(APN) ATLANTA — City of Atlanta police and firefighters packed the public comment section of the Atlanta City Council’s Full Council Meeting on Monday, August 17, 2015. They were there to demand a pay increase that was denied them when 3,000 city workers received a 3.5 percent raise in July 2015.
Mayor Kasim Reed justified excluding sworn personnel from the pay increase on the grounds that their unions are currently suing the City over a controversial 2011 pension reform that slashed the City’s contribution to employee pension funds.
“What I’m saying is, if you want to have a conversation about pay, withdraw your lawsuit and I’ll meet you in the morning,” Reed reportedly told 11 Alive television news.
“The action of denying raises because of a lawsuit on a separate issue, or in an attempt to coerce us to drop that lawsuit, is absolutely illegal; and if this Council goes along with the Mayor’s illegal tactics, then you are condoning his illegal behavior,” Stephen Borders, president of International Association of Firefighters Local 134, told the Council’s Finance/Executive Committee on July 29, 2015.
At that meeting, Councilwoman Felicia Moore (District 9) spoke out against the administration.
“Last I checked I was in America, land of the free home of the brave and ability to sue whomever I want to,” Moore said.
While the police and firefighter unions initiated the lawsuit, other employees who did receive a raise are included in it, Moore noted.
The mayor’s actions are “retaliatory,” Moore said.
The Committee discussed the issue at length, but did not reach any conclusion.
Since then, billboards paid for by the police and firefighter unions have gone up, accusing the mayor of not caring about public safety.
At Monday’s Full Council meeting, members of the police union spoke of the difficulty in recruiting and retaining good officers without being able to offer competitive pay and benefits.
“Some zones are saying officers won’t be allowed to go to training,” Steve Zygain, Vice President of International Brotherhood of Police Officers Local 623, told the Council.
Supporters also spoke in favor of extending the pay increase to sworn personnel, including Dan Grossman, who represented victims in the Atlanta Eagle case, against the City of Atlanta, over actions by the Atlanta Police Department (APD).
“I’m here to ask the City Council to reject the Mayor’s suggestion that Atlanta police officers and firefighters should be punished for asking a judge to resolve a question important to them and to their city,” Grossman said.
“Our residents deserve the best police departments that money can buy. APD is not one of them,” he said.