Cal Fire Union Says It’s Losing Firefighters To Local Departments Over Pay

SACRAMENTO, CA — Cal Fire’s largest union, Cal Fire Local 2881, says morale is at its “absolute lowest.” The union represents 6,000 firefighters and its leaders say many have left the agency for local fire departments to make more money.

“We will no longer stay silent and we will go public with our concerns,” said Mike Lopez, president of Cal Fire Local 2881 in a video posted to the group’s Facebook page.

The union has been asking for higher wages for several months but discussion with the state administration has come to a halt. Now they’re launching an ad campaign to tell the public why they’ve had enough.

“There is an expectation they will risk their lives, they are going to be exposed to all of these elements,” Lopez said. “And the pay is not commensurate to the job they are performing.”

The root of the problem is that minimum wage has gone up twice in the last two years. So entry-level employees have seen large pay increases while long-term employees have only seen minimal increases.

And it’s those veteran employees that union leaders want compensated fairly.

“We will not sit back as our firefighters are working longer hours with less pay,” Lopez said.

We compared the hours of Cal Fire employees to local fire department employees. The average Cal Fire employee works a 72-hour shift. The average local firefighter works a 56-hour shift. The average firefighter with Cal Fire makes $28,000 to $73,000. But while Cal Fire employees work 19 more hours a week, they make 83% less than their local counterparts.

“Despite good faith efforts on our part, our bargaining team has not been presented with any acceptable proposals from administration,” Lopez said.

Union leaders say they’re still willing to negotiate but won’t settle for the sake of settling. We reached out to the state, but they declined to comment on the ongoing negotiations.

From CBS Sacramento