Yonkers, NY — The Yonkers Uniformed Fire Officers Association (UFOA) and Yonkers Firefighters Local 628 planned to protest Mayor Mike Spano’s State of the City address Wednesday, over lingering contract grievances, but both sides agreed in a last minute compromise to get back to the negotiating table.
Members of both unions, retirees, their families and supporters were scheduled to gather in the vicinity of Riverfront Library, at 1 Larkin Plaza, where the State of the City address was held.
Firefighters canceled the protest set for 7 p.m. outside Riverfront library at 1 Larkin Plaza, where Spano gave his speech. The protest was to coincide with the start of Spano’s speech, but the two sides called off the protest at 5:30 p.m. and agreed to restart negotiations for a collective bargaining agreement.
In a joint statement issued by UFOA President John Flynn and Yonkers Mayor Spano, they said both sides “agreed to return to the bargaining table in an effort to reach an equitable settlement of the UFOA collective bargaining agreement that serves the interests of the City, the membership of the UFOA and the taxpayers of Yonkers.”
Leading up to Spano’s address, the firefighter unions cited tax breaks for developers, crumbling infrastructure, and rampant cronyism as the reasons for the protest. Yonkers fire officers have been working without a contract and have not had a cost of living increase for over seven years, lohud reported.
Yonkers Fire Local 628 agreed to a 10-year contract with the city in March 2015. The deal gave the union’s roughly 300 members salary increases of 23.5 percent during the lifespan of the contract, which was retroactive from 2009, and starting salary for the union’s firefighters was reduced by 20 percent from its $70,000 level.
The mayor also said Yonkers will purchase an upgraded radio system for the city’s first responders. The radio upgrade will replace a 20-year-old system, and “will provide our emergency personnel with a more reliable communications capability and improve our ability to save lives in case of an emergency,” Spano said as he delivered his first State of the City address in his second term as mayor Wednesday night.
Mayor Spano also promised to enhance the city’s safety, economy and quality of life for its residents. He said his top priority is tackling a financially struggling Yonkers School District.
“We said no more cuts to school. Cuts will be the last thing we do and bring in teachers,” he said.
The Democratic Mayor said he wants to bring back teachers and extracurricular activities like sports, music and arts and will use state aid to help pay for the nearly $24 million cost.
This was the first time during one of Spano’s public events, that members of the city’s firefighters union did not protest.
The union president says he will be meeting with Spano next week and hopes to put negotiations for a raise back on the table.
AJ Woodson is the Editor-In-Chief of Black Westchester and Co-Owner of Urban Soul Media Group, the parent company, Host & Producer of the People Before Politics Radio Show. AJ is a Father, Brother, An Author, Journalism Fellow (Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism), Hip-Hop Artist - one third of the legendary underground rap group JVC FORCE known for the single Strong Island, Radio Personality, Hip-Hop Historian, Documentarian, Activist, Criminal Justice Advocate and Freelance Journalist whose byline has appeared in several print publications and online sites including The Source, Vibe, the Village Voice, Upscale, Sonicnet.com, Launch.com, Rolling Out Newspaper, Daily Challenge Newspaper, Spiritual Minded Magazine, Word Up! Magazine, On The Go Magazine and several others.