New York Police, Firefighters to Picket NYC's Republican Convention


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 picketer.

Police officers and firefighters say they deserve better compensation, adding that a new contract is necessary to prevent colleagues from leaving the city.

"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."

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