Newsday
June 9, 2004

City workers rally at City Hall

BY LINDSAY FABER, GLENN THRUSH AND PETE BOWLES Staff Writers

Rally     
Thousands of teachers, firefighters and police demonstrate during a rally for new contracts, fair pay and better health benefits outside of City Hall Tuesday. (AP Photo/Adam Rountree)  

In a massive display of strength and outrage, thousands of teachers, police officers and firefighters marched on City Hall Tuesday demanding new contracts and pay raises.

The gathering — estimated by union officials at 70,000-strong and stretching from City Hall Park north to Worth Street — loudly protested their treatment by the Bloomberg administration, and insisted they were not going to accept contracts similar to one approved last week by the city's largest municipal workers' union.

Firefighters and police demonstrators waved signs proclaiming: "No way to treat heroes" and "Keep the praise. Give us a raise."

     Rally
  (AP Photo/Adam Rountree)

Banging tambourines, teachers chanted: "Extra, extra, read all about it. We want a contract, no doubt about it."

"It is a disgrace to call us the finest, bravest and brightest and not to treat us like the finest, the bravest and the brightest," said Randi Weingarten, president of the United Federation of Teachers. "If New York wants to continue to be the greatest city in the world it has to invest in its educators, its cops and its firefighters."

Mike Palladino, head of the Detectives Endowment Association, slammed city officials for not treating workers fairly. "City Hall has been sending us a message: Do more with less," he said. "My message back to City Hall: Been there, done that."

Jill Levy, president of the Council of Supervisors and Administrators, accused Mayor Michael Bloomberg of not respecting city employees. "He is so arrogant that he thinks we are simply the mules that push his wagons," she said.

Bloomberg, at an earlier news conference in Central Park, said the city would not be swayed by such rallies.

"If they spent half the time coming to the bargaining table rather than protesting... they would probably do a lot better," he said of the unions.

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Firefighters teachers and police officers applaud during rally on Broadway outside New York's City Hall Tuesday. (Newsday Photo/Robert Mecea)  

The mayor said the city would be happy to pay municipal workers more if their unions would come up with ways to provide more services to the city while saving money.

The rally was organized by the United Federation of Teachers, the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association and the Uniformed Firefighters Association and was joined by other unions without contracts.

Union officials said the contract approved last week by District Council 37, with 121,000 members, is unfair to workers. It provides a $1,000 taxable bonus in the first year, a 3 percent wage hike in the second and a 2 percent raise in the third, which begins July 1.