“Depending on the municipality, we are 30-90 percent underpaid compared to our municipal counterparts,” says Local 2881 President Mike Lopez. “Morale is at an all-time low as a result.”
On average, Local 2881 members work a 72-hour shift, but most municipal fire department fire fighters work 56-hour shifts. And when Local 2881 members are responding to wildlandfire calls, those 72-hour shifts can become even longer.
Still, some entry-level fire fighters are making minimum-wage, which is $10 per hour in California right now (up $2 from two years ago).
“Our most experienced members are leaving to go to other departments because they know they will make more money. We want to retain our best, so we must ensure that they receive fair compensation,” says Lopez. In the last two years alone, some 242 CAL FIRE members have left.
Local 2881 hopes to end the stalemate with the Brown administration by earning the support of the public. The local has launched an educational campaign that includes a dedicated Facebook page called “CAL FIRE Firefighters in Crisis,” videos and media coverage on the issue.
The campaign will peak on August 22 when General President Schaitberger, California Professional Firefighters President Lou Paulson and Los Angeles City Local 112 President Frank Lima will join Local 2881 President Lopez and Local 2881 members on the state capitol steps in Sacramento for a rally.