Laid-Off Gary Indiana Firefighter Panhandles Near City Hall

LAURI HARVEY KEAGLE
The Times of Northwest Indiana
Reprinted with Permission

GARY - For the past 10 years, Jason Pickering made a living helping others. Now, he says he's the one relying on the kindness of strangers.



Laid-off Gary firefighter Jason Pickering, of Valparaiso, stands Monday near Gary City Hall with a sign seeking donations. One of 34 firefighters laid off last month, the father of four said he can't get by on unemployment alone. He said he took in $400 in charity in four hours Sunday.(Kyle telechan/The Times)


Jason Pickering, 34, holds a sign Monday in downtown Gary that reads "Laid off Gary firefighter. Family of six. Thank you and God bless." The Valparaiso father of four was one of 34 Gary firefighters laid off last month.(Kyle telechan/The Times)

Related
Laid-Off Gary Firefighter Takes To The Streets


Pickering, 34, of Valparaiso, is one of 34 Gary firefighters who were laid off last week.

The married father of four now has taken to begging for money on the streets of the city he served. Dressed in his turnout gear, Pickering holds a sign hand drawn on a square of cardboard that reads:

"Laid off Gary firefighter. Family of six. Thank you and God bless."

In his other hand is the boot he is using to collect donations.

"Yesterday, I was at 31st and Grant and got $400 in four hours," he said. "People were really generous, giving 20s and stuff."

Standing under the sign for the Genesis Convention Center at Broadway and Fifth Avenue, collecting donations Monday morning, Pickering said all he ever wanted to do was be a firefighter.

The South Haven native joined the U.S. Navy after graduating from Portage High School and trained as a firefighter while in the military. When he got out of the Navy, he trained locally and was hired by the Gary Fire Department.

Pickering said he was one of only two in the department trained to serve as a firefighter and paramedic. He served at Station No. 3 at 12th Avenue and Roosevelt Street.

He admits part of his goal while standing on the street collecting donations is to protest the layoffs and raise awareness of them in the city.

But Pickering insists the financial need is real. His wife does not work, staying home with their four daughters ranging in age from 2 to 10.

"Unemployment only pays $350 a week," he said. "I've got a house, car payment, mortgage payment, just like everyone else."

The layoff notices were delivered Dec. 27. City officials blamed the move on 2011 salary budget cuts they expect will be required by the Distressed Unit Appeals Board.

The state board granted the city $21 million in relief from tax caps in each of the past two years. Still, the city's property tax revenue has been cut in half since the tax caps were instituted.

The city also has lost revenue because of the bankruptcy of the Majestic Star Casino. Officials said the firefighter layoffs will save the city about $1.2 million.

The explanations are little relief to Pickering, who doesn't know where to turn for the work he was trained to do. The only department hiring anywhere in the state, he said, is in Fort Wayne.

Relocating isn't an option.

"We just want to come back to work," Pickering said of the firefighters who lost their jobs. "We took an oath to help people."

Copyright 2011 nwi.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Sorry, but you have no one to blame other than the Union(s). They have been too greedy for too many years and now the Cities, Towns, Counties and States all accross this Country are going broke because of it. You have to look no further than California to see that it's true. Total unemployment under Obama has gone thru the roof, yet a few FFer's get laid off and it's the end of the world. Don't get mad...you're just joining Obama's club!

Maybe if the Unions hadn't been so greedy, you still would have a job.



Sorry, but that's the FACT!!

Jack H
Um, you realise more jobs were created in 2010 than from the entire 2000-2008 period. Not per year, all 8 years combined. You are blaming Obama for America's unemployment problem? Funny that.

http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2011_01/027440...
Sorry, but you have no one to blame other than the Union(s). They have been too greedy for too many years and now the Cities, Towns, Counties and States all accross this Country are going broke because of it. You have to look no further than California to see that it's true. Total unemployment under Obama has gone thru the roof, yet a few FFer's get laid off and it's the end of the world. Don't get mad...you're just joining Obama's club!
Maybe if the Unions hadn't been so greedy, you still would have a job.
Sorry, but that's the FACT!!


Sorry Jack, but your facts are WRONG!!

Open your eyes to the bigger picture here. You are following the rhetoric of the people perpetuating the lies, the very people responsible for the economic crisis we are facing. The wages and benefits bargained for were earned over the years, these were bargained in good faith, and it is because of financial mismanagement for the woes, not the unions.

You say if unions weren't greedy you would still have a job. So are you thus saying a living wage and a fair retirement should not be afforded to anyone? No, a fair wage and a chance to retire is the American dream, why should people be beholden for scraps? This is not to say that times don't change and communities are strapped, but be honest here, the result is NOT because of union greed, to believe so is delusional.

