Pension Controversy Reaches National Stage

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Before, during and now months after it was passed, pension reform for those who serve Baltimore is sparking fiery controversy.

Weijia Jiang reports this time, the stage is a national one.

Seven months after Baltimore’s mayor signed off on pension reform for the police and fire departments, the fallout fiercely rolls on.

“It is time for an open debate about this.  It seems like many of the political leaders in Baltimore have set such a low bar for hope in this city,” said Bob Sledgeski, IAF Local 734 president.

The unions already filed suit against the city in federal court for mismanaging funds to cover a $64 million shortfall to pay pensions.  Now they’re planning to stage a massive picket line during the U.S. Conference of Mayors in June, when hundreds of mayors from across the country will be in Baltimore.

“Unfortunately, it’s the mayor and her folks who don’t want to sit down with the police and fire unions, which is why we’re using the opportunity with other executives coming in June to have this national discussion,” said FOP President Robert Cherry.

This is the first time the convention of mayors will be held in Baltimore.  The mayor says she’s aware of the unions’ plans to protest, but she’s focusing her energy elsewhere.

“We disagree.  We have a right to disagree.  They’re suing us; it’ll be resolved in court.  They’re not satisfied with just suing us.  They want to sue and demonstrate.  That’s their choice; I’m moving forward,” said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.

The reform included increases to contribution rates, changes to cost-of-living raises, and maybe most contentious, an increase to years of service required before retirement from 20 to 25 years.  Union leaders say they’ll fight the changes for as long as necessary.

“At this point, given what they’ve done to our employees, what is left to backfire?” Cherry said.

The union presidents say they’re reaching out to mayors, state and national police and fire unions for their commitment not to cross the picket line come June.

Court proceedings for the pending lawsuit against the city are scheduled to start in March.

  • What?

    What you need is a massive sick out. Let the Mayor and City Council try to keep the streets safe that day.

  • willie joe wanker

    Governments like many private companies no longer can sustain lavish pensions of 60,80 & even 100% of regular pay. Its affect & people need to get used to it. The government “TIT” has run dry. I worked all mu life & barely was able to save anything near what a 401-k is today. They didn’t have such plans & I have to rely on my social security only. Teachers, firemen, police county state & federal workers can get used to living on less.

    • Liz Vukov Grogan

      While getting used to living on less, maybe you should get used to noone responding to that 911 call you place. Or how about this, when an armed robber invades your home, you deal with him. The police will be nowhere around because of all of the budget cuts and furloughs as well as the fire department. The reason they get so much in benefits is becuase day after day they put their lives on the line for idiots like you.

      • Ken A.

        Liz, I agree!! The police and fire employees sacrifice a lot more than just their safety; they work nights, weekends, holidays and double shifts. The are exposed to disease, psychological stress, violence, and unthankful idiot citizens like Willie!! Maybe his savings and pension plan wasn’t as good, but our emergency service providers sacrifice their lives for our safety. Willie, go spend ONE day at a fire station or do a ride-along with a city cop and see if you don’t change your mind!

      • Fred Flouts

        The big problem is the pension, fire police will have to get used to working longer. Simple fact, having folks retire after 20 years, then have to pay pension is not sustainable. With unemployment being 10% they’re sure to be plenty of candidates to take those positions to those that don’t want to work 25 years.

      • willie joe wanker

        Liz, get a grip. Governments are bloated with non essential ignorant so called workers just taking up space. If I call the police I need to wait an hour anyway. Call 911 & its a fact you get some surly coon that is insensitive. Government has a spending problem not a budget problem. Never have I seen such lucrative benefits & pensions for civil, county & city workers as there are today. All those positions are mostly filled by porch monkeys anyway. We all need to stop complaining & hold our public officials to a higher standard.

    • Brian

      Willie you do understand that the Police and Firefighters contribute their OWN money into a retirement plan?

      That plan is mostly sustained by its investments in the stock market and only a portion is funded by public funds. They are the ONLY agencies in the city that employees put their own money into a plan.

      Only After 20 years pre 2010 old system and now 25 years new is someone vested being eligible to receive only 50 % meaning a Firefighter making 50 K at 25 years retires he receives 25K from the plan he paid into. I know its crude math by a 25 K year pension is $480 a week! If that same retiree were to die his spouse receives $240 a week WITHOUT a chance of social security for being party to a contributory plan. Where’s the thousands you speak of Willy?

  • what

    The police and fireman emt’s should make a heck of a lot more then the do!
    And should never have to live on less, how dare the city try to rip off the people we count on everyday. Yea I have to live on a lot less but I dont wish that on anyone most importantly the emergency responders. Good Grief how can they attract new fireman, pd officers, and emts with this junk?

  • rusty

    Do you all realize that Cops and Firemen DO NOT get social security? They are exempt. The only thing they have is their pension.

