Fire, Police Union Leaders Blast Mayor's Proposed Pension Reforms

NY 1 - February 10, 2011

by Grace Rauh

The police and fire union presidents announced together on City Hall steps Wednesday that they are joining forces to fight Mayor Michael Bloomberg's pension reform plans.

The mayor wants to do away with the $12,000 annual payments given to retired police officers and firefighters on top of their regular pensions.

The fire and police union heads said Bloomberg is deliberately misleading the public when he refers to the annual payments as a "bonus." They also pledged to fight to keep them those payments coming to retirees.

"As we approach the 10th anniversary of 9/11, Mike Bloomberg wants to say to firefighters and police officers who were there that day that didn't die, 'I going to steal money from your pocket.' It's outrageous," said Uniformed Firefighters Association President Stephen Cassidy. "What this man has done, what the mayor has said, is absolutely 180 degrees from the truth. It's not even that he could possibly be misinformed, because he's been saying the same line over and over."

Unlike the fire union, the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association endorsed Bloomberg for his 2009 re-election bid. Wednesday, however, the union's president said he has revoked his support for the mayor.

"We did endorse the mayor in the last election, and we're calling him a liar today because he's saying lies out in public," said PBA President Pat Lynch.

"We never endorsed him, and he is a liar," responded Cassidy, to the laughter of his fellow demonstrators.

The so-called bonuses grew out of a pension deal reached in 1968. The unions allowed the city to begin investing their pension money in the riskier stock market. In return, retirees received a portion of the earnings -- now fixed at $12,000.

While union leaders seem to have the support of their members when it comes to the fight against Mayor Bloomberg, it's unclear whether that extends to the City Council as only one member joined the rally Wednesday.

"If the mayor wants to negotiate pensions, he needs to come to a table and act responsibly," said City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley.

When asked about the protest, Bloomberg said the payments were not a top city budget priority.

"Nobody wants to get cut back, I understand that. We have to make a decision. Do we want to send out Christmas bonuses or have more teachers? It's that kind of decision," said the mayor.