The Republican National Convention is still more than a month away,
but firefighters, police officers and teachers have begun the
demonstrations at Madison Square Garden.
On Monday morning, the unions representing the three groups of city
workers launched 10 days of what they are calling "informational
picketing" about their stalled negotiations for new contracts. The
demonstrations are scheduled to continue around the clock, coinciding
with the beginning of preparations for the GOP Convention.
"We need to get a contract for our members," said Pat Lynch, the head
of the city"s largest police union. "It's been two years since New
York City police officers and our firefighters had a contract, and
teachers have been without one for a year. That's just absolutely
unfair. There has not been one negotiating session in which the city
came to the table prepared to talk realistically with these unions.
That needs to be changed, and we need the public to know that."
The Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, the Uniformed Firefighters
Association and the United Federation of Teachers are all seeking
raises and better benefits. The three unions also staged a joint
rally outside City Hall last month.
"Now, on a national level, the Republican National Convention is
coming New York, and we intend to inform the whole country that the
heroes of 9/11, who risked their lives and died in record numbers,
don't have a contract," said Steve Cassidy, the president of the
Uniformed Firefighters Association. "And people around the country
can't understand how there is no contract with a Republican mayor in
a Republican-controlled state with a Republican governor with the
Republicans coming to town."
The Republican National Convention will take place at Madison Square
Garden from August 30 to September 2.
"The mayor wants to bring the convention here to put the spotlight on
the city, but he refuses to pay the cops and the firefighters, which
would give him the right to put that spotlight on it," said another
Police officers and firefighters say they deserve better
compensation, adding that a new contract is necessary to prevent
colleagues from leaving the city.
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"In the wake of 9/11, the job that we do every day is dramatically
different," said one of the protestors. "There are terror alerts and
things of that nature. We do more, and we"re doing it with less.
We're losing people everyday to outside agencies that are paying much
more money than New York City."