New York Daily News

June 9, 2004

NY Daily News Front Page --Show Us the Money   

It's Payday!

Giant Demo by Giant City Unions

A sea of city cops, firefighters and teachers flooded lower Manhattan yesterday in a massive show of union strength aimed at winning higher pay from City Hall.


Big 3 pay a call on hall


A sea of city cops, firefighters and teachers flooded lower Manhattan yesterday in a massive show of union strength aimed at winning higher pay from City Hall.

Ground Zero  
Cops, firefighters and teachers seeking raises throng lower Manhattan. Some pegged the crowd at 60,000.  
Robert Williamson  
Firefighter Ryan Charles of Ladder 108 brought reinforcement from home in the person of Thomas Charles, 19 mos.  
John Walcott
Teachers, who walked across Brooklyn Bridge to get to rally in lower Manhattan yesterday, join call for higher wages.  

The crowd — estimated at 60,000 by union organizers — stretched 6 blocks up Broadway, from Barclay to Worth Sts., with sign-toting workers standing 50 across in spots.

The NYPD put the number closer to 25,000. Either way, it was among the largest gatherings of municipal workers in decades and recalled the heyday of union strength in the city, veteran observers said.

Carrying signs that read "Invest in the Best" and "No Way to Treat Heroes," many in the crowd invoked the memory of Sept. 11, 2001, when 366 members of the FDNY and NYPD lost their lives.

The throngs at the peaceful rally -- which ended with no arrests -- also aimed barbs at Mayor Bloomberg, whose personal fortune is estimated at $4.9 billion.

"We are not asking to be rich like you, Mr. Mayor," Patrolmen's Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch told the crowd. "All we're asking for is to make our lives better for our families."

Lynch then recalled the 9/11 credo, "Never Forget!" and added, "Ladies and gentlemen, I'm sorry to stand here today to report that they have forgotten."

Uniformed Firefighters Association President Stephen Cassidy even took a page from Bloomberg's book and urged the crowd to call 311 and complain.

"Tell the operator you demand that firefighters, cops and teachers be paid a fair raise," Cassidy said. "Take your cell phones out starting today and don't stop."

Many did, momentarily flooding the system -- but also offering City Hall a chance at a snappy comeback.

"People have been calling with a lot of noise complaints today, so it fits right in," Bloomberg press secretary Ed Skyler said.

While the crowd filled the air around City Hall with chants of "Keep your praise, give us a raise!" Bloomberg was at a Gracie Mansion reception for Russian Heritage Week.

Earlier in the day, Bloomberg suggested that the city — which had a $1.3 billion surplus this year but faces deficits in excess of $3 billion in years to come — didn't have the money to pay cops, teachers and firefighters any more than other workers.

"I think if they spent half of the time coming to the bargaining table, rather than protesting ... they'd probably do a lot better," he told reporters.

The workers marched to demand heftier pay raises than those recently won by their brethren in District Council 37, the city's largest union, which represents clerical and other workers.

The DC 37 pact, which in the past has set the standard for other city unions, grants workers a $1,000 bonus and 5% in wage increases over two years. An additional 1% could be added in the third year, provided the union agrees to concessions.

But cops, firefighters and teachers contend the city needs to pay them more to remain competitive with surrounding areas and, in the case of uniformed workers, to honor the risks inherent in their jobs.

"Frankly, we're tired of begging," said Capt. Mike Gala, 43, a father of three assigned to Ladder 148 in Borough Park, Brooklyn. "It's a shame."

"We're talking about competitive wages and decent working conditions, and treating people with respect and dignity," said teachers union President Randi Weingarten as she led hundreds of teachers over the Brooklyn Bridge toward the rally.

Two potential 2005 mayoral rivals — city Controller William Thompson and City Council Speaker Gifford Miller — addressed the crowd. The speakers also included actors Alec Baldwin and Steve Buscemi, a former firefighter.

"I think it's ridiculous that the greatest city in the world can't afford to pay its greatest workers," Buscemi said. "You should be paid for what you're worth."

When the city reached a three-year deal with District Council 37 that called for modest raises, it set a benchmark for other municipal contracts. But unions representing cops, firefighters and teachers say they want more than what DC 37 workers got. Here's a look at the four unions, with the contract status for each.


UNIFORMED FIREFIGHTERS ASSOCIATION Membership: 8,500 firefighters Entry-level salary: $36,878 Contract expired: May 31, 2002

PATROLMEN'S BENEVOLENT ASSOCIATION Membership: 22,204 officers Entry base salary: $36,878 Contract expired: July 31, 2002

DISTRICT COUNCIL 37 Membership: 121,000 city workers Entry-level salary: Less than $30,000

UNITED FEDERATION OF TEACHERS Membership: 74,000 teachers; 17,000 classroom paraprofessionals Entry-level salary: $39,000 Contract expired: May 31, 2003