If you are a reader in Memphis, you will know about the upheaval being caused with the City and the Memphis Police Dept. and the Memphis Fire Dept. Many lay people are looking for answers and understanding to what is exacting going on! I’ve seen some comments on Facebook and I have had to just strike them up to pure ignorance of not knowing the facts of the situation. So I thought I would use my platform to inform – fact v. fiction. After all, I do have a vested interest. My husband has been a firefighter/paramedic for 10+ years with the City.
Since July 1, I have been studying the book of Proverbs. The first 8 chapters have a resounding, recurrent theme. Solomon, the writer of Proverbs, begins almost each chapter by saying “Listen to my instruction…pay attention and gain understanding…let the wise listen and add to their learning, and the discerning get guidance.” Without understanding, there is no wisdom.
1. Many assume that there is just an INCREASE in the health insurance premiums for the City employees. The health insurance is two-fold. For current employees, such as Jay, his insurance will increase by 24% by the end of the year. Collin will remain on his plan and we are assuming he will pay the family plan rate. I am required to get insurance with my own employer. So we will be paying two insurance premiums for one household. Retirees now have NO health insurance at all. This includes widows of those who have died in the line of duty. Now that would attract you to a job, wouldn’t it?
2. They (City Council) have been talking for months about doing away with the employee’s pension plan. Now remember, since Jay started more than 10 years ago, he has not been putting into Social Security. We have no Social Security benefits. We have a Pension. They want to go to a 401(a), not a 401(k). Having a pension to live on once you retire is the one thing that attracts firefighters and police to the job. They know after putting in their service, they will have a pension to live on for retirement.
3. The City Council has talked about taking away the employee’s death benefits. This is of great concern to me. Remember how the City rallied around our family when Trey was ill and after his death? I can’t imagine my husband being called to a City Council member’s house, falling through the roof, dying and I do not receive any death benefits. Well, you say, go out and get outside insurance. We can’t. Jay has a pre-existing condition – cancer. Many firefighters and police have pre-existing conditions, back problems, knees, shoulders, etc. that would make their premiums out of this world or impossible for them to gain insurance for their spouse to receive. These men and women pick up and handle 300 pound men and women as they pull them out of burning houses for a living. It reminds me of the Duck Dynasty episode recently where Jayce and the guys tried to be firemen for the day. Hummm….
4. I know so many are excited about the new projects going on around the City. But it doesn’t make sense that we are trying to build a “greenway” for bikers to New Orleans when we can’t take care of our City employees. There are many City projects that are either in the works or have failed. What about the Fairgrounds? Crosstown Building?
5. If you REALLY want to dig deep. Research the PILOT program. Payment in Lieu of Taxes. This is a program where large businesses are given tax breaks. It is a program that is offered to businesses to retain them in Memphis and Shelby County through incentives. One incentive is the tax benefit. Are you making up the difference to the City in taxes? Do you know how many millions of dollars have been saved by theses companies in 2013? $42 million. Okay, where’s that money?
Now…what if this was YOUR job? You would be praying for wisdom and our City leaders while supporting your co-workers. We need the support of our city. The elected leaders will continue to run the city as they see fit, line their pockets, put your public officers at risk, all with lower pay and benefits. They are tired of it and they are walking out. Is it right for our city streets to go unprotected? That is a call by the individual. But as it stands right now, if they put all these changes in place, you will have 65 year old men fighting fires because they can’t afford to retire and they will be dying on the job.
I know, be thankful for what we have. But if your losing it, why not fight for what you were promised?