The State Worker

What state workers earn: California firefighters

The union representing California’s state firefighters closed last year with the distinction of being the only state labor group whose current contract doesn’t include a pay increase.

The California Department of Forestry Firefighters made a decision in the summer of 2012 to ask for a four-year extension of its 2010-13 contract. The deal gave members security in exchange for swallowing a one-day-per-month furlough that Gov. Jerry Brown demanded all the state employee unions accept. It hedged against losing ground if the state budget woes continued, but it also kept members’ pay static well into 2017.

The contract was also a de facto bet that voters wouldn’t pass Proposition 30 in the November 2012 election. Then Brown’s tax-hike measure passed and the impact of the higher state revenues converted into modest pay raises for most state workers. But not the firefighters. The union tried to reopen its contract, invoking a provision that allowed it to renegotiate pay. No luck.

With raises kicking in for most state workers on July 1, this is the seventh in a series of State Worker blog posts looking at what unionized government employees earned last year. The numbers feeding the series come from the state controller’s payroll data. The figures include only regular pay issued to full-time employees represented by the 21 bargaining units that negotiate contracts with the state. Employees who earned less than $1,000 last year are not included in the calculations.

Bargaining Unit 8 – Firefighters (California Department of Forestry Firefighters)

Number of full-time employees in 2013: 5,731

2013 average full-time pay: $37,588

2013 median full-time pay: $40,693

Number of full-time employees in 2012: 5,646

2012 average full-time pay: $36,754

2012 median full-time pay: $40,903

Number of full-time employees in 2011: 5,735

2011 average full-time pay: $35,953

2011 median full-time pay: $40,470

Note: During the three-year span covered by the above numbers, firefighters were on 1-day-per-month furlough from July 2012 through June 2013. A new top-step pay increase kicked in last summer for senior employees. And a large number of state workers entered retirement. Keep those events in mind as you look at the figures.

The numbers do not include overtime or other pays common for firefighters because this series is looking only at regular pay rates in the state workforce.

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