DALLAS – Employees of police and fire departments were honored in San Antonio on April 25 for Workers Memorial Day because so many of them had been killed in the Sept. 11 tragedy. But in Dallas on May 4, they received a kick in the face from the people who run the city!

The main headline in the Dallas daily paper shouted, “Police, fire raises soundly rejected,” but they left out the real story. It started a few months earlier when both the Patrolmen’s and Firefighters’ locals threw themselves into the mayor’s election race. They backed upstart Laura Miller against the Dallas Citizens’ Alliance’s candidate, Tom Dunning, because Miller signed their petition for an immediate 17 percent pay raise. The AFL-CIO threw themselves into the race, too, and Miller pulled off a stunning victory.

A couple of months later, Miller joined Dunning in campaigning against the pay raise. In fact, the entire City Council joined in a political front to oppose the raise. Instead, they claimed they would give the fire and police employees 5 percent raises for each of the next three years.

In truth, they could guarantee no such thing. They might pass the first raise now, but they will face re-election before they can propose any future raises. Even if they could come through with 15 percent over 3 years, inflation would get most of it before the paychecks came through.

The Dallas Police/Fire Pay for Excellence Committee pushed for the raise by showing that Dallas wages are lower than in comparable cities. Even worse, their pay is substantially worse than in Dallas’ own suburbs. They claim that Dallas recruits complete long and expensive training programs, then leave immediately for the suburbs.

On the other side, the City Council and the “Citizens for Responsible Pay” claimed that a 14 percent homeowner tax increase and substantial cuts in other services would immediately take effect if the pay raise went through. Neither side used union printers for their literature.

The last bit of dirty dealing was revealed when the ballots were prepared. Instead of a simple “yes or no” ballot, voters were confronted with two legal-sized sheets detailing the proposed salaries of top officials of the police and fire departments. Any voter who found one fire or police officer making more than he/she did would be likely to vote against the proposal, and they did.

The author can be reached at pww@pww.org