Memphis Police, Firefighters Quit En Masse After Pension Changes

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In Memphis, more than 250 public safety workers have walked away from their jobs after the City Council made sweeping changes to the city’s pension system in December, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

In late 2014, the Memphis City Council voted to shift many employees into a hybrid pension system that has characteristics of a 401(k). The change applied to all new hires and all employees with less than 7.5 years on the job.

The changes have caused many of the city’s public safety workers to look for jobs elsewhere.

From the Wall Street Journal:

More than 250 police and firefighters have quit and new recruits are proving difficult to attract, after Memphis opted to end its traditional defined-benefit pension and cycle a portion of retirement benefits for many current employees next year into a 401(k)-style account.


Roughly 3% of the 1,500-person fire department quit their positions and dozens more retired last year amid mounting concerns about how the pension changes would affect them, according to the firefighters’ union. Both the fire and police departments are 10% below their desired staffing levels, according to union leaders, and recruiting efforts to replenish those ranks have failed to meet targets.

“Morale is probably the lowest it’s ever been,” said Michael Williams, the Memphis Police Association president who recently announced his plans to run for mayor. “People are turning down overtime.”

Despite fewer employees, a city spokeswoman said service levels at the fire and police departments are largely unaffected.

The outflow is so apparent that other police and fire departments are trying to court Memphis employees, holding recruiting events at downtown Memphis hotels, according to union leaders and workers.

One Kentucky fire department even placed an advertisement in the local newspaper, said Joe Norman, vice president of the Memphis Fire Fighters Association, the labor union.

The city’s pension fund was 78.7 percent funded in FY 2014.

The City Council’s pension changes apply to nearly 40 percent of Memphis’ employees.

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One Response to “Memphis Police, Firefighters Quit En Masse After Pension Changes”

  1. […] to support that sentiment, at least anecdotally: over the last year, scores of public workers in Memphis and San Jose have walked away from their jobs in the wake of benefit […]

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