Let's look at what drives an economy...WAGES. What we see today is the demonizing of the public worker and the outright lies perpetuated that their benefits are the reason for this crisis. It is lies pitting public workers as "The Haves" and everyone else as the "Have Nots". The ones perpetuating such lies are the ones who are to blame for the economic crisis, the top 2%. The people who hold the greatest amount of wealth in the country, the ones who say it is the wealthy who create jobs, the ones who want workers to be happy with scraps. They fear unions because the workers wish to have a say in how they are treated and believe that those working to make them wealth should deserve a decent living wage.

So let's go back a bit, it is WAGES that drive the economy, but what do we see today? We see people finger pointing at public workers saying we make too much and we don't live in the "real world" and we should come down to their level. Come DOWN to their level??? Since when are people content to see people suffer? Because my house needs repairs, yours should as well? That is what we see. That is the lies being perpetuated. So easy for someone to say "look at the nice vehicles those firemen have" without even considering what it took to get such a vehicle.

This is the crap the people responsible want you to believe. The same people who got a bailout a couple years ago, and are still paying out huge bonuses to the upper elite. The ones crying saying that you can NOT tax the wealthy because they create jobs. Well, Jack, where are those jobs? Who really is helping the economy? The wealthy who travel abroad, spend time on a nice tropical island, have fancy export vehicles? Or is it the worker who makes a decent living and may not afford travel abroad, but can afford to take the family to Disney, spending money locally along the way? Is it the worker making a decent wage who lives in and supports the community they reside?

No Jack, to blame unions as the cause for the financial woes is wrong. Again I ask, if upset with what someone else makes, why should they come down to your level, why are you not looking to bring yourself up? If content with your own plight, then why complain about others? Perhaps open your eyes up to where the greed really does lie instead of blindly following the anti-union, anti-public worker rhetoric.
The supposed savings is around 1.2 million dollars for the layoffs. 35 firefighters were let go. If you do the math that comes out to a little less than 34,300 dollars a person. That's not much more than your range for a "fair wage". How about you do your research next time before you make claims about how firefighters are living the high life. The fact is that the economy as a whole sucks right now. I agree that there needs to be definite cutbacks, but that should not involve minimizing emergency services, that is unfortunate not only for the public service workers, but for the public they serve as well. Seems to me that there are many other ways that we as a society could cut back. If you want to reallocate salaries, then why don't you look at those that are making six figure salaries, or the excessive spending on things that are less vital to human need, like entertainment or other luxuries. Our society has a hard time distinguishing between wants, and needs, and when times get hard people will deceive themselves into thinking that they need all their luxuries.
Vic, you're the imbecile, I agree with the former comment that wikipedia is not a reliable source. People can edit whatever they want on a wikipedia page, so if you are going to engage in a debate, cite a more reliable source for your rebuttals and comments.
so if he got laid off whos doing the calls i know its not the guys in the suits that still get there pay check just saying dont lay off firefighter u dum assess
You know these stories are becoming way too frequent, and I really feel very bad for these 34 firefighters. We all sit in our ivory towers and bullshit about what we think the problem is or the politics behind the problem, but what about the firefighters, there family's and most importantly what about the communities they serve. How about we have a discussion about what we can do as a firefighternation.............
I agree with your statement completely!
gary got the safer grant!!! 34 FF's back to work
Great News Jon, thanks for sharing. I see some comments by Jack and Paul and they make my skin boil. I work for a small dept (supposed to be 108 FF's at full strength, we are at 84 at the moment that includes the chief, and 3 asst chiefs), I am a very proud Union Memeber of the IAFF. I know my dept just like many all over the United States has offered up concessions, We just signed a new agreement with our city, our minimum staffing went from 21 to 18. No one moves up to the Asst. Chiefs car if hes off for the day, no promotions for two years (we are currently at 13 officers and suppose to have 20), no haz mat pay for members of the haz mat team, holiday/vacation sellbacks, and health insurance changes, all in all this will save our city this year alone over 1.8 million dollars. The number is high because our city was in fiscal emergency, hell bent on getting into it because they thought the state would tell them they didnt have to honor our contract. Well, our city since 2009 has tried to layoff 25% of the dept breaking our contract numerous times forcing us to arbitration. Well, we settled on a contract, thus meaning we would drop our grievances from manning and what not. We have done our part and to hear you two pinheads say what your saying is a disgrace and flat out disrespectful to all the fire service let alone Locals that have given up alot.

You sound like our govonor here in Ohio, who rushed through an anti collective bargaining law, pretty much ending the rights for all public employees here. There is a referendum process as we speak and signatures are being taken. So hopefully the citizens of this State will get the final word.

Anyhow, sorry for the rant. We all in the fire and ems service work hard, I cant believe I come onto a site like this and have to read crap like that. Go to your local teaparty website and post away, keep it out of here.
Great news Jon!
union s 1816 first union pretty good run!

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