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Wichita firefighters see largest pay increase in decades with new contract

 Stephanie Yeager
Kylie Cameron
Stephanie Yeager, Wichita firefighter's union business manager, leads chants during a rally outside of City Hall.

The new contract was approved by 96% of the union’s membership before the council’s approval.

After months of negotiations with the city, members of the Wichita firefighters union will see their largest pay increase in decades.

The Wichita City Council approved the new three-year contract with the union, IAFF Local 135, on Tuesday.

Previously, Wichita firefighters on a 24-hour schedule mademore than $15 an hour when starting out on the force, which is far behind other comparable cities.

Now, new firefighters will make more than $18 an hour. Current firefighters will see a 9% pay increase.

“This particular contract itself is life-changing for us,” IAFF President Ted Bush said. “We can look across our peers, across the region, and say, ‘Yeah, we are paid to do the same job that they're doing.’ ”

The new contract was approved by 96% of the union’s membership before the council’s approval.

The new contract comes after the union held several rallies for higher pay outside of City Hall during contract negotiations.

The union tried negotiating pay increases on previous contracts. But it says it was successful this time because of a more supportive City Council.

“Unless the other side of the table is … willing to listen, it doesn't do us any good,” Bush said. “We’re just yelling at each other.”

The new contract also includes better pay for EMTs and adds Juneteenth as a holiday.

It also includes updated language for its nondiscrimination clause to include gender, sexual orientation and military service as protected classes. That comes after a female Wichita firefighterfiled a claim with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against the city for retaliation.

Kylie Cameron (she/her) is a general assignment reporter for KMUW. Before KMUW, Kylie was a digital producer at KWCH, and served as editor in chief of The Sunflower at Wichita State. You can follow her on Twitter @bykyliecameron.