Tulsa-Area Firefighters Rally To Protest Pension Changes

Tuesday, March 8th 2011, 9:44 pm
By: News On 6

Emory Bryan, News On 6

TULSA, Oklahoma – More than 300 Oklahoma firefighters rallied at the state capitol Wednesday to preserve their pension plan. Lawmakers are looking at changes but firefighters don't like what they're hearing.

Four bus loads of Tulsa firefighters returned to the fairgrounds after a day of lobbying legislators. In Oklahoma City, they held a rally on the steps of the state capitol.

"What we have to do is stand together, not only today but every day from here on out," State Rep. Eric Proctor, (D) Tulsa, said. "What we need are retired firefighters, firefighter's friends, families, running for the state legislature."

The firefighters watched from the state house gallery, hoping to hear their pension plan would remain untouched. Legislation to increase what firefighters pay in and reduce what they get out is still alive. 

1/17/2011 Related Story: Reports Show Oklahoma's Pension System Could Run Dry By 2020

"We're not opposed to fixing our system, but we want it done based on actuarial studies, not some legislators idea of how to fix it," Dick Cagle, Retired Firefighters Association, said.

Firefighters are concerned about potential changes to require 25 years of work before retirement, instead of 20, as it is now.

"A lot of them have to retire at 20 because of our job and what happens to us on our job," Dennis Moseby, Tulsa Firefighters Union President, said.

Firefighters pension is based on 50 percent of best pay. A firefighter leaving after 20 years gets 50 percent of his salary.Each additional year earns 2.5 percent. So, a firefighter who retires after 25 years gets 62.5 percent of their salary as a pension.

But they get no social security.

Though most firefighters put in more than 20 years, the firefighters union wants to keep the benefits they have. The union says its proper compensation for the service they provide.

"That's the reason we have the benefits we have because we do risk our lives and that's hard on your body and that's why we have to be able to retire after 20 years," Moseby said.

Firefighters recognize not many people get to retire after 20 years, but counter that by arguing they work 56 hours a week, instead of just 40, so 20 years on the job is really more like 28 years of work.