Rally shows support for Buffalo firefighters
Buffalo Firefighters have gone more than a decade without a contract and as YNN's Kaitlyn Lionti reports, local officials and labor leaders joined firefighters Thursday to show their support.
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BUFFALO, N.Y. — A rally recognizing Buffalo's firefighters filled the steps of City Hall Thursday.
"It's time to get a contract, time to treat our first responders with respect, you deserve a pay raise and we're with you in solidarity," said Michael Hoffert of the Buffalo Central Labor Council.
"We need to preserve the middle class in this community, I'm working hard on behalf of Erie County to do that, I wish I was in a position to help you," said Mark Poloncarz, Erie County Executive.
"It is unacceptable, to have the largest collective bargaining units without an agreement, without a contract for three, five, seven, nine, eleven years!" said Mark Schroeder, Buffalo's comptroller.
It's been eleven years for Buffalo firefighters, and the president of Buffalo Professional Firefighters Local 282, Daniel Cunningham, says it's really taken a toll.
"Morale is horrible. It's just horrible. That's all people talk about," said Cunningham
The general president of the International Association of Firefighters wants City Hall to know the firefighters only want to be respected and treated fairly.
"No matter what the dispute, no matter how much conflict there may be between government and this union, the firefighters, the workers, those right here in Buffalo, members of 282 never leave the front line," said Harold Schaitberger, general president of IAFF.
Cunningham says they're in preliminary negotiations with members of the mayor's staff, and the union is willing to compromise on issues like health insurance and vacation - but not safety.
"Minimum manning states four firefighters go out on a fire truck, fire engine for every emergency call. That's for our safety. It's a national standard, and it also costs the city money. We will not negotiate on that," said Cunningham. He says that's been an issue in past negotiations.
A spokesperson for the city says Mayor Byron Brown has shown willingness to negotiate fair deals in the past and that's still case.
Meanwhile, Cunningham says tentative meetings have been scheduled.