The Pew Foundation is trying to influence the pension debate in Jacksonville, Fla., but fire fighters won’t allow fuzzy math to affect their retirements.

Pew will make a presentation this week to the Jacksonville City Council about how the retirement fund can be managed and acquire money.

IAFF Jacksonville Local 122 knows that Pew and its billionaire supporters don’t have the solutions to help fire fighters and are doing what they can to let the public know that Pew’s numbers don’t add up for a stable retirement for public employees. Jacksonville fire fighters have launched a web campaign that includes online ads, Twitter, etc. to let others know what’s at stake. Local 122 is using its website as a pension resource for the community you can view it here.

Jacksonville fire fighters and police have been in a long dispute with the city over pension costs. Ultimately, fire fighters say it will be hard to recruit and retain new talent if the city decides to change their pensions.

In October, Pew inserted itself into the Jacksonville pension debate blasting the Jacksonville Police and Fire Fund as under performing. It made  the front page of the city’s local newspaper.  A few days later a consultant working for Pew on the project backtracked saying data was misread making the pension fund look worse than it was with an annual growth rate for investments 7.16 percent over a 10 year-period.

Jacksonville fire fighters say that misrepresentation was enough to not trust Pew’s numbers.

Over the past year, Pew and the John and Laura Arnold Foundation have spearheaded efforts to make public employee retirements less secure in states like Rhode Island, Kentucky, Illinois, Montana and Arizona. Recently, Pew was embarrassed by data that it collected nationally that found there is no support for changing public employee pensions with police and fire having a high favorability ranking in the survey.

If you find yourself in a similar fight in your community over pensions, remember to keep your message simple.


Jordan Marks, executive director of the National Public Pension Coalition, spoke at the IAFF’s Alfred K. Whitehead Legislative Conference and gives some good pointers on how to develop a public relations campaign to protect public employee pensions.