Sen. Diane Savino, D-Staten Island, had strong words today for local government leaders who are seeking a new pension tier, saying they “demand a front-row seat” at firefighters’ funerals but are seeking to strip away their pension benefits.
Savino, a former labor leader, didn’t mention Gov. Andrew Cuomo, but instead focused her ire on mayors, county executives and other local officials who have formed the group New York Leaders For Pension Reform—to back Cuomo’s plans for a less generous pension tier for new public workers.
Savino spoke at a rally held by the New York State Professional Fire Fighters Association outside the Capitol, where hundreds of firefighters from across the state gathered to oppose Tier VI.
“We have mayors and county executives and town supervisors running around right now, all over the place, trying to rile up the taxpayers against you –- say that we can’t afford it, say that if we have to continue to provide pensions and benefits for you that we won’t be able to provide services to the taxpayer,” Savino said. “Well who the hell do they think is providing the service? It’s you.”
She continued, “These same mayors, county executives, town supervisors and other politicians are the first ones to show up at the hospital with a news camera when one of you gets hurt, right? And they demand a front-row seat at your funeral. You need to demand from them where they stand on these issues.”
Savino said that when politicians “show up at your firehouse and they want to take pictures for their campaign literature, you need to ask them where they were on this issue. Did they stand with you or were they silent?”
Savino also took some shots at the media, saying that unions have always fought claims that it’s too expensive to provide them fair pay and benefits.
“We have the same fight all the time. It’s a little bit different these days, though, because our enemies are smarter,” she said. “They have a lot more money, they own most of the newspapers now, and they are delivering this one-sided narrative over and over again that unions are selfish, that union leaders are greedy, that taxpayers can’t afford to provide these exorbitant pay and benefits anymore.”
Firefighters were hitting the Capitol after the rally to urge lawmakers to reject a new pension tier.