January 19, 2001
By WILLIAM VAN AUKEN
Thousands of cops stood shoulder-to-shoulder along nearly five blocks of Broadway outside City Hall Jan. 11, shouting their demand for a substantial pay raise and screaming their displeasure at Major Giuliani for failing to offer more than 2.5 percent in annual increases.
The rally came nearly a month after the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association broke off contract talks with the city and filed for a declaration of impasse with the state Public Employment Relations Board because of what it described as the city's refusal to make a counter-offer after the union asked for a 39-percent salary hike over two years.
'Most Difficult Year'
"This has probably been the most difficult year in the history of the PBA," the police union's president, Patrick J. Lynch, told the crowd, referring apparently to both the thorny bargaining process as well as the high-profile trials and lawsuits stemming from the fatal shooting of Amadou Diallo and the stationhouse assault on Abner Louima.
Meanwhile, the PBA faces the danger of being outflanked by the Uniformed Forces Coalition, which appears to be nearing a potential deal with the city for far less than the largest police union is demanding, and a challenge from the city over its right to seek arbitration under PERB.
Mr. Lynch drew attention to the city's problems recruiting new Police Officers as well as getting veteran cops to stay on the job. He also invoked his members' efforts in bringing about record crime reductions as well as the special dangers and demands of policing the city, a point that was poignantly driven home by the presence on the platform of several widows and parents of cops killed in the line of duty.
Asking the demonstrators to send a "message to City Hall," Mr. Lynch delivered a pointed jab at Mayor Giuliani, declaring, "We're not numbers in someone's political career. We're cops. We've given more and we deserve more."
Responding to the PBA demonstration, the Mayor claimed that acceding to the union's wage demand would cost the city more than $7 billion. The figure was based on the premise that pattern bargaining would require giving the same increase to all the uniformed forces unions.
"Obviously I can't do that," said the Mayor. "I love police officers as I do firefighters and everyone who works for the city. But the reality is you can only offer so much, otherwise you bankrupt the city."
While the Mayor said the city could pay for the raise over the remainder of his term from city surpluses, he warned that in future years it would drive the city into a new fiscal crisis.
Some cops at the rally waved hand-lettered signs with messages like "I collect cans on the side" and "NYC Police Officer will work for food." Others led sections of the crowd in a chant of "Slowdown, Slowdown," in a threat of job action to press their salary demands.
Mr. Lynch, whose father was a subway motorman, played to that militant sentiment, noting that the police rally coincided with a demonstration of transit workers held on the same spot 35 years ago, when Transport Workers Union Local 100 shut down the city. "Mike Quill rallied in this spot, saying you'd better pay our members," he said. "If we stand united like in 1966, we can get what we deserve, and we deserve a livable wage for our members. It's time to pay. We've done the work; now send the check."
Joining police officials on the platform were City Council Speaker Peter F. Vallone, as well as City Council Members Margarita Lopez of Manhattan and Jerome X. O'Donovan and Stephen J. Fiala of Staten Island.
Cop Union Solidarity
Also expressing solidarity with the demonstrating cops were Suffolk County Police Benevolent Association president Jeffrey Fraylor, Nassau County PBA President Gary Delaraba, Port Authority PBA President Gus Danese and a representative of the New Jersey PBA.
"Anything the Suffolk County PBA can do for you, we will do," said Mr. Fraylor, prompting shouts from the crowd of "You got an application?" and "Hire us."
Margaret Mosomillo, the widow of Police Officer Anthony Mosomillo, who was shot to death in 1998, and Maria Dziergowski, whose husband Matthew lost his life trying to protect fellow cops by driving his patrol car into the path of a speeding vehicle at an accident scene in 1999, also spoke to the crowd.
"I know how difficult it is to make ends meet on a Police Officer's salary," said Ms. Dziergowski. She said her husband had worked two jobs to support the family. "I see now that my son and I lost very precious time with Matthew because of that second job."
'Not Enough to Die On'
Also speaking as survivors of cops killed in the line of duty were Patrick J. Bahnken, the president of EMS Local 2507 of District Council 37, whose brother Det. Stephen Gillespie was killed in 1997, and his mother, Terrie Gillespie.
