The Philadelphia firefighters' union endorsed former city councilman Jim Kenney for mayor.

Members of Local 22 of the International Association of Fire Fighters, which represents more than 4,000 current and retired members of the Philadelphia Fire Department, voted to endorse Kenney at a meeting Thursday night, according to a news release issued by Kenney's campaign .

"Jim Kenney has been a steadfast ally of firefighters for over two decades," Joe Schulle, union president, said in a statement. "Whether it was fighting for city funding to cover firefighters' HepC medical costs, or opposing brownouts or forced firefighter rotation, Jim went to bat for us time and again."

The union's love for Kenney now is certainly a change of heart.

Kenney's initial call to abolish the Deferred Retirement Option Plan left him out of the firefighters' union endorsement list in 2011.

The plan, better known as DROP, allows city employees to collect a large lump-sum payment when they retire. People who enroll in DROP also get their regular pension payment, but one that is usually less than they would have collected otherwise. The program has been well used by police and firefighters.

Kenney, who often references his childhood growing up with a father as a firefighter, said in his 23 years on council he has fought for fair wages, quality equipment and safe working conditions for the firefighters.

If elected mayor, he said, he will make sure "those who put their lives on the line to protect Philadelphians do not have to struggle to get by."

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