Memphis City Council faces criticism for increasing public safety workers' pay

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Controversy is brewing after Memphis City Council approved pay increases for public safety.

The increase was more than expected.

Some unions are not getting nearly as much as police and fire.

According to council members, four out of seven unions are only getting a one percent increase.

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The mayor said the raises that fire and police are getting are not in the city’s budget.

Memphis City Council approved five percent for police officers and 3.8 percent for firefighters—which is higher than the three percent raise Mayor Jim Strickland proposed for public safety.

“Now the tough work happens for the council now because they have to pay for those expenses by either raising taxes or cutting services to the public or benefits,” Mayor Jim Strickland said.

Council member Jamita Swearengen said unions such as American Federation of State County and municipal employees of (AFSCME) only got one percent, although they were asking for more.

“I felt it was a slap in the face for them not to receive that raise,” Swearengen said.

Sanitation workers, code enforcement and land surveyors fall under the umbrella of AFSCME.

"In 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr. came to raise the pay of AFSCME employees. In 2019, they still have not received a raise and we're talking about people who are on the lines every day, collecting the city’s garbage," Swearengen said.

FOX13 asked Mayor Strickland if he thinks the council’s approval of pay raises is the best option.

“I thought the best option was just to bring in my budget as is because we improved the pay of benefits for employees, pay being pay increases, benefits where the city was absorbing 100 percent of increase in health insurance,” Mayor Strickland said.

These pay rates will not be final until the budget is approved.

FOX13 reached out to AFSCME today to get a statement about the one percent increase, we will let you know when we hear back from them.