    • willie joe wanker

      Hey Rusty, yeah & I just have social security. These police, firemen & federal workers can retire when they are fifty after 20-30 years, get full pensions, go to work as B.S. security or something else, get another pension & even S.S. Remember dummies you need only forty quarters to get full S.S. which equals ten years.

      • Jason Pickett

        What kind of full pension do you think we get? I was suppossed to be eligble for 50% at 20 years. What you also fail to realize is that we don’t retire after 20 years anyway. Also we take physical abuse fighting fires, carry obese patients, sliding poles, and many of the other things we do DAILY. Not to mention the psychological stress. Also are life expectency is 13 years less than the average person. A lot of fire fighters die soon after retirement. as far as calling people names it goes to show how credible you are. When you can refute with facts maybe people will listen. Until then why don’t you go crawl back under the rock that you came from.

  • joe silvestri

    mayor eats ass

  • Rev John


    How can a City do this to anyone ,not only are you hurting the Fire,EMS,and Police but its everyone that calls for help. Lawyers get ready.
    I would love to be there also and help at the picket line they all deserve our help.God knows they are always there when we need them.

  • Just my opinion

    Hey Willie its a good thing you have social security because these men and woman aren’t eligible to collect it.
    Fred this ones for you : Baltimore City cannot even fill the positions of the men and woman that are retiring none the less the ones that will leave because of everything the mayors office is doing to them. Unfortunately for your thought process theses aren’t jobs that you can simply put a application in and get hired. Most that apply aren’t qualified and they few that make it through that are move on to greener pastures within the first 3 years of their career.
    25 years of service to be eligible to retire at 55% is not enough to live on at all. As far as “public safety” goes the citizens are going to suffer as well.. most recruits are around the age of 25 so after 25 years of service that puts them at 50 years old. well now the 50 year old employee has to stay at least another 8 years to have a pension that they can feed their family and put their children though community college. So you Fred call 911 because your house is on fire and your trapped on the second floor who do you think would get to you first the 45 year old employee that is experienced and healthy or the disgruntled 58 year old who signed a contract, that the city hasn’t followed, is experienced as well but is smart enough to realize that these two chosen careers that these brave men and woman take are “young peoples jobs” and are to physically demanding for those ages.
    Well Fred in this case, maybe you should choose the 58 year old.
    The truth is these men and woman have far exceeded their promises to the mayor and the city, its about time the city finally keep up to theirs.
    On a side note, the police and fire department have payed into the pension this whole time, it was the mayors office that was borrowing our money and not returning it to fund other city services. Where I come from that’s stealing and the total amount would be a felony in MD so someone should call for a wagon to respond to City Hall for their ride to Central Booking.

  • Tim Everd

    Many people work for less knowing that they are accruing a pension and security for retirement. Take away their pension, pay them a lot more.
    The physical and mental strain on these outstanding public servants and their families, take a toll. Some of the highest divorce and suicide rates are among the police and firemen. I can only imagine what it must be like waiting for a knock on the door when you see on TV some policeman or fireman was injured or killed. So let’s add 5 more years to that stress.

  • J Z Lovelace

    I agree that their needs to be a change in the fiscal responsibilities of the City of Baltimore. I disagree with the City of Baltimore for blatantly changed the rules mid game with the players adding a 5 year sentence to a near life term of service. The City of Baltimore public safety employees that go to work and might not come home from their shift are not asking for any thing other that was contractually obligated to them. If the city wants to change the benefits for the new hires that is one thing but making existing employees bare the all ready heavy yoke of city fiscal irresponsibility. I am a city resident, the street I live on gets paved every year, no truck traffic, snow plow, salt truck so why does this street need to be paved every spring. The city employees are paid make much less the surrounding jurisdictions in all comparable career fields except upper management who use the catch phrase “to be in line with the surrounding jurisdictions” for their pay increases. We need to pull back the curtain and see who & why the money levers are being pulled in the big city finance office. I am thinking that budget is a ruse in shambles with too many other special needs with hands out. I know what my taxes are and if all of the residents are paying that we should be ok, so were is the money going try asking your elected official I have and I get “ It’s complicated.”

  • willie joe wanker

    There are a heck of a lot more deaths to long distance truckers than happen in the city of Baltimore fire dept. How many of you out there can retire @ age fifty or fifty five. They all get second jobs & even get small pensions from them & plus, they qualify for social security as you only need ten yrs in to be fully vested. These govt workers can walk away with five six grand a month so don’t feel sorry to bad. Frankly the reality is the system can not pay these retired workers for twent thirty years after they retire without raising your taxes through the roof. This is a fact with all municipal & governments positions. The answer is a civil 401-k type like everyone else has. The market goes up, the market goes down you go with it. I had to.

