Lawton firefighters see results after community makes voice heard in support of higher wages

Published: Nov. 21, 2023 at 11:14 PM CST
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LAWTON, Okla. (KSWO) - A special meeting was held earlier Tuesday, where city council went into executive session to discuss possibly reopening wage negotiations with the Lawton Firefighter Association Local 1882.

The secretary treasure of the association, Nolan Berry made it clear you can’t expect change without first making your voice heard, and their overall goal was to open the line of communication between the city and the firefighters.

“We’re here,” said Berry. “We’re telling an issue that’s happening that a lot of citizens don’t know that there is a public safety issue in this city and it needs to be addressed.”

That issue? Berry said the Fire Department struggles to retain and recruit employees because of low wages, and the ones they do have end up work multi-day long shifts.

“They are struggling to maintain a balance between serving the citizens, and being able to be at home with their families and that balance is crucial to a job like this,” Berry said.

During the past several city council meetings, the auditorium has been full of people with the Fire Department in support of trying to give the firefighters a higher wage.

“The fastest way to build that line is for our people to be involved in the audience participation for the city council meetings,” Berry said. “It’s the easiest way of getting your voice heard when other ways haven’t been successful.”

And those efforts paid off as council came out of executive session and made a motion.

“I move to authorize staff to initiate negotiations as staff deem appropriate for the purpose of amending the parties fiscal year 23, 24 collective bargaining agreement,” said Ward 8 councilmember Randy Warren.

Lawton Mayor Stan Booker added, “The council, the city manager, the rest of the staff, the firefighters, we all have the same goal: pay our firefighters competitively.”

Booker said these negotiations are meant to be the interim solution until a third party study for an analysis on how the city can make long term changes for the fire department is completed.

In response to council’s decision, Berry stated he looks forward to future open negotiations with the city.

Mayor Booker hopes to see these negotiations resolved by the next council meeting on December 5.