Photo by Joe Rondone of the Commercial Appeal

The Memphis City Council has approved a new contract and raises for its professional fire fighters, marking a resounding and long-fought win for Memphis Local 1784.

By a 10-3 vote, Memphis City Council members agreed to a new three-year contract that includes back-to-back 3% annual raises with an opportunity to consider an additional raise in the final year. Local 1784’s previous contract had expired, and the union and city were thrust into impasse negotiations that ultimately led to the May 18 council vote.

While the win capped a long and tough negotiation, Local 1784 President Thomas Malone says council members were persuaded by abundant evidence that the understaffed Memphis Fire Department was steadily losing fire fighters to nearby communities offering better pay and benefits.

“We are so proud of what Memphis Local 1784 has accomplished,” says General President Ed Kelly. “The IAFF will always stand and fight with its brothers and sisters on the frontlines. Because when we stand together, and we fight together, we win.”

President Malone also says Local 1784 members had won over most on the council in the last year due to fire fighters’ strong efforts in battling the COVID-19 pandemic, from effectively handling the dramatic spike in calls to leading vaccination efforts throughout the city.

“Our people have been doing a bang-up job and the city council knows this,” Malone says. “I have been working hard every day to educate the council on the work we do, but the truth is, our members have been showing it all year.”

“City leaders everywhere must understand that strong public safety is worth the investment, and I urge elected leaders to listen to their fire fighters and give them what they need to get the job done,” says General Secretary-Treasurer Frank Líma.

The IAFF assisted Memphis Local 1784 in its contract negotiations in numerous ways, including providing municipal finance reports detailing how Memphis stacks up with surrounding jurisdictions. The IAFF also provided Local 1784 with detailed information on the amount of federal stimulus funding the city has received to help maintain service levels.

“I hope that this big win in Memphis will resonate across the southern states where too many of our brothers and sisters are underpaid and working overtime to protect their communities,” says 14th District Vice President Danny Todd.

The council win follows a successful referendum two years ago when Local 1784 and the Memphis Police Association convinced voters to raise sales taxes by one-half of 1% to restore pensions and insurance that had been slashed in 2014.

Following the council vote, the Memphis Commercial Appeal ran a story with the headline: “With Clear Victory, Memphis Fire Fighters Show Clout of Public Employee Unions.”

President Malone attributes the new “clout” to the hard work of members on the frontlines and a tried-and-true strategy of “supporting politicians who support us, regardless of party affiliation.”