The Firefight Isn’t Over

Some of the headlines in various local rags and websites over the past couple of weeks cast such a golden glow on San Jose’s firefighters union, it was as if Local 230 president Randy Sekany had written them himself: “San Jose Firefighters Quickly Quell Two Blazes.” “Firefighters Respond to Three Blazes in Less Than Two Hours.” “San Jose Firefighters to Expose Fatal Flaws in City’s ‘Dynamic Deployment’ Scheme.”

Coming as they did while the union was locking horns with the city over pay cuts and layoffs, the puff pieces no doubt pleased Sekany and his troops. But on Friday, every news source in town seemed to spin that story in the city’s favor: “San Jose Firefighters Reject City’s Concession Proposal.”

There was no other way to play it: the utterly admirable fire guys seemed to have suddenly and selfishly turned on their own. Mayor Chuck Reed, pointing out that the SJFD’s budget had doubled in a decade, had fired 49 firefighters and put it on the union to come up with the money to hire them back.

Nora Campos immediately sent out a press availability notice (surprising no one) to voice her “disapproval” of Reed’s move “and the dangerous impact these cuts will have.” The union members then voted by a ginormous margin (88 percent!) to throw their laid-off comrades under the firetruck rather than accept the 9 percent cut in pay and bennies that most city workers and executives have accepted.

Perhaps they were galled that their public-safety rivals, er, colleagues at the SJPD got off with a 5.25 percent pay cut. Sekany, who had helpfully circulated a memo in June showing how the city is wasting money on fluff such as hybrid vehicles and office furniture, on Tuesday held a press event of his own to unveil “newly discovered audiotape that details what the City Administration actually knew prior to recommending to the City Council to eliminate five fire companies.”

Apparently Sekany’s strategy calls for sticking to his position that, despite a crippling budget deficit, the city has the money and must give it to the firefighters or children will die. The fight appears headed for arbitration.

The Fly is a weekly column written by San Jose Inside staff that provides a behind-the-scenes look at local politics.

76 Comments

  1. The Metro comes out swinging for its chosen son, Chuck Reed – the same mayor that rejected an offer from the firefighters for a 5.25% pay cut and then goes on TV and accuses the firefighters of playing politics so they can get bigger raises.

    And which “rags” in town are you referring to? I can only count one.

  2. San Jose City Officials hid the truth about the impacts of budget cuts to the lives and property of San Jose residents. The public should know the truth about the jeopardy City leaders have placed them in.  Check out the link below…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AGkio38ZeL8

    “no doubt pleased Sekany and his troops”
    I guarantee you that there is no pleasure in watching someone’s house and all their possessions go up in smoke because there are not enough resources to adequately respond.

    ” the utterly admirable fire guys seemed to have suddenly and selfishly turned on their own.” Boy, you sure do have your finger on the pulse of the dept.  Again, the firefighters have and always have had an offer on the table which was more than enough to pay for the 49 folks laid off,  the city rejected that offer saying they wanted more…. Don’t let the simple facts get in the way of your story.

  3. I have worked on new SJ firehouses. I am a carpenter.

    These guys get professional coffee roasting club quality coffee makers installed. They must have cost thousands of dollars each… you mean to tell me as over-paid and under-worked as SJFD they can’t afford to buy a few Mr.Coffee makers themselves?! The rest of the kitchen would blow your mind…

    I was there during the Santana Row fire and they did absolutely NOTHING but stand there and look at the fire… the trucks rushed past burning homes and apartment building in order to go gawk at the Santana Row fire and stand there and watch it burn… doing nothing. They were totally incompetent. I mean why would you drive past a burning building that is occupied by families only to go stand around in awe at the burning construction site?

    Amateur hour. Firefighters are the most overpaid and greedy people around… and more carpenters get killed in California each year alone than all the firefighters in the USA combined.

    • You risk the wrath of a powerful local union with such words.  Good thing there’s no last name or some local hack’s political opposition research file cabinet would have a new folder with your name on it.

      Firefighters fought for and received parity with police pay and pension benefits in the “hero” days after 9/11.  Both professions are important jobs, but so highly compensated using our scarce tax dollars that its worth talking about.

      Me, I’m just a grunt, and I too got a raise in my Army pay while in uniform, but no pension unless I do 20.  Nothing as heroic as our local heroes.

    • Hi David,
        Could you please tell me (us) where the coffee makers were installed?  (Streets, if you can’t remember station number.)
        Thank you.

  4. Um, if they’re still doing such a good job with 49 less firefighters, why do they need more money?  Doesn’t that prove their budget was too big?

    • Last week, firefighters took 12 minutes 35 seconds to show up to a gas line explosion in somebody’s home. On Wednesday, a firefighter was injured when a roof collapsed because a truck that would’ve been one of the first responders has been eliminated. The crew on that truck would’ve been responsible for taking the roof off while that firefighter looked for people to save.

      The point is they’re not doing such a great job. Their safety and our lives are at risk. Get them pack to work. They put a 5.25% concession offer on the table. Its time for Chuck Reed to put politics aside, accept it and move on.

      • So 12.5 minutes is unacceptable.  Maybe with 49 more firefighters back on the job, they would’ve been there in 8 minutes.  But that’s still 8 minutes of life and death!  What they really need is 100 more firefighters, six more stations, and ten more trucks.  Then their response time could maybe get down to 3 minutes.  But 3 minutes is still enough to kill someone!  What they really need is a fire station for every building, and a firefighter for every man, woman, and child in San Jose.  Sure, it’s expensive.  But how can you put a price on public safety?

  5. I am sick and tired of hearing about how cuts to public safety are going to “harm the public” because the departments do not have the resources to solve less high profile crimes (burglaries) or respond in a timely fashion.  As a taxpayer, I would love to have response times of 1 minute or maybe less.  As a realist, I’d like to know how we can pay for it.  It seems to me that all these postings/discussions boil down to answering the following simple question:  Do you believe that we should spend what we take in?  If the answer is yes, then the cuts, while painful, are necessary.  If the answer is no, then you believe in more of the same policies and decision making that have driven this state/region/city in to the brink of bankruptcy.  It seems simple to me whether you run a billion dollar government budget, a multi-billion dollar business, or a $75K household budget that you cannot spend more than you take in.  Period.

    • So, do you keep driving the Lexus or do you trade it in for a Ford…?

      So, do you keep the libraries open and the park grass green and cut or do you close 5 firehouses….??

      Libraries, Parks, Firehouses, Cops,…. all important stuff but I guess it comes down to what your priorities are.  We know what this Mayor and most of the city council and manager’s priorities are…… and it’s not public safety.  Period.

      • “.. and it’s not public safety.  Period.” 

