LA QUINTA, Calif. - Thousands of firefighters across the state are asking for higher wages. The union representing firefighters with Cal Fire is complaining these crews work longer hours for less money than other fire departments in the state.
IAFF Firefighters is the union representing Cal Fire employees and is currently in contract negotiations with the California Department of Human Resources.
In La Quinta the Kotz family is enjoying some time together.
It's time they don't often have to spend this way. Matthew Kotz is a captain with Cal Fire and he's been a firefighter for more than 17 years.
"The kids are used to their dad being gone a good two weeks every month," said Carie Kotz who is now a stay-at-home mother. She quit her full-time job six years ago because it was more affordable for the family for her to take care of here two children then pay for day care.
In Sacramento, firefighters who work for Cal Fire and their families are protesting and demanding fair pay and better hours for Cal Fire workers.
"Our members are always there, 24/7 365 days a year. They are answering the bell. They are answering the calls and they are doing it to keep hundreds of communities across California safe," said IAFF General President Harold Schaitberger.
Here in the Coachella Valley the majority of our cities and unincorporated areas contract with Cal Fire for protection.
According to the union, Cal Fire employees are paid 30 to 90 percent less than other fire departments in the state. The base pay for a new firefighter is minimum wage $10 an hour. The same as people working in fast food.
"I'm not saying that flipping burgers is anything bad, but we do put our lives in danger on a daily basis," Matthew Kotz said.
The lack in pay forces firefighters to move to departments that pay better and have their firefighters work shorter hours.
"If you wanted to make more money and work less, I think that anyone would like to work for another department as long as they have an opportunity to do so," Matthew Kotz said.
"There is never enough day care, there is never enough people to watch your children. I quit my full time job about six years ago. I needed someone to be home with the children because my husband was not home," Carie Kotz said.
California Department of Human Resources is not allowed to comment while contract negotiations are being discussed.