By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
It's certainly plausible that firefighters expose themselves to carcinogenic chemicals and get cancer because of it. The union frequently invokes a decade-old study by Mount Sinai Hospital, though it was not peer-reviewed and does not apply at all to many of the cancers that are now or have been shoehorned into the legislation. All the Piscitelli memo says is, "the city believes that the occupational incidence of uterine, ovarian and testicular cancer among firefighters should be subject to a scientific study to determine whether there is a nexus between those cancers and firefighting." Until a study is completed, the city wants the bill deferred. But with everyone else in power lining up to gratify the UFA, how likely is that?
Miller and the council have been breathing down Bloomberg's back on behalf of the fire union for months, opposing the mayor's attempt to reduce manning in some engine companies from five to four firefighters and railing against the attempt to close six firehouses. Even as thousands of city workers were laid off, all the council appeared to care about, at least based on its press clips, were firehouse closings that resulted in no layoffs.
The public heat on Bloomberg was so intense that he wilted last week, just before he had to appear at a mass FDNY promotional ceremony. Though the mayor has won every court case so far on the manning and closings, he worked out a new deal with the union, cutting the number of firefighters in less than half of the engine companies he'd originally proposed.
UFA president Stephen Cassidy, who told a Times profiler three weeks ago that Bloomberg's "cruelest knock to firefighters and the communities they bond with" was the closings, quickly agreed to abandon his firehouse lawsuits as soon as the mayor moved on manning.
The Albano billas Piscitelli's memo labels itis an indication that, as martyred as New York City's bravest are, their union is still susceptible to overreaching. Having already obtained a bill to give bonus points on hiring and promotional exams for the children of the 9-11 dead, the union wants the same for siblings. In a NY1 interview a few weeks ago, Dominick Carter asked Cassidy if he preferred concessions or layoffs and, with DC 37's Lillian Roberts sitting next to him, Cassidy said with a smile: layoffs. Roberts was taking up to 3,000 layoffs at her union and Cassidy knew he would take none.
In fact the most draconian Bloomberg budget this year added firefighters because overtime is through the ceiling. As is firefighter sick leave. As are retirements, especially with all that post-9-11 overtime inflating pensions. It's not that the firefighters of 9-11 are any less our heroes; it's just that their still-on-the-job brothers are very complicated heroes.