    • Someone who knows

      It sounds like this willie ain’t got a clue!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • Earl Baumgardner

        Sounds like WIllie needs to get laid. I hope you never need 911 Jack Ass.

  • Kim Nickerson

    Willie you are ludacrious to think that the average fire fighter walks away with five or six grand a month and I know from experience!

  • moleman

    How many slim cops & firemen do you see? All the ones I know are fat from eating all day & watching porn @ the taxpayers expense. I would have liked to have retired @ age 50-55, get another job & then collect S.S. That’s where the 5-6k per yr comes from.

  • Willie is a Dummy

    The reason the police and fire department need to get second jobs after retiring is because they retire with a meager salary compared to the average working citizen, and their pension sucks.

    You should have gone to college, then you wouldnt be spending your time blogging about how bad off you have it. Waaaaaaahhh, I’m a truck driver. Waaaaaah I didnt get paid enough. Waaaaaaahhh I have to depend on SS that everyone younger and smarter than me will NEVER see because me and my geriatric friends ate it up. Waaaaaaaaaah. Just sit back and enjoy the daytime TV until you croak, loser.

  • Joebalto

    what people don’t understand is a percentage of a firefighter’s and police officer’s pay goes into their pensions. The city needs to keep their hands out of that money and it will be there for them. And beyond popular belief at 20 years of service you only retire with 50% of your annual salary. Every year after that you get an extra percent. Moleman don’t talk out of your rear we don’t sit around eating and watch porn all day. First of all if you get to eat during your shift your lucky. And because of all the other work we do like reident inspections, training and building maintanence that comes out of our pockets not the city’s we don’t lay around. And as a fact by OSHA 15 minutes of our work is more the an hour of any other job and that places strain on your heart hence 20 and 30 year olds dieing from fighting fires. Get off you lazy rear and see what is really done by the fire and police maybe you will see what its really about.

  • J Z Lovelace

    . The social security benefit if you qualify, for any member of the Baltimore F&P pension is a little less than 12% if you have reached your quarters before you got in to this pension. Oh and if you die in the line of duty your spouse doesn’t get to collect her social security benefits, if she chooses to take the pension after the long legal event that occurs. I don’t recall seeing a lot of skinny long haul drivers either at the flying J truck stop the other day. The name calling & accusations are not flattering to either side so stick to the issues and not the off centered fluff BS. You can only beat the body for so long till it breaks down the average URBAN Firemen dies less than 5 years after they retire. Look it up it’s a real statistic that they don’t put in the recruitment informational flyer. I know a lot of crippled and broken firemen & Police they deserve what they were promised by the City of Baltimore. You don’t see any information on the elected official pension that is 100% tax payer funded, they have structured razes every year funny how that works.

  • TIRED12

    I really wish I was a police officer or Fire Fighter…so when Stephanie Rawlings-Blake or anyone who agrees with the pension cut called 911 I would say “Sorry but I am focusing my energy elsewhere!!” Why don’t we get rid of most of the dead weight state employees we have! What a piece of work she is! She could at least give th men and women who put thier life on the line for her, her family and her city a little more respect…

  • AConcernedCitizen

    The police, fire, and emts have been made targets by our government. My husband is one of these public servants and I can’t tell you the number of times he has had court on his day off, gone his whole shift without eating because he was too busy or had to skip out on his meal because he got a call. Let me tell you how many family functions and holidays he has missed because he was working, how many Christmas mornings our kids woke up and had to wait for Dad to get home before opening their gifts. Let me tell you about the times I couldn’t get in touch with him because he was in the middle of a critical situation and the worry that comes with that. How about the time that I heard on the radio that an officer was shot in the district he works in while he was working? Do you have any clue how worried you would be? How about all the “bad guys” that want to spit on him, scream, rant and rave….oh yea and the ones with weapons who have more nefarious motives. How about those out there who want to tell him how to do his job and call him every name in the book and argue their case on the side of the street instead of in the courtroom where it belongs. And he just has to stay calm and polite and tell them to have a nice day. How about the fact that he picks a vacation a year in advance and still ends up with court scheduled during that vacation? How about I could go on and on. I am sick and tired of these hardworking professionals and being made out to be the “bad guys” because the jerks in our goernment aren’t willing to admit they are the ones to blame. Why is Sheila Dixon who only served about 3 years getting an $83,000 a year pension? She left in disgrace and yet she still gets to suck off the taxpayers. Where is the outrage for that? Where is the outrage for all the idiots out there who work the system and suck it dry? STOP targeting our public servants who make so many sacrifices for the well being of us all.

    • Tracey Reitterer


  • WakeUp!S-Rawlings-Blake!

    I agree. These public servants do work hard. Why not cut the budget from the city employees such as the mayor and others under her instead? BUT NOOOOO I guess we you can’t do that. After all, people like Sheila Dixon even gets to collect more than $80k/per year from the tax collectors. It is just ridiculous how they will protect the city and the people in the city by cutting the salary and pensions of the public servants. CRAZY!

