the life of the firefighters, the surviving spouses’ lives, and the surviving minor children until they become 18 years old. How does it benefit the city, before and after a firefighter retires, if the firefighter has a Political Science degree? (See the MOU, page 10, Section 4.01 INCENTIVE PAY, paragraphs 2c and 2d.)
The ultra-high pay of the public safety management employees is a direct result of the ultra-high pay of the public safety union employees, because the managers are given high pay raises to prevent “salary compaction”, also known as “salary compression”, a condition where managers or higher level employees make only a small percentage above or less than their subordinates or lower level employees due to the lower level employees receiving large pay increases.
See the following related articles:
Eye-Popping El Segundo 2009 Miscellaneous (Non-Safety) Employee Compensation Data.