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Report: St. Louis City employees, first responders severely underpaid compared to other mid-sized cities

By Jenna Rae

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    ST. LOUIS, Missouri (KMOV) — Dozens of first responders, backed by their unions, are asking for a boost in pay. This comes after a report was released comparing compensation among first responders in mid-sized cities across the country. The study finding St. Louis City first responders are paid significantly less than law enforcement agencies across the region and country.

“I love what I do. I’ve seen a lot, done a lot. I actually feel really good about what I’m able to do for the city,” Galen Taylor said.

Taylor’s been a St. Louis City firefighter for more than 13 years. He and his colleague, Paul Clark, both had dreams as kids to serve their community.

“I figured working for the city is where I could make the biggest difference,” Clark said.

Clark’s been with the department for more than nine years. The two fire veterans, along with hundreds more city first responders, found out Monday just how much they’re being underpaid. That’s compared to other mid-sized cities across the country, comparable to St. Louis.

“When you put us in the boat with these comparable cities, and we’re way behind where we are, that’s not fair,” Taylor said.

On Monday, first responders gathered outside city hall to talk with media about a compensation study done by an outside firm. The compensation study, that union members said the city withheld for nearly a year, found most of the city’s workforce is paid significantly less than cities in our region such as Kansas City and Nashville.

According to the union, the study found St. Louis EMS dispatchers, on average, make more than $39,000 a year. Dispatchers in competing cities are making almost $10,000 more. The study also found the highest-ranked St. Louis paramedic, a crew chief, makes 40 percent less than those in other mid-sized cities. Mid-range firefighters in the city are making around $57,000 a year, while others in competing cities make more than $62,000 a year.

“The list for hiring is always open, but we don’t get the applicants because they’re grossly underpaid,” Demetris Alfred said.

Alfred’s a St. Louis firefighter and represents the Local 73 fire fighters’ union. He said in past years, they’d have more than 5,000 applicants at any given time for fire and EMS. Now, he said they’re lucky if they get a couple hundred. Moving forward, all first responder unions are now backing their workers and calling on the city for raises and pay negotiations immediately.

“We love what we do, we love representing the city, we love working for the city. That’s pretty much it. A lot of us work second jobs, whatever we can do to make ends meet. We love what we do,” Dan Clark said.

Clark’s also a firefighter and representative of the union. He said he’s hoping to get into talks with the city on pay negotiations soon.

John Moten, with the city’s personnel department, said potential negotiation dates have been sent to all bargaining groups. He said his department is also reviewing the results of the city-wide compensation study. News 4 asked Moten a series of questions regarding the withholding of the study and prioritizing certain departments’ pay gaps, but he has not responded to any of them.

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