HIALEAH, Fla. – The families of Hialeah firefighters gathered together Monday with a very public message about pay.
They are upset over a pay cut and the timing of the city's announcement about the cut.
Monday's news conference was organized by the Hialeah Firefighters Union, but the faces of the event were the spouses and the children of the local firemen and women.
The group marched from a fire station to City Hall, where they stood with signs and T-shirts.
They're upset over a proposed pay cut for Hialeah firefighters resulting in a loss of about $500 a month and affecting benefits as well. They said what adds insult to injury is not just that they're already one of the lowest, if not the lowest, paid fire department in South Florida, but that the budget changes were announced just after the anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001, and after years of promises to do right by first responders.
"On the day after 9/11 when most of these first responders should have been celebrated, all of our firefighters got pay cuts, and they are getting a lot of things taken away from them, including health insurance that affects all of us and these children," one firefighter's wife, Jacqueline Gazzola, said.
The families are urging residents to come to a city commission meeting Tuesday at City Hall wearing red if they support the cause.
"I'm always concerned about everybody's family -- firefighters. But I'm also very concerned about the families in the city of Hialeah," Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez said.
Hernandez said the bottom line here is firefighter pensions, and that while police and city employees agreed last year to changes in their pensions, firefighters have not.
"I'm not going to raise taxes, which is what they are pretty much asking of the citizens of Hialeah to keep improving their pensions," he said. "We have negotiated for 3 ½ years, and they really haven't given much, and we hope we can get back to the table and continue negotiations."