Wives protest, demand raises for Atlanta's first responders - KMSP-TV

Wives protest, demand raises for Atlanta's first responders

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The wives and family members of first responders in Atlanta took to the picket line on Thursday morning to demand a salary hike for city workers. The wives and family members of first responders in Atlanta took to the picket line on Thursday morning to demand a salary hike for city workers.
ATLANTA -

The wives and family members of first responders in Atlanta took to the picket line on Thursday morning to demand a salary hike for city workers.  They say their loved ones are forced to work extra jobs just to make ends meet, leaving little time for family.  

Mayor Kasim Reed has designated a 1 percent pay raise for public safety.  The wives of those police officers, firefighters and dispatchers say that won't even buy a single bag of groceries.  They hope to successfully lobby for a raise that's more significant than what is currently on the table.  

"My daughter cries almost every day, wondering why her daddy is never home because he is working four to six extra jobs a week on top of his regular 40 hours a week," said Diona Lester, the wife of an APD officer. "He is never home at all. And they need more pay. He puts his life on the line every day."

The group of wives and family members raised funds to put up billboards indicating that first responders are the last to get paid.  

"I personally have contributed for those billboards that you see. I did that because I want you to recognize that these people in here are voiceless," Kelly Uhlis told the Atlanta City Council on Thursday.  

Mayor Reed believes the criticism is misplaced.  Reed has defended his commitment to public safety workers.

"When I came into office, I was facing a $48 million budget shortfall. I gave the police the first step increase that they had received – a 3.5 percent raise -- in six years. The additional 1 percent means they would have gotten 4.5 percent since I have been mayor, in more than 3.5 years. Show me any leader who has done more for their police department than I have," Reed said.

Reed wants to give non-public safety, like garbage pickup and water workers, a 3 percent increase.  It's to make up for the earlier, unequal pay raise during the first year.  

FOX 5's Morse Diggs notes that the year after the workers were given the 3.5 percent raise, workers gave back essentially 5 percent to help the city with pension contributions.

Demonstrators said they'd like to see at least a 5 percent raise. The Atlanta City Council said they would talk with the mayor's staff about the numbers.

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