        Depends how one defines public safety. I personally prefer the broader definition; public safety includes community features that offer safe places and spaces for community and families to congregate, grow, play and learn. Examples include community centers, libraries, parks, and pools. These proactive (instead of reactive) features are positive ways for community to come together, keep out of trouble, exercise, learn who their neighbors are, etc. Then, when a response to something serious is needed the other arm of public safety is engaged: Our hardworking police and fire departments. It should not be an “either/or” choice in my book… ALL aspects of public safety are a priority. And, most importantly, we need to be able to afford to pay for them.

        Tina

        • Tina.  Agree that public safety goes beyond fire and police and that the entire community benefits from all of these services.  It just so happens that police/fire take up the lion’s share of the budget and thus the focus of attention.  Can you offer any solutions that will allow the City to keep all these services?  Ernest Beginner is correct in the sense that we/City need to prioritize.  Is it okay to keep funding the Office of Cultural Affairs when we are laying off 49 firefighters?  I have nothing against the arts but pose the question as an example of priorities.  I’m sure there are many other examples of this ilk.

        • I hear your point, Tina, and it’s well taken. But when your house is on fire, you probably don’t care much about how many hours your library is open. Or when an intruder breaks into your house in the middle of the night, you probably don’t care much if your park was closed one day a week.

          That’s the difference. And that’s why they’re not as easily lumped together.

        • In reply to the following comments, here are a few thoughts for what they’re worth:

          ‘Can you offer any solutions that will allow the City to keep all these services?’
          1) Here’s one: Look for alternative delivery methods; in many cases we cannot afford to pay City staff full time wages to do jobs that can easily be done by volunteers or for-profit entities. (The Rose Garden volunteers and CalSports Center who runs Rotary Ryland and Fair Pools are examples). Using volunteers or other delivery methods will involve scrutinizing and possibly overturning the City’s “no supplanting” rule currently in place. That said, in many instances (like police and fire services) it DOES NOT make sense to have volunteers or for-profits run City Services and that needs to be taken into account as well.

          ‘Ernest Beginner is correct in the sense that we/City need to prioritize.’
          2)  The City has a prioritization process where community members weigh in to their Mayor/City Council either directly (meeting w/their electeds, writing letters, emailing, etc.) or they attend and speak up during the numerous community meetings that are held. Electeds consider opinions and make decisions accordingly. I’d like to see more folks get out from behind their computers (or TV’s!) and get more involved proactively instead of reactively.

          ‘Is it okay to keep funding the Office of Cultural Affairs when we are laying off 49 firefighters?’
          3) The City of SJ needs more than just a police dept. and fire dept. to attract new residents or retain old ones; residents after all pay for (and use) these services. So yes, we have to look at what we can afford to fund, but at what point do we bring back services that were eliminated because we could not afford them? Did we ever bring back the Library’s program of visiting shut-ins and bringing them books? No…
          Are we paying for expensive equipment for police and fire that perhaps they could do without for a while? Further, we wouldn’t have to lay off 49 firefighters and we could even HIRE MORE if we could afford them. Unfortunately, we cannot afford their salary/benefit packages. (Disclosure: I am a fire fighter’s daughter and I’ve seen what these folks go through so I believe they are worth every penny they get.)

          Let’s play out a scenario though…let’s say we get rid of what some folks think of as “non-essential services” (like the Office of Cultural Affairs, libraries, shut the pools down, etc.), three things come to mind: A) At what point do we bring them back? Who decides? What’s the point where we can say “okay, now we can afford it” ? B) How many people will leave for another city that offers services that make their quality of life good or better? and C) With all city services shuttered, how many people will turn to less-desirable activities to keep themselves amused since there is “nothing to do” ? This will create an even bigger need for police and fire and worse, completely annihilate any community building, family & friend bonding as well as other socially important activities.

          Very tough choices indeed, but my vote is to keep as many public safety services open and running as we can. (And you know my definition of public services.  grin)

          Tina

        • Hi Joe,

          Agreed that during a tragedy my focus would be on that specifically. (House on fire example or intruder break in.) However, I can’t get past the fact that services such as libraries, the arts, pools, parks, trails, etc. offer people activities to do so they are less likely to turn to destructive, illegal activities. In some cases, lives have been rebuilt and/or turned around thanks to some of these services.

          I believe there are “proactive public safety” services such as the libraries, the arts, pools, parks, trails, community centers and then there is also the “reactive public safety” services.

          BOTH proactive and reactive services are needed; it is a symbiotic relationship in my opinion.

          Tina

        • I believe the Office of Cultural Affairs gets zero dollars from the General Fund. So, eliminating that office would not hire more firefighters.

        • yeah but were does that money come from and why not use it the help the general fund and not some former mayor and his personal financial gains

    • So where do we cut?

      How about we jettison The Office of Cultural Affairs and Team San Jose and hire back some firefighters with the $$ we save?  There must be hundreds of city jobs that we’d like to keep, but we just can’t in these economic times.

      • And quit buying land for baseball stadiums, quit annexing crime ridden neighborhoods into San Jose from the County, sell the 3 city owned golf courses, don’t provide both Spanish and Vietnamese translators at the “community outreach” meetings for the new police chief, sell the Hayes Mansion, quit paying Pete Constant a disability retirement from the city at the same time he is collecting a paycheck from the city, etc etc.

  6. On an everyday basis, I think the FD does a good job.  My mother-in-law has ALS and falls down a lot.  She would literally be dead without the Firehouse down the street. 

    Having said this…

    I would have a lot more sympathy for the FD if they had a history of sharing the pain and having a cleaner union shop.  The Grand Jury was right to say that the Firefighter leaderships Hose the City of San Jose in 2008.  I don’t believe any of the complaints were really fixed.  By their own actions, it really does look like the FD does not negotiate in good faith and that they use the arbitration system to prevent any changes.  Their budget decisions last year proved to me that the Grand Jury was completely right about the SJFD.

    In fact, I think I has gotten worse.

    The Metro is right to say that the Firefighters threw their brothers under the firetruck by not sharing any financial pain. Instead they create a crisis, then blame the city for that crisis.

    I work in a chip company.  When the chit hit the fan in 2008 – 9, the workers volunteered to take drastic furloughs (30%) so that we could protect everyone’s jobs.  In the end, jobs were lost, because the company’s revenue dropped by 50% from its peak and stayed that low for 14 months.  Even with the lay-offs the workers did not resent management, because the managers were complete transparent about the business and the tough decisions.  Management also went through the same furloughs and income losses that they voted for the workers.  Since then, business has bounced back and we’re on a growth path. 

    I don’t wish this Social Darwinism on the public sector, but the 10% cuts the mayor asked from the SJFD this year was mild compared to the cuts made by private companies and to the 35% cuts made to the libraries, parks and recs and the community centers. 

    As a community member, I am more upset that all of the homework centers in the city was shut down, even though the 400 volunteers and thousands of students get help for the price of 1 fire fighter.
    I thought it was pathethic that $130 – $250K a year workers stonewalled the budget processes, forcing the Council to pick on the City Hall Janitors $40 – $60K to eek out savings. 

