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Feeling left behind, Tallahassee firefighters fight for a better wage

Posted at 6:24 PM, Sep 18, 2023
  • Tallahassee firefighters are continuing to ask the City of Tallahassee for a better wage.
  • The negotiations between the local firefighter's union and the city have been ongoing for six months.
  • Tallahassee Professional Firefighters Union President Joey Davis said 90% of their firefighters have to work a second job.

Some Tallahassee Firefighters say they are struggling to provide for their families.

The starting salary for a firefighter in Tallahassee is just over 44,000 dollars.

That is about 40,000 after taxes.

For families like the Shealy's, that means they need to make other arrangements to make ends meet.

Anna Marie Shealy said she is used to her husband working long hours as a firefighter.

"We understand that there are going to be some days that he's going to be home, and then there may be days where he won't be home that night," Shealy said.

Recently, she said, he's had to work even longer.

"It's actually really difficult for us. He had to pick up a second job, so he started a lawn business, which means he's gone even more, he's away from the house even more," Shealy said. "He's away from our daughters even longer."

Something that Tallahassee Professional Firefighters Union President Joey Davis said is common for their employees.

"Around 90 percent of our people have a second job of some sort," Davis said.

He said they cannot support themselves otherwise.

That is why Davis said the union is negotiating with the City of Tallahassee for a better wage.

"We've had ten sessions now," Davis said.

A negotiation process that has taken six months.

"We're about to have our 11th and the city hasn't moved really at all at the table," Davis said. "Their last proposal actually went backwards."

ABC 27 reached out to the City of Tallahassee Friday morning to get their perspective on the negotiations. A city spokesperson got back to our team Monday afternoon.

While no one was available for an on camera interview, I was told the average fire department employee in the city makes $75,000 a year.

In a commission meeting in August, Mayor John Dailey questioned the validity of the union's claims.

"Have we lost a significant amount of men and women from the fire department in the last couple of months?" the mayor asked the fire chief. "The picture that was painted was pretty dire."

"Currently I have two vacancies," TFD Fire Chief Gene Sanders.

"Ok, so it's not as dire as we think it is," Dailey said.

Davis said that response prompted more firefighters to share their concerns.

"When what I said was called into question, our firefighters said we just need to make our voices heard," Davis said.

That's why Shealy is continuing to be a voice for her husband.

"It's a lot of pivoting. It's a lot of thinking on our feet," Shealy said.

Firefighters and the city will be meeting again this Wednesday to discuss their contract.

Davis hopes progress will be made.