Study Finds Some Tennessee Firefighters Paid Less than Federal Poverty Rate

The City of Chattanooga is facing criticism over firefighter pay. The criticism, leveled by local union officials, follows a 2019 payroll study in conjunction with recent claims made by city administrators’ that ALL city employees will be paid above the “Federal Poverty Rate.”

First, a 2019 payroll study found Chattanooga firefighters earn significantly less than other area firefighters. The starting salary for a Chattanooga firefighter is around $33,000. This starting salary is significantly less than the neighboring cities of Nashville and Memphis. In fact, Memphis firefighters starting salary is $18,000 more than Chattanooga, while Nashville pays its firefighters around $13,000 more per year. According to union officials this discrepancy has led to increased firefighter turn-over over the past several years.  

However, when Chattanooga firefighters’ annual salary is broken down to an hourly wage, the numbers are even more alarming. According to WDEF News, Chattanooga firefighters are scheduled to work 3,120 hours per year, or 60 hours per week on average. This higher than usual number of scheduled work hours results in an extremely low hourly rate of pay for new firefighters. According to Chattanooga Fire Fighters Association President Jack Thompson, the starting hourly rate for city firefighters is a mere $10.58 per hour.

Additionally, Thompson claims it takes firefighters a full eight years of employment to reach $12.60 per hour. Why is that number relevant? According to Thompson, city leaders recently publicized that ALL city employees were paid at least $12.38 per hour and the city adopted a plan to bring all city employees starting pay up to the Federal Poverty Wage, which for a family of four $12.60 per hour. Unfortunately, for city firefighters, it appears they are not included in the city’s plan to raise ALL city workers salaries above the Federal Poverty Rate. Think about that for a minute… City firefighter’s are not included in the city’s efforts to pay employee’s above the Federal Poverty Rate.

Here is more from WDEF News 12.

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