    Now how heroic is that?

    • Tony, Sorry you feel that way… But I think your a victim of the paper media in this valley.  The Grand Jury report never interviewed key witnesses in the complaint and if you ask me, the whole thing was brought forward by the now retired ex-chief in an attempt to avert the eyes away from his poor management of the Fire Dept. and onto the “evil” union.

      This being the same man that was hired and backed by the very Mayor and Manager that we have today, the same people that chose to close firehouses and make City Workers the bad guys by taking advantage of a poor economy and poor fiscal decisions in the past. (really?? 90 prius’s, new city hall, A’s stadium…)

      There are too many cogs in this wheel to correctly describe how this city is in the situation it is in.  But the facts are indisputable now…

      There are not enough Firefighters in this city… (at last count 179 firefighters are on duty right now protecting 1.1 million people) this city has been WAY under staffed for over a decade or longer.  This Mayor and Manager have made it worse by laying off 49 firefighters and closing 5 fire stations.  The offer was made some time ago by the firefighters union with enough money to keep the 49 firefighters and avert station closures….. AND THE CITY SAID NO, WE WANT MORE.

      http://www.mercurynews.com/ci_15658310

      Now, your being duped again with “Dynamic Deployment” as a fix for the lack of stations and firefighters… This “Dynamic Deception” does not work and is not in service as the Mayor promised it would be come Aug. 1st.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AGkio38ZeL8

      Let’s hope it doesn’t get any worse….

      • To Ernest Beginner,

        As the retired Fire Chief you reference I would like to provide you the real facts as some of your supposed facts and assumptions are not true.  It appears your thought process is right in line with the Union leadership talking points and I believe one should always check the facts.

        1.  You make a completely wrong assumption regarding the Civil Grand Jury investigations.  I did not contact nor request the Civil Grand Jury on either of their investigations and was not aware of either one until I was requested to testify in both which I did truthfully.  They choose who to interview.  I will also state I agree with their findings.

        2.  Secondly, I was hired as the permanent Fire Chief by the current City Manager and approved by an overwhelming majority of the City Council back in 2008.  I also fully support Mayor Reed and his straight forward attempt to close the structural budget deficit.  There is quite a bit of misinformation on how the City funding works and you mention several funds and expenses that are not a part of the General Fund and therefore cannot be used to pay salaries.  The Prius issue has been asked and answered when the Union brought forward their one sided propaganda on “Contracts Gone Wild”, all of which was dispelled with the real facts.  Other funds such as redevelopment, bond monies etc cannot be used for salaries. 

        3.  There is also miss information in your response as to what the Fire union offered.  While the Fire Union offered similar to the police, the total amount was not even half of what was needed to keep the 49 firefighters employed.  I encourage people to visit the City web site and look at the negotiations page where you can see the full history of the negotiations with Local 230.  You can read all the offers and counter offers and the City has been very clear it is about $10 million needed to fund the reductions in the Fire Department as a result of this year’s budget actions.  The City has been very clear on the amount needed to rehire the 49 Firefighters and the Union proposals have not met the amount.  This is the same union that has the only 3% at 20 year retirement plan which is very costly and is also the only Union in the City of San Jose to not address the retiree health care issue which all other unions have addressed years ago.  This I believe is reflection on the Union leadership, not the men and women who provide the excellent service the citizens deserve.

        4.  I have always stated that the men and women of the San Jose Fire Department are the best and that they provide excellent emergency services with consistently low staffing levels.  You can find this in all my public statements, in public Council study sessions / meetings and in all the written documents that were produced in my four year tenure as Fire Chief.  San Jose is one of the best Fire Departments in the Country because of the men and women on the front line, not the current union leadership.

        5.  The recent information put out by Local 230 on Dynamic Deployment to which you also reference is also very misleading and typical of this Union’s leadership tactics.  While they use a quote from a conference presentation, they take it out of context.  You can review the May 8, 2009 public Council budget study session on the City web site and at the 1 hour 30 minute mark and see the same person explain to City Council the issues of fires getting bigger and the risks of working with less resources.  This information on the negative impacts of the reduction was also shared at the 2010 Council budget study sessions and is in all the written documents.  Dynamic Deployment is working and provides a better service level than brown outs used in many surrounding jurisdictions to solve their budget issues.

        Lastly, I have also never called the Union “evil” as you reference in your letter and although the union leadership has called me anti-labor, I do not hold anti-labor beliefs.  Labor and Management must work together and I tried to build that relationship but met resistance from the Union leadership all along the way.  I stand by my 32 ½ years of dedicated service to the City of San Jose and extend a great thanks to the staff who served with me while I was privileged to serve as Fire Chief.  Some of this teams accomplishments just to name a few:  opening and fully staffing three new Fire Stations in difficult budget times was not easy, securing the largest grant of over $1.7 million dollars for safety equipment, navigating the EMS contract, improvements in Special Operations program, improvements in the bilingual program all while working with a contentious labor leadership was not easy, but San Jose Fire is still an excellent Fire Department.

        As a person who pays property taxes in San Jose, I hope a resolve can be found to bring back all the Fire Companies that have been reduced due to the current lack of funds.

        • Darryl,
          As the ex fire chief you had the responsibility to provide this city with the best fire department that you possibly could and you sir, have failed.  The moral is at an all time low, the response times are way beyond what they should be, the staffing is far short of the national average, the firefighters are doing a lot more with less, and most importantly the residents are in danger.  All this occurred under your watchful eye and you did little to nothing to prevent this from taking place.

          1. While you claim to not have initiated the Grand Jury investigation I’m sure that you were elated and eager to testify “truthfully”. Of course you agree with their findings, you were their star witness and as such I’m sure that you didn’t embellish by any means. Thanks for your honest answers during the investigation.

          2. Yes you were hired by a “overwhelming majority of the City Council” in 2008 but of course the council would vote you in as you were the city managers favorite toy at the time.  You did everything that she wanted and not once did anything to protect the line firefighters.  “one sided propaganda”… You simply making this statement makes me believe that you are in fact extremely biased toward the Union.  The very Union who got you the benefits that you are currently enjoying (How’s that new car treating you by the way??) The facts are that while technically correct that money in a specific fund cannot be used to pay for items in another fund the monies can be freed up to pay for other things.. Ie. Paving a street under redevelopment funds to free up general funds to pay for firefighters.  Additionally, it’s time that this city see’s what the money is being spent on…. A fleet of Prius’s vs. Firefighters on the street, obviously we already know what your priorities are.

