New York Daily News

July 19, 2004

Picketers to sprout at Garden

BY MICHAEL SAUL
DAILY NEWS CITY HALL BUREAU

Cops, firefighters and teachers plan to start more than a week of picketing today at Madison Square Garden - site of the Republican National Convention - as they press for better wages.

Protesters, standing roughly 20 feet apart, hope to circle the Garden at 7 a.m. The picketing, scheduled to start on the same day GOP organizers take possession of the arena in advance of the Aug. 30 start of the convention, is to run around the clock for at least 10 days.

"The Republican National Committee is coming to New York to take advantage of the proximity to the 9/11 site and the heroes of 9/11," said Al O'Leary, a spokesman for the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association. "We are taking advantage of the opportunity to show them how poorly those heroes are being treated."

One of the signs will read: "A fair day's pay for a dangerous day's work."

Mayor Bloomberg "seems more concerned with millionaire issues, like Jets Stadium, than allowing cops, teachers and firefighters to put food on the table," said Stephen Cassidy, president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association.

Organizers are expecting between 400 and 500 protesters today, O'Leary said. There are no plans to try to deny anyone access to the building.

Bloomberg spokesman Ed Skyler, in an unusually sharp rebuke, said the mayor had reached labor agreements with other unions representing more than half the city's workforce because they are led by "responsible leaders who know how to negotiate."

"The unions protesting continue to prove that the only thing their leaders are good at is grandstanding and diverting attention from the fact that they are incapable of coming to the table and getting raises for their members," Skyler said.

Cops and firefighters have been working without a contract since 2002. The teachers' contract expired in May 2003.

Randi Weingarten, head of the teachers union, charged that the Bloomberg administration has failed to negotiate in good faith. "All we've gotten from them is grandstanding ... and obstacle after obstacle," she said. "I would much rather do 24-7 negotiations than this [picketing]."