Scranton Firefighters Risking Lives for Minimum Wage

Credit: Joe Kekeris
Credit: Joe Kekeris

When you think of minimum wage workers, it’s a good bet firefighters don’t come to mind.

Yet in Scranton, Pa., firefighters are risking their lives rushing into burning buildings, all for $7.25 an hour.

A fight between Scranton Mayor Chris Doherty and the City Council over the city budget has resulted in a pay slash for all 400 city employees—including police officers and firefighters—to the minimum wage.

Firefighter Andy Polansky tells he and his wife don’t live beyond their means. Their only luxury? Putting their two kids in day care.

Polansky says:

With the $7.25 an hour it makes it questionable to put them in day care. Putting them in day care is $70 a day, which means I work 10 hours before I can start paying other bills. We will cut back on everything we can, but we live a fairly simple lifestyle, so there isn’t much to cut from.

Trying to live—indefinitely—on up to 75 percent less pay means using up all your savings to pay bills, says firefighter John Judge, president of Fire Fighters (IAFF) Local 60.

We can’t keep going back to the bank for a loan. When I tell them I make $7.25 an hour, they’re not going to give me a loan.

Doherty and Council President Janet Evans say they’re trying to reach a deal by an Aug. 1 deadline set to get $2.25 million in financial assistance offered by the state’s Department of Community and Economic Development.

Until then, firefighters and other public employees are sinking into debt for doing their jobs.

This blog originally appeared on AFL-CIO Now on July 18, 2012. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Tula Connell got her first union card while she worked her way through college as a banquet bartender for the Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee they were represented by a hotel and restaurant local union (the names of the national unions were different then than they are now). With a background in journalism (covering bull roping in Texas and school boards in Virginia) she started working in the labor movement in 1991. Beginning as a writer for SEIU (and OPEIU member), she now blogs under the title of AFL-CIO managing editor.

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Madeline Messa

Madeline Messa is a 3L at Syracuse University College of Law. She graduated from Penn State with a degree in journalism. With her legal research and writing for Workplace Fairness, she strives to equip people with the information they need to be their own best advocate.