Instapundit links to a post at MISH'S Global Economic Trend Analysis
which points to a recent poll as evidence that fire and police unions have done an incredible job at selling a story of low-pay woe.
An interesting Poll by the Florida League of Cities on Police and Fire Benefits shows the public is way out of touch with how generous police and fire benefits are. When asked if benefits were too high, most thought no. When given actual benefit levels most thought the opposite.
These results show just how effective police and fire unions have been on fearmongering campaigns as well as bitching about how little they get paid and getting the public to believe it.
Now, I can't speak for the fire and police unions in every town. And, knowing what I know about unions, I'm sure that there is a valid point. However, I'd like people to remember one important piece of information left out of the poll and the story:
Paid fire fighters account for only 25% to 30% of the fire fighters in the United States.
I'll say that again - around 75% of the fire fighters in the United States are volunteers. They get paid nothing in most cases and, in a few, they get paid a small amount for every call they answer.
I'm one of the volunteer fire fighters and I get paid nothing for answering emergency calls. I'm not complaining - I didn't sign up for any sort of compensation. My day job as a computer programmer pays the bills. I signed up for two reason: the main reason was so that I could help my community and the second reason is that hey - I get to run into burning buildings!
The reason I'm mentioning this is that, unlike large cities with their paid departments, a lot of volunteer departments get all or most of their funding from donations from the community. And, in recent times, those donations are decreasing every year. A new fire engine can cost between $300,000 and $800,000. A new ladder truck can cost between $600,000 and $1,000,000. A set of gear for a fire fighter (pants, boots, coat, helmet) will cost around $3,000 and the air tank, harness, and mask we wear into fires can cost more than $5,000.
And, not only are donations always decreasing, so are the number of people volunteering. It used to be easy to get 15 to 20 fire fighters answering an emergency call. Now we're lucky if we get 7 to 10.
So, next time you hear about how the fire fighter union is clamoring for a pay raise or a pension deal or for some other benefit, you might want to find out if your local fire department is full of paid fire fighters or volunteers. And if it's the latter, maybe think about dropping a few bucks in the envelope when they send out their annual donation request. And if you really want to help, think about joining the local department - they'll pay for the training and the gear, all you have to do is commit some time.