New York 1 News

July 27, 2004

Police, Firefighter, Teachers Unions Keep Up Contract Protests Outside MSG

An unhappy labor force could embarrass Mayor Michael Bloomberg when the Republicans and the national media descend on the city for next month's national convention. NY1’s Michael Scotto has the story.

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The relationship between Mayor Bloomberg and the city's unions continues to grow more bitter. On the streets, a sign saying, “Billionaire Bloomberg says pay for your own raises - police and firefighters pay every day…in blood, “ follows the mayor wherever he goes, and at Madison Square Garden - the site of the upcoming Republican National Convention - protesters refuse to stay quiet.

“Our protest is going to go as long as need be,” said Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association Vice President John Puglissi.

Police officers, firefighters and teachers were back near MSG Tuesday, a day after a standoff with on-duty cops. Union officials claim protesters were threatened with arrest if they didn't move their demonstration down the block in order to give more room for the service entrance.

“We told them that we weren't going to move - we're not going to move,” said Uniformed Firefighters Association President Steven Cassidy. “We have a right to be here. Do what you have to do - we are not going to move.”

The Police Department says it never threatened to arrest anyone.

Cops, firefighters and teachers have been at MSG around the clock since last week protesting for a higher salary. So far, their demonstrations haven't swayed the mayor, who says the city just doesn't have the cash for big raises.

Bloomberg is still pursuing a raise similar to one he gave to the city's largest union DC-37, which tied pay increases to productivity enhancements. The unions representing teachers, police officers and firefighters say that's not good enough.

“They’re not even close,” said Cassidy. “Firefighters can’t pay their bills with that offer.”

The protests may end up embarrassing the mayor when the Republicans come to town. He already got into an argument with protesting firefighters in the Bronx.

But protesters say they don't want to disrupt anything - especially the convention - since firefighters and police officers tend to support the Republican Party.

“A lot of the people here have nothing against the RNC or the president,” said protesting police officer Ed Mangan. “It's a good location to be just to get our message out.”

A good location, especially when tens of thousands of people from around the country will gather there for the Republican Convention next month.

- Michael Scotto