The City of Raton has increased the hourly pay of entry-level firefighters to nine dollars, matching the state’s new minimum wage law that went into effect on January 1. However, the New Mexico Professional Fire Fighters Association says the city initially refused the pay raise, citing the existing contract that stipulates lower hourly pay.
“We all know that federal law or state law supercedes a contract,” said Robert Sanchez, president of the New Mexico Professional Fire Fighters Association. “We tried to contact them (the city of Raton), they didn’t want to talk to us, then I contacted the news media. They changed after that, I’m assuming that’s what did it.”
The Chronicle-News made multiple attempts to contact Raton City Manager Scott Berry for comment, but the messages went unanswered. “I feel like they did it out of embarrassment,” said Sanchez, “because they should be embarrassed by what they pay their firefighters in Raton. I don’t think they did it because it’s the right thing to do.”
Sanchez said Raton firefighters are the lowest paid in the state. “All they’re asking for is a fair wage. When you have somebody that is risking their life for you, going into burning buildings, saving children, these are hazardous duty jobs, and our firefighters risk their lives on a daily basis to serve the public.”
He also said the minimum wage pay makes recruitment and retention more difficult, citing Bernalillo County, which he says pays its firefighters $16 per hour. “That’s almost double what they’re getting paid (in Raton).”