  • BCFD voice

    We operate under a cotract from the time we are hired. The city is now telling us that they are just going to change our pension which is part of the contract. After almost 14 years of employment I should be eligable to retire at 20years like I was told when I was hired if I so choose.

  • Chuck

    I watched my Dad go to the fire house for 40 years. Every day my Mom and I were afraid we’d never see him again. Every shift he rescues the grateful (and the ingrates like Willie) without prejudice. He is the greatest hero in my life.

    If they are going to change anything, it should not be changed for the personnel that are already working. You don’t tell someone they are eligible for a benefit and then arbitrarily change it when it suits you. Amend the system for the new hires. If they want the job, they accept the new rule. Anyone currently working should be “grandfathered” in to the plan that existed when they started.

    A firefighter’s son

  • willie man hanging

    Willie speaks the truth but you selfish ingrates are too stupid to accept that life is always about compromise, change is inevitable so adjust. There’s not a Fire or cop I know that doesn’t retire @ age 55 & that is young today. How about the poor working stiffs at Bethlehem steel who got nothing at all or the millions of others that need to work until 65-75? Be thankful you can get another job in security or be a mall rat police & still then after ten years you have Pension+ social security & your only 65. That translates to 5-6k per month. Or how about giving up eating donuts all day, watching porn & drinking coif in a squad car parked behind a lot & use that money to fun your retirements.

  • John Z Lovelace

    Willie you are on some kinda self important tyrannical moral high platform, get of the cross we could use the wood, to build an arch to with stand the flood of your tears from not being able to get hired by a public safety agency. Sir you are an arrogant ingratiate fool and uninformed as well , to any of the goings on in this pension debate. Further more if you had any sort of intestinal fortitude you would post under you given name not some Web-Nazi handle, so until you do your ramblings are just the annoying infomercials of late night TV static. Oh and if you can not comprehend these statements we will provide you with a vastly underpaid special education professional “Teacher” to help you comprehend the words on this screen. Try reading the other posts on this blog. The employees involved in the City of Baltimore F&P Pension system can not collect social security benefits past 12% if they qualified before they entered the pension system. So with your model of retirement system, are you condemning the people that go into the military and retire or stay in the guard or reserves till they can retire from their 2nd carer because they are only 38 at the end of the 20 year requirement for full military benefits are they bilking the system too? I don’t think so, The City failed to put all the details in to the media outlets it uses so you and large majority of citizens are uninformed to the true goings on of the matter. Plane and simple the city took it’s ball home because it did not like the other kids playing by the rules that they had agreed to in the contractual language. I know lots of people that get government benefits that don’t work for them and don’t have to be drug tested form them. Their needs to be fiscal changes to every thing the City spends money on. Trash bags cost 3 times as much as you or I can buy them for because of the city’s purchasing rules. Every one wants to help everyone else’s cause, try supporting those that selflessly help others with out question or hesitation to race color creed or in your case Willie mental capacity. They work in every kind of weather condition their is no calling out sick, during blizzard Firefighters work round the clock for 11 days straight clearing snow for DPW. The City buildings that they work and live in should be condemned. That is, If the city inspected them to the code standards that are in the code enforcement books. Lets see leaking roofs, broken windows & doors, lead paint, Radon, No heat, No AC, every flavor of mold and infestations of vermin you can think of, homeless people would not live in the conditions that most work in on a day to day basis. If you see a Fire house that is well maintained it is because of the efforts and moneys out of the members assigned to the houses pockets. The bottom line is that the City’s lack of integrity is in question here the, former Mayor got hers so I guess they don’t deserve what was contractual obligated to them. How a bought a little moral turpitude here from the elected official pension board on that issue. Wille if you need help with that last big word we can get that nice underpaid educator to came back and clarify one that too.

  • Nazicomputer racist

    Hey Lovelace, got your Ire & attention eh snicker mouth. Well like I said before in an earlier piece, No one held a gun to the cop & fire men’s head to join the force. They in reality probably were dumb uneducated slobs looking for an easy way to benefits & retirement early. Not good enough for any other positions at that pay grade. Believe me people most of these firefighters & cops would flunk most civil teats & private based on their aptitudes. Enough said, I out here a—–holes.

  • Nazi computer racist

    Oh, & by the way Lovelace, from your grammar spelling, you are the one in dire need of tutoring. I can see a bright future for you cutting my lawn.

  • bernard F Mc Kernan

    If you think the current administration, Democrats is bad with pensions, try the Christie approach of New Jersey. Slash & burn. The Republicans, Tea Baggers would strip everything. Granted, reform is in order because we cannot sustain the current level of payouts much like S.S. but unlike S.S. which has been raided time & again the private pension fund has been stolen by the likes of the madooffs.

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