          3. Wrong again Darryl, I too encourage all to look at the website.  You’ll notice the city wants the firefighters to pay for not only the 49 that you laid off but also the 5 companies that you closed.  Since when do the very people that provide the service pay for that service??  Did the cops have to pay for their cars, did the plumbers have to pay for their pipes?? Did the electricians have to pay for their wire??  Get the drift….??  The money on the table is enough to pay for 49 entry level firefighters salaries…. period. Now who is throwing out misinformation??  3% at 20 years… ?? Did you mean 3% per year after 20 years of back braking service, yes that is correct that equals a whopping 60% retirement… If you feel so bad about it, why don’t you give it back?? Also, note that retiree health care is on the offer, I see your still making up the facts to fit your argument. Exactly like the response numbers that you gave the council to support your closure of the much needed fire companies.

          4. You are correct.  This will be the ONLY thing that we agree on…. The San Jose Firefighters are the best around and do provide an excellent service even though they are having to do way more with less now that you’ve laid off 49 of them and closed 5 companies.  How soon you forget that the very union leadership you trash was also the ones responsible for your wages, benefits, and working conditions (The very retirement package you are currently enjoying).  If I recall my history, you were even a part of that leadership as an executive board member….. Who would have thought that a leopard could indeed change its spots?  I believe the phrase is “turncoat”….

          5. Obviously there will be a negative impact on service as shared previously but to sit and say that “dynamic deployment” is the answer is ridiculous and naive, especially for a person in your previous position.  Over 12 minutes to get to a fire is not “working” or “providing a better service level”.  Plain and simple, it was promised to be activated and working on Aug 1st and to date that is not the case.  You and this mayor have misled this city by saying that you had the answer to “mitigate” the closing of companies and now it’s obvious that it doesn’t work.  Try this Darryl, “I was wrong and we need those 49 firefighters back and a lot more….”.

          Lastly, you might talk the talk but you never walked the walk. Darryl, you simply don’t “get it” and still don’t.  You speak of a Labor management relationship but never did anything to foster that.  You simply averted your eyes to the ground and said “yes mom” when the city manager told you to do something.  I’m glad that you stand behind your 32 plus years of service, I’m ashamed to say that you represented The San Jose Fire Department….. It’s amazing to think that you created more damage and destruction in your 4 years as fire chief than in the whole 156-year history of the San Jose Fire Dept. 

          You do realize that the 3 fire stations you claim to have built are part of the 5 you closed?? I think any 2 year old could do that math…. Improvements in Special Ops?? You do realize that you shut down 2 of the 3 USAR’s and reduced the staffing on HazMat team?? EMS Contract?? What contract, you mean the one with Rural Metro and not AMR?? 

          You sir, will be remembered as the most disappointing fire chief in the history of the Fire Department, proof of which was the “overwhelming majority” vote of no confidence in your leadership abilities by the very troops that you were supposed to have led. I’m sure that doesn’t feel good or maybe you don’t even care…. No matter I guess, your retired and “enjoying the good life” as the rest of the fire department gets to clean up your mess. As a property tax payer in this city what you should be asking your local councilman is “Why don’t we have enough firefighters in this city??” and see if the answer is “Well, the previous fire chief threw out his responsibility to keep us safe with the bath water….!!”

          By the way, did I ask you how you like your new car?? smile

          Have a nice day Darryl…..

        • This is a fantastic discussion to view between the former Fire Chief and an anonymous fire union member.  Kuddos to Darryl for saying how it is and zero respect for the anonymous fire union person who repeats the communist party line.

        • Wow,
          Darryl sounds to the fire department like the Pete Constant of the police department. Amazing how they enjoy benefits but throw other workers under the bus, or fire truck, or police car.

        • To Ernest Beginner,
          It is apparent we have a different view points and I will not go into a point / counterpoint but will address a few of your key points.
          As for my time as Chief, I did provide the best resources for the Fire Department under the budget constraints we faced.  I do not take credit for the building of the Stations, which was a result of Measure O although managing the bond money was difficult with the significant escalation factors.  I will take credit for the additional 43 sworn personnel as Measure O did not provide the funding for staffing and there were several serious budget discussions were had to keep the funding in place for the new positions.  The Department could have easily not acquired all the funding necessary if we did not fight for it.  Response times also actually got better and exceeded our 8 minutes 80% goal for the first time in years.  It was at about 83% when I left. 
          I also believe you mean morale, not moral although keeping focus on ones moral compass is very important.  Discussing the moral and morale would be an interesting conversation.
          The “technically correct” issues of the budget to which you reference are the real facts, and while we all may like it to be different, it is not, and it is the reality.  This is where the elected officials make the policy and budget decisions for the entire City and my job as Fire Chief was to work within the prescribed budget and develop effective Department policy.  Both of which I did.  The numbers provided during the budget processes were to inform the policy makers to assist them in the very difficult decisions they had to make.  They are all accurate numbers.  As I stated previously, I believe the men and women of San Jose do a tremendous job with low staffing based on national average.  San Jose is one of the best Fire Departments in the Country because of the men and women on the front line, not the current union leadership.  My belief is that this current union leadership has intertwined the politics and negotiations to a point where they cannot tell the difference and have failed to recognize the seriousness of the City and State fiscal condition.
          As you reference everyone can do the simple math.  The 49 positions at $172,092 per position (cost of a Firefighter) come to $8.43 million which is far more than what the Union has offered.  This calculation does not include premium pays such as paramedic nor the Fire Engineer and Captains upgrades needed to properly staff any apparatus.  No matter how many times people say the union offer of about a total comp of 3.9% will cover the positions, it does not.  We could also get into the discussion of one time funds versus ongoing funds.  The City is not looking for the infrastructure in its request, just the salaries to staff up the 5 companies which we can all agree would be best for the citizens and Department.
          Your characterization of this City Manger and my relationship as Fire Chief is 180 degrees wrong and very demeaning.  City Manager Figone cares deeply for our City and is managing well in these difficult times and I applaud her for her courage.  As the Fire Chief I did stand up for Department issues and she listened and we had the tough conversations.  A few examples;  keeping our funding for apparatus replacement program, 4-person Engine staffing which I support had several detailed discussions with the City Manager.  During the recent budget deliberations there were six companies up for reduction and one was saved very late in the process when tax revenues came in higher.  This money could have gone to several areas including police but the City Manager and Mayor placed it to save the 6 piece of apparatus and I thank them.
          The 3% at 20 was referenced because it is an extremely excessive cost and a 90% at 30 years can be achieved similar to the Police retirement at a much reduced overall cost.  I also did my “back breaking service” as an excellent Firefighter, Fire Engineer, Fire Inspector, Captain, Training Officer and Battalion Chief while paying 27 years of union dues.  My work efforts also include 6 years on the Executive Board where I did good work on the labor side for the betterment of the Department and the union.  I also find your reference to “turncoat” demeaning, misleading, and ill informed.  I appreciate overall what the Union has done over the years to ensure wages, benefits and working conditions and I admire some of the previous presidents and executive board members.  However my belief or as you call it my bias is that the current union leadership is off base as referenced above and as such has resulted to personal attacks, character assassination while not recognizing the seriousness of the current budget and political climate.  I am sure the current union leadership will continue to call me names and personally attack me and others with the half truths or out and out misstatements as they have used in the past including during the vote of no confidence.  Time will tell the story and I believe this City administration is doing its best in one of the more difficult economic times and I find it disheartening the Union leadership could not see fit to endorse the City’s last offer. 
          You know who I am and how to contact me, I do not know who you are although I am sure you are not an “Ernest Beginner” as identified by your posting name as you have insight to the union positions / talking points and write like exactly like someone I know.  I am available to meet over lunch and while I am sure we won’t change each other’s mind, we may both gain some insight and understanding.  I am serious about the lunch and hope you will accept my offer.
          Darryl

        • Lesley,
          Thank you for your comment.  While I offered on Spetember 12th to take Ernest Biginner to lunch to disucss and hopefully understand each oithers position a little better, the person has not accepted the offer.

