The New York Times

August 14, 2004

Mayor Chides Union Leaders on
Presentations of Offers


Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg sought yesterday to drive a wedge between police officers and firefighters and their union leaders, saying that the uniformed workers could be getting big raises if only the labor leaders presented the city's offers to the membership.

Mr. Bloomberg, speaking on his weekly radio program on WABC, contended that members of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association and the Uniformed Firefighters Association could have seen an 8 percent increase in their salaries "almost overnight," which would include retroactive raises, if their leaders had been willing to agree to the city's productivity enhancements.

"The trouble is that the leaders of their unions are afraid to go back and even discuss it with them because these are unions that have a history of throwing out their leaders, you know, with monotonous regularity," he said.

While the mayor did not single out the police and fire union leaders by name, his aides later confirmed that he was referring to Patrick J. Lynch and Stephen J. Cassidy, who represent the police officers and the firefighters, respectively.

Officials with the police officers' union countered that they had informed their more than 23,000 members about the city's offers through mailings and postings on the union's Web site. They also said that their union had maintained a strong, consistent leadership for two decades. Mr. Lynch, who has been in office since 1999, is serving his second term.

"I think it's an outright lie," said Mr. Lynch, who added that the mayor's comments would only make Mr. Lynch more popular with his members. "We've brought the insulting offers to our members and posted them on the Web site for all to see. They do not like them."

The firefighters' union could not be reached for comment.

The mayor also drew a line between the police officers' and the firefighters' unions, and another major union working without a contract, the United Federation of Teachers. Randi Weingarten, the teachers' union president, has repeatedly sparred with the mayor, but after initially joining forces with Mr. Lynch and Mr. Cassidy, she has not participated in recent demonstrations. The mayor called her "a responsible labor leader," adding that "there's a lot of discussions going on."

Mr. Bloomberg, who has been trailed by shouting, sign-waving police officers and firefighters in recent weeks, accused their union leaders of choosing public stunts over negotiations. "They're not playing to the public, " he said. "I don't think there's a lot of sympathy there — everybody's got problems and nobody wants to pay more taxes. The union leaders are yelling and screaming and having these protests against me as theater for their own members."

The mayor also added that union leaders had rejected productivity measures, such as changes in scheduling, which could help pay for raises, without coming up with any of their own. Mr. Bloomberg said: "One of the ideas was, well, they'll go and help put smoke detectors for free in buildings. Well, that's a great idea but that doesn't generate any savings that we can use to pay them more."

Mr. Lynch said that the city was asking the unions to give back hard-won benefits, and that the unions simply wanted the public to know their position. "What the mayor is trying to do is dilute the message," he said. "And the message is that this mayor will not take care of New York City police officers who risk their lives each and every day."