Mind you, Reno firefighters aren’t suffering from poorhouse wages by a long shot. A rookie Reno firefighter reportedly earns $40,000 a year base pay. Losing the 2 percent pay raise means they lose $800, but in so doing, they also save 29 of their brethren’s jobs.
Of course they had to drag their crying wives and children into the Reno City Council chambers to ask that their husbands not lose their jobs. Only then did the stubborn heroes draw in their horns and finally realize they needed to compromise or lose their occupation and livelihood.
My thought was, what is wrong with this picture? I worked 30 years as a teacher in Washoe County to earn $50,000 a year. I earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree plus more than 30 graduate credits above all the degrees. And a rookie Reno fireman earns more than I did and he or she only needed to go to a fire academy to earn what they earn in their rookie year.
Now, granted, I wasn’t a hero that climbed tall ladders and rescued damsels in distress through flames hotter than Hades. I started teaching in Gerlach, living in a camp trailer and was paid $9,500 a year plus $50 a month in isolation pay. I had just been discharged from the U.S. Army the year before, where I earned $20,000 a year. I guess baby killers are worth more than chalk pushers. I adapted to the approximately 50 percent cut in pay. The cut in pay came as a result of a change of occupations and not a cut within an existing occupation, but it was a cut nonetheless. The point is, we survived. It wasn’t easy and, yes, we had to hustle and adapt to stay afloat but we survived the cut.
I don’t mean to sound like sour grapes here, but somehow, I can’t get too worked up over the prospect of these firemen possibly losing their jobs. I am concerned that firehouses might be shut and equipment not manned properly, but when there is no money something has to go unless they would be willing to work for free until the funds become available, which likely is not going to happen.
Hindsight is 20-20, but maybe the Reno City Council should take some of the blame for this necessary cutback in city services because they are the ones who approved the construction of all the new subdivisions that caused the added fire service in the first place.
Just when the City of Reno thought all their budget worries were somewhat calmed down, now their police unions have their backs up over their pay raises and guess what? The police union doesn’t want to give up its raises, either, and so here we go again.
This is getting to be like the Saturday matinee serials of old. Will the teary-eyed wives of the cops come in to the council chambers with their children and plead for their hubbies’ jobs? Will the tough, pistol-packing, badge-wearing, macho cops wilt in the face of grim reality and acquiesce to no pay raises? Look in next week. What a cliffhanger. Let me get my soda and popcorn; I can’t wait.
Larry Wilson is a 50-year resident of Sparks and a retired elementary school teacher. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.