          Darryl

        • Darryl,
          That’s good that you think you know who I am, You should have been a detective and saved us all a lot of trouble. Now that you know me then please do me the favor of avoiding me. 

          I’m tired of hearing your lies and the same old half truths from you.  I have ZERO desire to sit down and put myself through the torture of another moment with you…. I’ve listened to your rhetoric for the last 4 plus years and don’t need any more of it.  Now all you need to do is just “GO AWAY’ and let us heal from the damage you’ve created…..

          Have a nice life Darryl and get a clue, stop coming around….. Your making it worse for the troops who are trying to move on…..

        • Darryl

          To Ernest Beginner,

          I did not state I know who you are, just that I have a feeling by the way you write.  You can always declare yourself.  The reason I responded in the first place is that you did not write like an Ernest Beginner but an experienced Union Executive Board member which may or may not be the case.

          You seem very bitter and angry.  I do want to correct one of your statements as you have a way of saying something and trying to make people believe it is true.  As your Fire Chief I never lied so I do not know what you are referencing to meetings over the last four years. 

          Lastly, as a 32 1/2 veteran of this great Fire Department, serving 6 years on the Executive Board and 4 years as the Fire Chief, I have earned the right to attend Fire Department events.  I will never miss the annual 9-1-1 ceremonies, the Annual Firefighters Mass, the car show and other significant events to commemorate our Firefighters and Department.

          Take care.
          Darryl

        • Darryl,
          “Life can only be understood backward, but it must be lived forward.” We are all ernest beginners until our death bed, to think otherwise is arrogant, which for you may or may not be the case.

          Well I guess I should not be surprised by your selfishness, your statement of “I have earned the right” is exactly what I’m talking about and thanks for proving my point.  As the saying goes… “Don’t accept your dog’s admiration as conclusive evidence that you are wonderful.”

          Yes I’m angry and bitter, you singlehandedly brought down the fire department to a place that will take decades to recover from and I along with almost everybody else (93% of us at least) are bitter that we have to deal with the mess that you left behind. As you have a history of saying half-truths and lying of course you would say that you’ve never lied.  To say otherwise would not be true to yourself.  At least your consistent….

          Lastly, every time you selfishly show up at these events (car show, 9/11) and parade yourself around in your brand new $150,000 dollar car you are rubbing our noses in it. If you can’t figure out that in a time where you laid off 49 of us and the rest of us are looking at a very large pay cut but you still think it’s ok to come around in your brand new $100,000 plus dollar Maserati then you are indeed without an ounce of class.

          …And don’t worry, I will “declare” myself next time I see you.  I haven’t done so here because there are people like yourself who are retaliatory in nature and have no problem taking action against members of the fire department in an “official” setting because what is said away from work.  I used to think there was a thing called “Freedom of Speech” but not according to the city of San Jose. You know what I’m talking about….. Remember your illegal “gag” order??

          Have a nice day and I guess I’ll see you soon….

        • Ernest Beginner,

          Interesting you share your philosophical quotes and viewpoints, let me share a quote I had hanging in my office. 

          Cowardice asks the question – is it safe? Expediency asks the question – is it politic?_Vanity asks the question – is it popular?_But conscience asks the question – is it right?_And there comes a time when one must take a position_that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular;_but one must take it because it is right.
          Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

          Along with the Department Core Values that also were posted in my office, I did my best to reflect them in my decisions.  Your one sided myopic view is amazing as you continue to write things without all the facts and believe them to be true.  Your mention of an illegal “gag” order is not true.  This reference is to a Department directive that was sent out in 2009 highlighting the Rules and Regulations of the Department that guide behavior for all Department employees from the Chief to the newest hired.  The same Rules and Regulations that are a part of the MOA and have been in existence for our Department well before I became Chief.  This directive was not newly made policy and was distributed as a result of several citizen complaints of on-duty firefighters discussing Department policies in public and was done rather than issuing discipline to certain individuals. 

          As for my choice of vehicle, I did not drive my new car to the 911 ceremony, the car show or any formal Fire Department events   I am very respectful of the 49 individuals that have been impacted by the lay offs and have even contributed to a fund for them and I hope you have also.  I am surprised with your interest in vehicles, no one ever asks the current Union President about his choice of purchasing an expensive foreign vehicle upon his retirement.

          I will state again, I never lied, and if you think you have proof you should share it because it doesn’t exist.  Also regarding your reference to retaliation; I never retaliated against any City employee and would never have used the Chiefs Office in that way.  I find that a pretty lame excuse to hide behind but it is an easy way to make the personal attacks without any accountability.

          As for your reference to me singlehandly destroying the Department everyone can have their own opinion and you express the Union leadership talking points which I believe is to divert away from their ineffectiveness.  The facts of the City budget are real and there are solutions, as difficult as they may be.  Kudos for those over 1,000 City employees including Senior Staff of the City and Fire Department who accepted the 10% reductions.  As I wrote earlier in these responses, this current Executive leadership has intertwined politics and negotiations to a point they cannot distinguish the difference.  My invitation to lunch is still there and like I said I know we will not change each other’s mind, but we may both gain some insight and understanding in the dialogue.

    • Unchecked, public safety costs will grow to consume all available discretionary funds as has occured in the city of Los Angeles where 80% of the general fund is police and fire leaving 20% for ALL other services from streets to libraries.

    • Police officers offered a 5.25% contract concession. The Mayor accepted it and now the cops are being celebrated for having share the pain.

      Firefighters offered a 5.25% contract concession. The Mayor rejected it and now the firefighters are being scapegoated as greedy and selfish.

      A little straight talk from our local media would go a long way towards removing all the rhetoric in this political battle between Mayor Reed and the firefighters. We don’t care who’s wrong or right. Get the back to work, Chuck.

      • See prior comment. SJPD gave up 5% last year to fund GASB which fire did not and also gave up their uniform allowance. The amount they have given back is over 12%, not just 5.25%. Hopefully, fire will not have to give up this much.

  7. As it happened I went by a fire last Friday (Aug 27th) during the period under scrutiny. It was in the self-storage place south of 280 off Lincoln. I didn’t see any firefighters there, although it was hard to see anything because of all the smoke.

