NYC Firefighters Want Commissioner To Resign

CBS 2 - December 08, 2004

NEW YORK (CBS) The no confidence vote in Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scopetta was unanimous. It comes as the city cuts staffing on dozens of engine companies.

Rank and file firefighters say they've had it with Fire Commissioner Nicholas
Scopetta. They want him to resign.

“The vote today was unanimous. It was a unanimous vote of all the delegates
representing all firehouses in the city of New York. It was a vote of no confidence in Nick Scopetta,” says Stephen Cassidy, President of the Uniformed Firefighters Association.

There are 8800 active firefighters in the city. No one in their union, the Uniformed Firefighters Association, can remember a time when the rank and file turned against their commissioner. Now, they are saying they want him to step aside.

“New York City firefighters are tired and fed up we don’t want to take it any more. We seem to be treated like common criminals, “ says Doug Hawtusch, of Rescue 3, Bronx.

The union's gripes are many. Mandatory drug testing that has resulted in the firing of seven firefighters out of some 700 tested and the closing of firehouses. And most recently, the union does not like the manning reductions cutting 49 fire companies from five people to four, ordering fire companies hit by injuries to respond to fires with as little as two people.

“For the fire commissioner not to understand that a reduction in man power compromises our safety is outrageous,” says Cassidy.

Commissioner Nicholas Scopetta charged that the union's actions were posturingrelating to union elections and Steve Cassidy's desire to remain union president. He said he did not feel personally wounded by the move.

“I find it a distraction quite frankly. It is very hard to take Steve Cassidy seriously on this thing. He's got another motive, another agenda and he has done nothing for his membership and that’s where he's going,” says Scopetta.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg dismissed the move as the action of union "hotheads" upset with the city’s tough new drug and alcohol programs.

“We will not tolerate turning a fire house into a brothel and we're not going to tolerate firefighters drinking when on the job,” says Bloomberg.

The union responded angrily to Mayor Bloomberg's comments. They charged that he "tarnished the sacrifices of all fire fighters."

"Shame on him," said Cassidy.