"My son went out every day," said Ms. Gillespie. "They didn't pay him enough to live on and they sure didn't pay him enough to die on."
The crowd enthusiastically welcomed actor and perennial Green party candidate Al Lewis with chants of "Grandpa, Grandpa." Lewis correct them, telling the cops he was speaking in his capacity of "Police Officer Leo Schnauzer," the role he played in the 40-year-old television sitcom, "Car 54, Where Are You?"
Mr. Lewis reminded the demonstrators of the harangue Mr. Giuliani delivered to a raucous PBA rally held in 1992, when the crowd stormed the City Hall steps and blocked traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge.
"He stood here and said bulls-t," said Mr. Lewis. "He puts officers in harm's way and then attends your funeral. I say that's bulls-t." The crowd cheered and chanted the word.
Rank-and-file cops attending the rally complained of low salaries and said that conditions for average officers have only worsened since they last demonstrated at City Hall.
Andy Lewis, a cop with 5 ½ years on the force who is assigned to Brooklyn's 83rd precinct, said that the rally was important to show the city that "every cop is on the same sheet of music." Police Officers, he argued, have demonstrated their productivity through reduced crime statistics, but they have not been paid for it.
"I love this job but I almost left," said Officer Lewis, who added he had been recruited by the Miami-Dade Police Department but declined the job because of family obligations in the city. "This is the hardest place in the country to be a cop. You've got more crime and there's such diversity that you have to worry about different languages and different cultures. But still we do a good job."
The Brooklyn cops said he was concerned that the superior officer unions are undercutting the PBA's contract demands. "We've got a smart Mayor," he said. "He knows the best way to rule is divide and conquer."
'Mayor Lets Cops Down'
"I'm very disappointed in him." Officer Lewis said of Mayor Giuliani. "He makes it seem like he's for cops but he really doesn't like us. He's fired more cops and given us double zeroes. Koch gave us a bigger increase; they should bring him back."
Carlos Hernandez, who is assigned to the Canine Unit, said that New York City Police Officers are the lowest paid of any major city department in the country. "We work way harder than Nassau and Suffolk Counties but we get paid way less," he said. "With this job, just trying to give my two kids what they need creates financial difficulties. I don't know any cop who doesn't work a second job."
The bargaining strategy of the uniformed coalition also concerned Officer Hernandez, who is a 10 ½-year police veteran. "Because of parity, they're always going to try and hold us to whatever the others get," he said. "It narrows our options, because there's no way they're going to let us make more money than Sergeants. It bothers you, because we're really all cops."
'Just a Shield Number'
Officer Hernandez said his life as a cop was worse today than when the PBA held its last City Hall rally in 1992. "Originally I was a Transit cop before the merger," he said. "In the NYPD, you are much more politically involved. The Transit Police Department was much smaller and people knew you. Here, you're just a shield number."
Humberto Rivera, a 12-year veteran who is assigned to Manhattan's 33rd Precinct, highlighted the pay disparity between the city and surrounding jurisdictions. "I live in Rockland County," he said. "They're making $80,000 and I'm getting only $48,000, and we do much more work than they do."
Officer Rivera said that respect for cops has plummeted since 1992. "Back then we got more respect from the community," he said. "Now, anything we do, they look at us like we're garbage."
He said he was bothered by both the prospect that the Uniformed Forces Coalition would undercut the PBA and the conspicuous presence of large numbers of superior officers policing the rally. "You've got all these supervisors out there; it's like us against them."
Brian Fusco, a PBA delegate from the 72nd Precinct in Brooklyn, said that for many cops, salary levels now are lower than they were in 1992 because of reduced arrest overtime.
The Brooklyn delegate poked holes in the city's claims that the PBA must be bound by pattern bargaining, "I don't want to knock other unions," said Officer Fusco, a 13-year veteran, "but the Fire Department and the Sanitation Department are among the highest-paid in the country; they don't have much to lose. We're among the lowest-paid."
The drive by the Uniformed Forces Coalition to reach a contract that could include 5-percent salary hikes should not stop the PBA from getting more, he added. "In a lot of departments, there is a much smaller gap between a Police Officer and a Sergeant," he said.