    No mention of the fire in the Merc, although it (the fire) put up a column of smoke that was visible a long way way. Would that the Merc could put up such a column of smoke!

    I did hear a lot of sirens after quitting the area.

    How big does a fire have to be before it gets covered in the Merc?

    There was a police shutdown of Taylor at Stockton on Thursday night (Aug 26th) with a whole lot of cop cars and yellow tape, etc., and there still hasn’t been any reporting as to what that was all about.

    • 10 MHz Days,” How big does a fire have to be before it gets covered in the Merc?” Unless it is a story that bashes someone in office, or the SJPD, or the SJPD Chief, they aren’t interested in reporting stories.

      I’ve held two candle lit vigil for victims of violent crime and the Merc didn’t bother to cover that last year or this year, but they are the first to report a criminal pulling a knife on his roommate, threatening to kill him, and blame the Police for excessive force because the criminal refused to follow their directives.

      The Merc is too busy reporting gossip, regurgitating other media stories, and stirring the pot to give one dam about the facts, or reporting things we want to know about. Don’t reply on them for the news or you’ll be SOL!

  8. Fly,
    Just to be accurate, San Jose police officers LAST year voted to give back 5% of their pay to fund GASB, voted this year to give up another 5.25% this year, and also voted to suspend their uniform allowance which comes out to another 1-2% pay cut. Over the past year and a half they have given back about 12% of their paycheck. They also pay about 22% of their gross pay into their own retirement system. This is the highest percentage of any police department in the United States, and after next summer it will be closer to 25%.

    • 22% of gross pay into retirement is extremely difficult to believe.  No cop could qualify for a home loan even in the good times if they took 22% off the top.  How much of that is the cop’s contribution and how much comes from the city?

      • Total compensation is the term used to describe all the associated costs with a public employee.  The advertised salary does not include the medical, pension, insurance, and other misc costs, but these do add up and inflate the real costs of making the payroll for every new hire.

        Most cities have been tricked into paying 100% of the pension contributions (CalPERS in most cases, so that both the employee and employer portions comes out of the city budget.)  SJ has charter language specifying rations of contributions, so at least here the employee actually pays about 15% toward the costs of the pension benefit.

        To get around the charter language, they are calling the increased contributions “surcharges for investment shortfalls.”

        I actually prefer a hybrid system with a 50-50 split for pension contributions coming from the employee and employer rather than the “second tier solution” that doesn’t really fix much (except encouraging seeking positions elsewhere where its not been implemented.)

        The only advantage of the 2nd tier benefit for new hires is that it screws people who haven’t been hired yet and will help the problem in about 10-15 years.  Nice. :-(

        • Blair,
          Again, SJPD pays a little less than 22% of their gross salary towards retirees health care and pension costs, not 15%. You can confirm this with the city or the SJPOA.

        • Here is another interesting factoid about police retirements Tom.  All these disgruntled people are calling for police and fire departments to use the 401K system like private industry.  I suppose they believe that this will then reduce costs for the city and therefore, reduce their taxes but increase services.  First, that is a pipe dream.  The City of San Jose will continue to suck money in like some giant out of control bureaucratic vacuum no matter what kind of cutbacks are levied on their employees.

          Second, across the country many younger police officers are actually asking their employers to abandon the pension for life model that has been traditional in favor of a 401K system.  Now, why would they do that?  Well, old school officers will tell you that when they started police work was viewed as somewhat of a calling.  Many officers join up not only because of the retirement benefits and adequate pay, but for more altruistic reasons.  Service to their community, giving back to their fellow citizens, and making a difference were the order of the day. 

          This meant that an officer wanted to stay put within the jurisdiction that they chose.  Especially if they were a home town product and were helping their own communities.  However, the younger generation tends to be more focused on advancing their financial status, are more adaptable to their environment, and increasingly fluid in their decision making.  I’m not saying this is necessarily bad, just a reality and certainly the situation for many white collar workers in this part of the country.  Much like Silicon Valley workers, this new breed of officer tends to keep one eye on the current job and the other eye on the job ads.  Given the opportunity to increase their salary and benefits, these newer officers are much more willing to jump ship and change agencies.

          So, there is a real attraction for having a 401K retirement system as a police officer that you can take with you wherever you go.  If you don’t like working for the City of San Jose anymore, just move on over to Milpitas, Santa Clara, or even Los Angeles or to another state.  If your retirement is not tied to your agency or city, your loyalty to that city or department is significantly decreased.  This is especially attractive given the opportunities provided San Jose officers within the agency.  Many San Jose officers are able to work a variety of assignments that are the envy of officers at smaller agencies.  This makes them a rather attractive candidate should they apply elsewhere.

          As a result, people should be careful what they wish for.  Many traditional officers feel a sense of loyalty to their agency and their community.  When their city takes care of them, they are more inclined to work harder.  When their citizens treat them like one of their own, they usually respond in kind.  However, with a mobile retirement system, an officer can simply apply for another agency and move on whenever the grass looks greener.  The moment a San Jose police officer feels like the city leadership and the community don’t appreciate them or want to cut back on their salaries and benefits, they pack their bags and head elsewhere without looking back.

          Actually, this is starting to sound pretty good given the direction our economy is going.  Maybe more older officers should shed those antiquated notions of loyalty, camaraderie, faithfulness, and longevity in favor of a new carpet-bagger style of policing.  Perhaps citizens should get used to the idea of having officers respond to their calls, investigate their cases, and provide them services that are continually looking to find even better working conditions and are more hired guns than fellow citizens. 

          The more I think about this, the more I like it.  San Jose can turn into a training ground for officers who will take their skill sets to other agencies as better job offers crop up.  An officer can work in San Jose for a few years, have several different assignments that they wouldn’t be able to work in a small agency, and then take that resume on the road selling their skills to the highest bidder.  Their 401K will follow them wherever they go so there is no real reason to stay in San Jose for any length of time.  Yep, I’m seeing some real attraction here for a 401K system in San Jose.  And, why just apply this to the Police Department.  I say all city workers should be in this situation. 

          Can you imagine the constant turnover?  Oh well, that is what people want, that is what they will get.

        • Thanks for the definition of a contribution. San Jose PD officers contributes 22% of their gross salary, the highest of any city in the United States, which they voluntarily voted to do. They are paying much higher than the 3/8 ratio, which is actually a violation of the city charter.

        • (b) CONTRIBUTIONS. Contributions required to be made by officers and employees of the Police Department or Fire Department of the City to any retirement fund, plan or system for or because of current service or current service benefits of or for such officers or employees, in relation to and as compared with contributions made by the City for such purpose, shall not exceed the ratio of three (3) for such officers and employees to eight (8) for the City. The foregoing provision, however, does not apply to any contributions required for or because of any prior service or prior service benefits, nor to any contributions required for or because of membership in the Federal Old Age and Survivorship Insurance Program or any other Federal insurance or retirement program or because of benefits provided by any such program.

          http://www.governing.com/columns/public-money/Pension-Politics.html

        • The research shows that historically pensions appeal to older workers more than younger ones.  When given choices in a menu of benefits, younger workers tend to opt for higher take home pay over pension plans.

