Carmen Cham writes:

It is fair to pay them because they do a dangerous job, the question is what to pay them; -insert perfunctory ‘market forces’ reference here. What pray tell is your definition of ‘market forces’

Fair question (if a bit uncivil and ad hominem) and a good way to close.

The city should pay them what it takes to retain and attract enough to maintain a desired level of staffing. The city had to raise police salaries because it was clear to almost everyone that retention and recruitment were becoming a serious problem. But when you have 1,500 individuals try to become firefighters and most competitors not forced to offer lateral promotions, the labor market is telling you that the city doesn’t have to raise salaries to keep up with market forces.

Now, to the argument that it is “fair” to pay them more because they do a “dangerous job” (quotes used because they are the poster’s words), I think that we are just going to have to agree to disagree. Do I think that firefighters do a tough job? Yes I do. But I also think high school teachers, farm workers, sanitation workers, doctors, emergency room nurses, and a hundred other professions do hard, dangerous and difficult jobs. How would the critics today choose which ones are worthy of raises and which are not? Who is “underpaid” or “overpaid,” if we can’t determine that by looking at the labor market? And by what objective measure do you find that firefighters do a job more related to saving lives than the emergency room orderly who diligently cleans up or the electrician who notices that the wiring is faulty or even the trainer who pushes us to exercise more and reduces our risk of heart disease? And as my third post tried to point out, the problem is that if one is dealing with limited resources not making these choices is problematic — responsible government means that when you raise firefighter wages something else needs to give.


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