Pension cuts could put retired Detroit firefighters on welfare

FireDetroit firefighters who retire after a dangerous, exhausting career face such staggering losses to their promised pension benefits that they could be eligible for food stamps, Medicaid and subsidized housing, the Motor City Muckraker has learned.

Unlike most public employees, Detroit firefighters aren’t eligible for social security, so they rely on their city retirement benefits.
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Firefighters with as much as 10 years experience may see their benefits slashed in half or more. Longer-serving firefighters also face big cuts.

“If implemented, (the proposed changes) would prove disastrous for our members, especially in light of the fact that we have no Social Security,” Dan McNamara, president of the Detroit Fire Firefighters Association, said today.

For new firefighters, the cuts are much steeper. An analysis of the proposal shows that new hires would receive pension payments that are just 20% of their final salary after a 30-year career.

Detroit is under the leadership of a state-appointed emergency manager, who has unprecedented authority to unilaterally dismantle negotiated pension benefits. Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr said the reductions are necessary to reduce the city’s mammoth debt.

Fire Canfield HolcombThe city’s financial crisis, which led to a bankruptcy filing this year, has hit firefighters especially hard. Those who weren’t laid off received 10% pay cuts. They lost fire stations and safety equipment. Fire trucks and engines regularly break down.

The city’s fire union said the proposal “promises poverty” for firefighters.

The reductions come as the fire department takes applications for nearly 100 new firefighting positions. Some are worried the pension cuts will discourage good applicants.

Other fire coverage:

Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.

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