          The hybrid system is being tried in some places, half pension, half 401k type of system.  I think choices are actually good (and have the advantage of sharing more of the risk/costs with the employee versus the taxpayer being liable for the defined benefit.)

          In terms of losing good officers and other city workers, it’d be an issue for me and I’d like to work on recruiting more qualified local candidates (perhaps through a feeder program like ROTC where they are tracked for hiring with scholarships tied to good academic performance and public service work.) 

          Those altruistic values are a key quality that sets a great public safety officer apart from others and should be sought out in the hiring process.

          As far as losing greedy people (from both public safety and other city departments)who have no loyalty to the community, I actually think we’d benefit from losing some of those….happy trails.

          The current system has benefited both the city and officers in that it pays to stay with SJ long enough to max benefits and retire then take another job at a CalPERS agency where you can draw your full SJ pension and new salary at the same time.  Kind of like doing 20 in the military when you’re young 18-38, and then having that pension while you work a second career.

          Bay Area labor market is highly competitive in terms of public safety with lots of agencies in competition and close geographic proximity.  It actually helped force up salaries and benefits a little to far and fast as noted by the grand jury report in a kind of destructive competition.  I think its alright to start a little lower and have more steps, adding additional options for merit increases (corporal rank) that would encourage growth within the department.

  9. Back in ancient Rome, the firefighters were private companies that would show up at a burning structure and negotiate a price before battling the blaze.

    Sort of a mercenary profiteering type of business.

    I don’t really know what that bit of historic trivia has to do with our topic today. grin

  10. Some may claim that I don’t have my facts straight about the firefighters’ negotiations with the City. They may be right. When public employees, including firefighters, are required to participate in the Social Security System like all us private sector workers, then I’ll start paying close attention to the details. Until then I’ll continue to cling to my ill-informed and paranoid delusion that firefighters are profitting unfairly at my expense.
    Try having 15.3% of your pay taken from you and thrown into the general fund where any politician can throw it away on an infinite array of pet projects. Firefighters are extremely protective of their retirement fund, and rightly so, but they don’t seem to have any problem watching the Social Security fund raided by slimy politicians who recently took the loot and gave it to…you guessed it. Firefighters.

    • > Try having 15.3% of your pay taken from you and thrown into the general fund where any politician can throw it away on an infinite array of pet projects. Firefighters are extremely protective of their retirement fund, and rightly so, but they don’t seem to have any problem watching the Social Security fund raided by slimy politicians who recently took the loot and gave it to…you guessed it. Firefighters.

      A very good insight!

      The 15.3% Social Security deduction from the paychecks of private economy working schlubs is nothing more or less than an income tax surcharge.  It goes directly into the general fund, just like the income tax, and it is spent on stimulusses, porkulusses, and luxury vacations on the coast of Spain for presidential relatives—just like income taxes.

      But is even worse!  The private economy employer also kicks in another 15% which in the world of economic reality is just a way of disguising the fact that it is also coming from the employee.

      From the perspective of the employer, the cost of an employee is really 115% of the nominal salary figure.  The employer doesn’t care if he gives it all to the employee or some to the employee and some to the government.

      Without social security, the employer contribution to social security would go directly to the employee, and the employee would realize that his salary (the amount the employer pays for his services) is actually 15 percent bigger.

  11. The Firefighters union is starting to sound just a little bit like (in Tony Soprano’s voice): “Hey San Jose, that’s a nice little city ya got there. It’d be a shame if something happened to it…”

    Let’s hope that this time the arbitrators get it right!

  12. There are 3 reasons why San Jose has budget deficit ( more city costs than revenue ) 

    1) high taxes, fees and difficult, unpredictable hostile business regulations that drive businesses and jobs to other Silicon Valley cities losing $100’s millions in tax revenue since businesses pay more taxes than business services cost

    http://www.sjhousing.org/data/profile.html

    2) Over $100 + million city taxes is spent each year on non city government services, unnecessary or non critical services ( golf courses, sports team promotions, business promotion, museums, hotels etc )  and given to non city organizations ( non profits, developers, sports teams, corporations and political paybacks ) taking taxes away from basic city services

    3) excessive employee costs especially 75% & 90% pensions, sick leave payouts, last year salary spiking to increase pensions

    Cutting city staff who provide essential city services is not a solution only a delay in facing San Jose’s real financial problems

    • Low Revenues & Non Govt Spending,
      SJPD does not allow last year salary spiking as you state. You can confirm this with the city or SJPOA.

  13. Suck it up hose head…..plenty more firefighters ready to do your job!! We got dozens of military guys coming back, they can do your job twice as good half the price! Stop your sniveling be grateful you’ve been able to milk it this far!

    • So true. There are many qualified people that would fill San Jose fire fighter jobs for less pay. A college degree is not required and hundreds apply for every open spot.

    • How about this; Exposure and Transparency….

      What really goes on during the slack time at an average of $100 per hour? Lets check the facebooks…the grocery store trips in the fire truck, starbucks anyone? Checkin out chicks?

      I challenge you firefighters, band of brothers, not taking a paycut… letting your team mates get laid off for a slight impact to your CEO salary…Shameful. No there are not enough of you to go around, possibly slowing response time. Is this in our best interest?

      Why don’t you actually look out for the welfare of the community? Park workers and School services are being impacted while you chat on facebook, waiting for the bell to ring…here is the challenge:

      No paycut…But…you will only get paid your normal hazard salary when on a call. When you are not, you are to be paid as the Janitor you are. Dont kid yourselves, we all see it. Suck it up and take one for the community that pays you, or, I think we should give our Vets these jobs as they are deserving and overall…more qualified.

  14. The primary “job” of government is to protect the welfare of its citizens /residents.

    With reference to the forty-nine (49) laid off firefighters, Mayor Reed is playing a very dangerous gambit concerning the Mayoral perspective of reducing the costs associated with the deficit.

    Mayor Reed’s reoccuring mantra is predicated on attacks to Police and Fire Retirement systems that for as long as He and other Councilmembers have been in office supported to the hilt.

    Also constantly waived as a banner of righteousness, Mayor Reed uses the aspect of closing libraries and community centers as bait for the media and the voting public to consume as the rationale to cut the Fire Department. Either cut the Fire Fighter’s pay or libraries and community centers will close.

    Mayor reed fails misrerably to consider “cuts and or complete eliminations of other sectors of San Jose’s bloated, unproductive administration”.

    For example, their is the vaulted “Office of Economic Development” whose real achievement is their ability to exsist, period. More manure comes from the work product of this entity than a stockyard on I-5.

    From the “Tesla Motors” embarrasment. losing $500,000 of taxpayer money on Mercadoa Suvianda,the failed “Entertainment Zone” issues,the failed “social engineering aspects of creating a “night-life” for the Downtown and to the botched relationship with Team San Jose. There are many other issues concerning this entity.

    The abject failures of OED should be enough to signal a “regime change” within the Office of the City Manager for more savings and through the elimination of “layers upon layers of redundant administrative systems”.

    One of these “redundant systems” is the “Private Army” in the guise of Mayor Reed’s staff. When one reviews the structue and economic outlay for this allocation of taxpayer monies with reference to similar staff and functions within the Office of the City Manager it is all to clear that “someone is lying” about the money for the Fire Fighters.

    “Employee Relations”, another fat and juicy entity nested within the Office of the City Manager is another example of wasted taxpayer revenue. For example, “Employee Relations” could not function at all without the Office of the City Attorney. Thus, one might ask, “Why not eliminate Employee Relations all together and let the City Attorney run the show.” Savings from the elimination of “Employee Relations” even with fund transfers to the City Attorney to maintain the functions of this entity will still leave money for the Fire Fighters.

    The aforementioned entities just represent “a few areas” which San Jose’s government” could be restructured to provide for ensuring the Public’s safety.

    There will also need to be changes to the City Charter with reference to disantling the Office of the City Manager, but this is a topic for another day.

    Now, with reference to the costs associated with the Fire Fighters. First, ask yourself the “burning question”, who enters “burning buildings to save us from burning to death and in doing so risks life, limb and also burning to death”? Fire Fighters.

    Mayor Reed has decided to keep the aforementioned entities while cutting Public Safety. I do not concur.

    I hope no one “burns to death”.

    David S. Wall

    • > Now, with reference to the costs associated with the Fire Fighters. First, ask yourself the “burning question”, who enters “burning buildings to save us from burning to death and in doing so risks life, limb and also burning to death”? Fire Fighters.

      A strident and hysterical partisan diatribe which, as is typical, shouts down the relevant questions rather than answering them.

      Relevant question #1: How big would the city’s public safety budget need to be to guarantee that NO San Jose resident, companion animal, pet hamster or parakeet is EVER harmed in a fire?

      Relevant question #2: Does the city have enough money to pay for perfect fire safety?

      Relevant question #3: Is the Obama administration going to give San Jose enough stimulus money to allow it to pay for perfect fire safety?

      Relevant question #4: If there is not enough money available to San Jose to pay for perfect fire safety, how much fire safety SHOULD San Jose pay for and how many incinerated residents, companion animals, hamsters and parakeets should it accept?

      Answers, please.

      Note, vague or evasive answers such as “more”, or “not enough”, or “you can’t put a price on a hamster’s life” will be deemed non-responsive and given an “F” grade.

  15. America’s 10 Most Dangerous Jobs

    Last year 4,340 people died on the job. That is a huge number of lives lost and families affected, but the interesting fact is that number is a 16.8% decrease from 2008, and the rate of 3.3 deaths per 100,000 workers is the lowest ever reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

    What follows is a list of the 10 most dangerous jobs in the US, in terms of fatalities per 100,000 workers.

    1. Fisherman: Fatality rate: 200 per 100,000 – Median wages: $23,600. I was surprised to see fishermen top the list of the most dangerous professions in the US, but then I remembered watching a few episodes of Deadliest Catch. Fishermen are routinely exposed to the elements and heavy equipment, all of which can be dangerous. The recent oil spill in the gulf exposed thousands of fishermen to oil and other chemical pollutants, so we may see the effects from that in the near future. Is it worth it? Some Alaskan fishermen have earned up to $100,000 for only a couple days work. But as you can see, most fishermen only scrape by, earning median wages of $23,600.

    2. Logger: Fatality rate: 61.8 per 100,000 – Median wages: $34,440. Logging is the number two most dangerous job on the list, but a quick look at the numbers shows over 3 times as many fishermen die from work related injuries than the number two item on the list. Loggers work with heavy equipment and often in remote locations; the location and lack of full medical facilities often increasing the risk of injury related deaths.

    3. Airline Pilots: Fatality rate: 57.1 per 100,000 – Median wages: $106,240. This statistic might be a little misleading as there aren’t many commercial airline crashes in the US in any given year. Most pilot deaths come from small one and two engine aircraft. The salary might be slightly misleading as well – it seems to be skewed toward higher paid commercial airline pilots, who generally have a safer job than other pilots. Still, piloting is a dangerous profession, even with new technology and arguably the safest aircraft and procedures in the history of man.

    4. Farmers and ranchers: Fatality rate: 35.8 per 100,000 – Median wages: $32,350. Farmers are exposed to the elements, heavy machinery, large animals, and many other dangerous activities. Many farmers also work under pressure. For example, growing crops takes all season, but harvesting usually needs to be completed as quickly as possible because the machinery often needs to be used at other locations.

    5. Roofers: Fatality rate: 34.7 per 100,000 – Median wages: $33,970. Roofing is a difficult and dangerous profession with injuries related to falls, tools and equipment, hot tar, exposure to the elements and more.

    6. Ironworkers: Fatality rate: 30.3 per 100,000 – Median wages: $44,500. Have you ever seen a skyscraper being built? It’s amazing to watch those guys walking across a couple inch piece of steel several hundred feet above the street. It’s also incredibly dangerous. Safety measures and regulations have come a long way in the last few decades, but this is still one of the most dangerous professions.

    7. Sanitation Worker: Fatality rate: 25.2 per 100,000 – Median wages: $32,070. Large equipment, and exposure to chemicals and the elements make this a more dangerous profession than many would assume.

    8. Industrial machinist: Fatality rate: 18.5 per 100,000 – Median wages: $39,600. Accidents with heavy machinery are the most common cause of death for this career field.

    9. Truckers and drivers/sales delivery workers: Fatality rate: 18.3 per 100,000 – Median wages: $37,730. Truck drivers don’t lead the list the list in terms of deaths per 100,000 workers, but they actually lead the list when it comes to total numbers of deaths because there are more truckers and deliverymen than the other professions. Accidents and weather are the main causes of death on the job.

    10. Construction laborer: Fatality rate: 18.3 per 100,000 – Median wages: $29,150. Heavy machinery and accidents with construction equipment lead the way.

      • I’ve often responded to my customers’ emergencies in the middle of the night- in stormy weather- to do dangerous work. A sense of duty and a respect for these people restrained me from ripping them off. I guess I’d never make it as a fireman.

    • To Totally Confused

      Just a response to your recent post which I think is in reference to my September 28th post.  The car you saw at the Annaul Car Show was not mine, it was a car that beleonged to friend of Angela’s who works at the BFO Campus.  My 64 1/2 Mustang which still needs some work was there, as it has been for all annual car shows.

      Darryl