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Firefighters Picket, Union Brothers Cross Line

Video – Plumbers Union Crosses the Line

Pawtucket – The Rhode Island State Association of Firefighters and its members headed to Pawtucket on Monday protesting the campaign kick-off of Gina Raimondo in her run for the state’s highest office. Raimondo, currently the state’s General Treasurer chose the Hope Artiste Village in Pawtucket to launch her run for governor.

Firefighters from locals around the state came to protest Raimondo’s candidacy in light of her signature accomplishment – passage of pension reform legislation. As the State’s General Treasurer, Raimondo lobbied the legislature to overhaul the pension system, making cuts to public sector retiree benefits.

The more than 150 firefighters gathered greeted Raimondo supporters as they came and went. Exchanges often became heated as firefighters recognized politicos and private business sector allies.

Union Brothers Don’t Cross Picket Lines

Paul Valletta, President of Cranston Firefighters Union Local 1363, confronted Tim Byrne, manager of the RI Plumbers and Pipefitters union as he left the building. Byrne spoke inside at the fundraiser, coming out in support of Raimondo.

“Many of us in private sector unions have had to deal with our own pension problems. We’ve had to make some of the same changes that she (Raimondo) had to make. She wasn’t the first to come forward and see these problems. This was a can that got kicked down the road for many, many years. Too many years.”  – Tim Byrne

Raimondo Kick-off 100

Paul Reed, President, RISAFF vows to “keep on that woman” thanking his members for manning the picket line outside Gina Raimondo’s campaign kick-off event. (photo credit Tracey C. O’Neill)

Manning the picket line, RISAFF President, Paul Reed rallied his members as they assembled outside the renovated mill complex in Pawtucket and promised to continue the crusade against Raimondo’s candidacy.

“Listen, we’re going to have to keep after this woman. The only thing she is going to do is to make it more a lot more difficult to exist as firefighters and union members. So we’re going to keep after her and I know we’re going to do that, because I can see the people out here.” 

James McKee, Mayor of the Town of Cumberland, who is running for Lieutenant Governor, also received a few heckles and resounding boos as he made his way out across the lines.

RISAFF on Sunday put a call out to its members through its Facebook page asking for picket line attendance at Monday’s event. The notice indicated that Raimondo “tried to hide” the kick-off announcement from the union who has picketed her events in the past.

Members of the North Kingstown, Coventry and Providence Fire Departments, all with their own current court battles over firefighter benefits, worker’s rights, collective bargaining and departmental structuring took time to attend the rally.

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