One of the Unlucky Few
By: Al Douglas, Engine 8
For those of you who don’t know me, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Al Douglas and in the current issue of our pension upgrade to 3% @ 55, 1 am considered one of the “unlucky few.” I am considered this, along with over 100 others, because I came into the Fire Department at a young age. I would like to talk about this issue from my perspective.

3% @ 55 vs. 3% @ 50

First of all let’s discuss the differences of these two options. Both were presented in a survey to possible city voters with a greater number willing to support the 55 option, so that is the one the Union will be pushing for in the November ballot. I am extremely grateful for everything the Union has done for us and know what a very thankless job it can be. However, I believe that after the survey was done, the membership should have voted on which option we should push. An issue this big and effecting so many should be discussed by the whole. These two options take completely different views of the careers of the membership. 3% @ 55 is based solely on the age that the member was when he or she entered the department. 3% @ 50 is based on the service time of each member. Since we cannot retire with service until we are at least 50 years old, 3% @ 50 makes everyone equal in time when they reach 50. If you were 21 when you came in, you have 29 years of service, therefore 87%. But if you were 25, you have 25 years of service equaling 75%. Under the 3% @ 55 plan, the 21 year old would have to do approximately 33 years to the 30 of the 25 year old. Now this might not seem like such a huge difference to many, but it proves that our career time is not equal.


How many times in the Main Line or around the firehouse there is the discussion of equality? How many of us agree that with promotions, the best on the test should be the first to be hired? Other factors have also come up here, such as specialized class and service time. Yet when it comes down to an issue of two firefighters who sat next to each other in the tower having to work two completely different amounts of time to achieve the same retirement benefit, many just write it off or tell us that we are “lucky” to get the job as young as we did. Hell, some even say we shouldn’t have come in so early. In his column, Brother Sikora tried to equate this feeling of inequality by us “unlucky few” to the number of runs we go on. The example was that, by our rationale, because Engine 1 is the busiest company that maybe they should get more money. It is true that there are very busy companies such as Engine 1 and there are some rather slow companies, however the one fact that is true is that every day we come to work we risk not going home. I remember Lou Mambretti telling me that he was going to go out to Engine 26 to slow the pace for his last few years in the department. Any day can be your last, whether you go 30 calls that day or just one.

3% @ 55 vs. 90% maximum

Now the one thing that is true about the 3% @ 55, is that if we go for the max of 90% we are all a whole lot better off, compared to the 75% max we have now. The issue here is that 3% @ 55 and the 90% max are two completely separate entities. We could go for the 90% max under the retirement equation we have now. Yet even under this equation for Tier 2 it is based solely on age. Tier 1 is based on service time. While the passing of this proposition would greatly aid us all, for some it helps in two ways and others, only in one. For anyone who thinks that my viewpoint is trivial consider two options. The first is how many of you will stick around the extra few years with those younger members you came into the department with and, second how would you feel (or how loud would you be complaining) if the tables were turned and we were the “lucky few” who were able to retire 3 years before the rest of you? Try not to judge or ridicule a fellow firefighter about something as important as our job until you imagine yourself in the same position.


Now let one thing be absolutely clear. I am for the unified stand of our department and union. If the 3% @ 55 goes on the ballot, I will not work any less to see it pass, nor should anyone else. Remember how hard a lot of our Tier 1 brothers worked on Prop D to increase our pension already, without it helping them at all. What ever the Union does for the memberships’ benefit, it should be backed by the whole body. If issues come up, such as this, let’ s discuss it in the labor forums we have. Everyone’s viewpoint can’t be the same, so get out there and let yours be known. Just remember we all have a voice in our Union and we should all be allowed to be heard and understood. While I might be one of the “unlucky few” in this issue, I will ALWAYS be proud to be part of the whole which is the San Francisco Fire Department, Take care out there and God Bless America.


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