EL PASO, TX A historic election led to a historic win for El Paso Firefighters.
The call went out and this time, it was voters who responded for their first responders.
A record number of voters went to the polls for firefighters, to save them from a pay cut.
“The citizens have made that loud and clear tonight that they do support their public servants and their first responders,” said James Younger of the El Paso Firefighter Union, Local 51.
All three firefighter propositions passed definitively Saturday. More than 30,000 people cast their vote on the issues.
“It’s a tremendous weight lifted off our shoulders,” said Joe Tellez, president of Local 51.
The voters approved giving firefighters a 3 percent raise for the next three years.
Voters also decided health insurance premiums for firefighters will increase by 22 percent a year for three years, as opposed to the 350 percent increase the city offered.
There will also be a second chance offered to firefighters who fail a drug test, although the union was not opposed to the zero-tolerance policy.
“We are a family and we have absolute confidence in every one of our firefighters,” Younger said.
For firefighters, the message from voters is clear.
“They want the City Council, the mayor, the city manager to take a more active role in running the city and taking care of the people that help keep this city safe,” Younger said.
Proposition One on drug testing passed 56.19 percent in favor, 43.81 opposed. 19,289 voted ‘Yes’ and 15,039 voted ‘No.’
Proposition Two on the wage increase passed with 67.66 percent voting in favor and 32.34 percent against. 23,437 ‘Yes’ votes were cast compared to 11,202 ‘No’ votes.
Proposition Three on the health insurance premiums passed 58.78 percent to 41.22 percent. 20,203 voted ‘Yes’ and 14,165 vote ‘No.’
In response to the election, the city issued a statement:
“During the election process, the city provided the facts to the public so voters would have a clear understanding of the cost to them as taxpayers. Now that the election is over, the city will respect the wishes of the voters and will, as always, support the El Paso Fire Department for the great service they provide in our community. Our next step is to move forward and focus on upcoming budget discussions.”
It was a historic win for the firefighters.
“This was huge. We did something nobody else has been able to do in recent history and yes, we definitely did, we conquered,” Younger said.
There’s more work to be done. The union and the city will now have to work on the wording of the contract and the City Council will ratify it.
“We need to get back to work with the city and make sure the will of the voters is adhered to,” Tellez said.
The union said the win is great for the morale of the department, and it also means firefighters won’t need to take additional jobs or leave for cities with better benefits and pay.
As KFOX14 has reported, the El Paso Fire Department is one of the lowest paid in the state.
“They now see that the citizens of El Paso do care about their firefighters do care about their paramedics do care about their first responders they want stay here they want to work for the citizens they want to show them how much we do appreciate all the support,” Younger said.
The city has stated the cost of the firefighter referendum passing could be a total of $58 over the next three years for the average homeowner.