Members of Orange County, FL Local 2057 are participating in an educational campaign to raise public awareness of the wage gap between Orange County and other areas of Florida.
It has been almost three years since most of Local 2057’s members have received a raise, and the suggested three and a half to five percent raise from the County would do little to improve conditions.
“On average, we are losing 40 members a year to other departments because of how low our salaries are in comparison,” says Local 2057 Secretary Scott Egan. “In the end, it is costing the County money as we have to train new fire fighters and paramedics. We are also losing our experienced members, which is putting the community’s safety at risk.”
Members of Local 2057 are attending County Council meetings wearing red T-shirts that read, “Orange County: ‘World Class Fire Department’ — Above Average Service, Below Average Pay.”
The County’s mayor, Teresa Jacobs, acknowledged the presence of Local 2057 while giving the State of the County Address, but Egan does not have faith in future negotiations. “They are not giving us the time of day when it comes to sitting down and having a realistic conversation about where we stand in comparison to other areas in Florida,” he says.
A perfect example of the local’s current situation occurred at one of the meetings Local 2057 members — wearing the red shirts — attended in Orlando. An attendee at the meeting collapsed and needed medical attention. Orange County fire fighters were right on scene. Orlando’sfire department showed up shortly after to take over. “So you see, right there, those guys are making 50-80 percent more, doing the same job we are,” says Egan. “We aren’t talking about a couple of percentage points here.”
Orange County’s personnel has dropped by eight percent over the past couple years, and they aren’t just losing members to Orlando anymore. Egan says it has gotten so bad that members are jumping ship to a variety of other departments because Orange County has fallen so far below the average in pay.
Egan credits his training at the IAFF Communications Training Academy with his ability to launch this type of campaign. “I give a huge amount of credit to that training as it has been instrumental on a variety of levels. We are getting the word out in a way that can’t be ignored. Fire fighters don’t like to ask for help, and this has been hard for some of us, but what we need is public support on this. We need to educate officials and citizens to the huge disservice this is doing to the public and those who protect them.”
Local 2057 plans to continue to attend events wearing the T-shirts until the County comes to the table willing to fairly negotiate and compensate its members. Egan is looking at a long-term fight and says they have come prepared. The back of the red T-shirt reads, “NO CONTRACT: Still Saving Lives.”