Buffalo firefighters rally for new contract
"What is it that we want? A contract. And when do we want it? Now!" That was the rallying cry in front of Buffalo's City Hall late Thursday morning.
Hundreds of city Firefighters joined a rally on the steps of City Hall late Thursday morning in solidarity. They've been working with out a new contract for 11 years and, with the help of their local and national union leadership, are calling on the city to deliver a new deal.
The national leader of the International Association of Firefighters traveled to Buffalo to offer support. Harold Schaitberger is calling on the Mayor Byron Brown and city lawmakers to help reach agreement on a new deal.
"Eleven years is too long. I'm not looking for who's to blame. This is today. We're here. We're ready to resolve this. This city needs to be here and ready to resolve this," said Schaitberger.
City firefighters have rejected the city's last two contract offers, one in 2007 and again in 2008. Both of those proposed agreements would have provided pay raises. The last offer was approved by union leadership, but the rank-and-file rejected it.
The union says talks have resumed with the city. Mayor Brown's spokesman says the city has always shown a willingness to negotiate fair deals in the past.
WBFO News reached out to the Mayor's office for comment, but spokesman Michael DeGeorge says they do note make public comments when labor negotiations are underway.
Long-time union supporter and Buffalo Comptroller Mark Schroeder appeared at the rally. He lent his support, saying 11 years is too long and "unacceptable."
Schroeder delivered a rousing speech to firefighters and offered suggestions for negotiations.
"No more lawyers. No more arbitrators. No more consultants. Get in a room and talk about this," said Schroeder.
Firefighters say they put their lives on the line every day to protect communities and deserve a fair deal.