A Collective Bargaining Triumph
Lansing has highest per capita cost for fire protection
June 14, 2012



    "Bridge" is the online magazine published by The Center for Michigan, which describes itself as "a 'think-and-do' tank founded by Phil Power in early 2006." The May 22 edition has several articles on the cost of fire protection in Michigan. One of them says that of the 51 largest communities in Michigan, Lansing has the highest per capita cost for fire protection. This graphic is from Bridge:

     Lansing firefighters are represented by International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) Local 421, and the union really hustles for its members. Pensions are especially generous, allowing firefighters (and police) to retire after only 25 years of service. The pension calculation formula includes a 3.2% multiplier, compared to 1.5% for state employees. Pensions average over 91% of salaries.

     And the union keeps pushing. This last fall, according to board meeting minutes of the Police and Fire Retirement System, former IAFF Local 421 president Bryan Epling tried to persuade city leaders to approve an "early out incentive" allowing firefighters to retire after only 20 years.

    More recently, the union tried to convince officials working on the new Police and Fire Retirement System ordinance that the food allowance was to be included in the definition of FAC. At the April 17 board meeting, attorney Ken Lane of Clark Hill, representing the City's law office, said

The only point that I think Chris Lake [current IAFF Local 421 president] and I . . . the definition of Final Average Compensation for the Fire Department is as presented to the Board in the draft. Chris indicated that he thinks that's incorrect. I've checked with Sue Graham multiple times and I kind of left it with Chris saying I'm not going to disagree with you, but I'm not seeing anything to support it. I think that they're thinking food allowance and something else needs to be included in there and that's not what we're getting from HR. So aside from that issue, we're ready to move forward on this.

     FAC stands for final average compensation, another of the 3 factors in the pension calculation formula. (The third is years of service.) For all city employees, FAC is the annual average for the 24 consecutive months in the last 10 years in which compensation was highest. The pension for police and firefighters is calculated as FAC times years of service times .032, so unions are always looking for ways to pump up FAC by expanding the list of items that can be considered "compensation." In the current ordinance for the Police and Fire Retirement System, the types of compensation included in FAC are not specified  - unless FAC is the same as "base pay", which is defined as annual base salary, longevity, gun and clothing allowances, sick leave, shift premium and 4 holidays.

     Here are links to the Bridge magazine articles (all dated May 22, 2012):

And this from Slate magazine: