Nearly a decade after hundreds of firefighters and scores of police officers died trying to save others in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, firefighters and police officers are feeling the limits of a recession-battered public’s support, says the San Jose Mercury News. They face pay cuts, calls to shrink their pensions ,and even layoffs, as city leaders and residents suggest their pay and benefits are breaking the bank.
“You go from being the darlings of everybody, who gave it all, to now where you’re on the gravy train feeding at the public trough and causing all these problems,” said San Jose police Lt. George Beattie, president of the officers’ union. “It’s kind of a strange turn of events.” Like San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has sparred with police and firefighter unions, proposing a budget that will reduce their forces and squeeze pension costs. “People still have respect for firefighters and police, but there’s a growing perception that their compensation packages are a little out of line,” said Jon Coupal of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. “When the private sector is contracting 20 percent, and these guys are continuing to demand bargained-for pay increases and benefits, it rubs people the wrong way.”