SPRINGFIELD, Ill.–Hundreds of firefighters marched in their starched uniforms.
A phalanx of hook and ladder trucks from across the state lined Monroe Street next to the Illinois Statehouse.
A band of bagpipers played.
Somber politicians spoke.
And a wreath was laid at the foot of the Illinois Firefighters Memorial.
Bourbonnais, Ill., firefighter Bruce Spaulding’s name was then enshrined in perpetuity on the grounds of the Illinois Capitol Building.
Nothing was said about how Spaulding died, only that he had sacrificed himself for the people of Illinois.
The cash-strapped state of Illinois cut his family a check for $268,703 to honor the fallen “hero.”
There were no flames, or ladders or heroism marking Spaulding’s death. He died while mowing the front lawn of a fire station when his riding lawnmower tipped over.
Any worker’s death is tragic, but public safety employee unions have elevated the death of some to be more tragic than others.
Cops and firefighters can face dangerous situations, but the reality is those occupations are much safer than many others.
Farmers, ranchers, commercial fishermen, loggers, garbage collectors, truck drivers, construction workers, pilots, steel workers, roofers, and others are far more likely to face death on the jobs than police or firefighters, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
But police and firefighters have cultivated an aura of gallantry and sacrifice that they have parlayed into fatter paychecks, exorbitant pensions, and benefits unmatched in the private sector.
Public safety worker benefits have become the third rail of municipal politics.