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City Workers Rally For A New Contract At City Hall

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Thousands of city workers whose union contracts have expired rallied on Wednesday afternoon for new and fair agreements.

As CBS 2's Dick Brennan reported, a coalition of labor unions gathered at City Hall Park for the protest, demanding contracts from Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration.

Most of the city's unionized workforce is without contracts, and many have been for years. The unions claimed the city is doing better financially, and they say they deserve increases and retroactive pay.

"We can't afford to live here. Only the rich can afford to live here," said protester Nicky Himariotis. "It doesn't make sense how everything goes up except our salaries."

"We've been working for four years without a contract. The mayor refuses to give us a contract, along with all the other city labor unions, and we've had enough," said another worker, Lori.

But the mayor's office has said that any contract offer will not include retroactive increases. Whatever new contract offer is issued will also require workers to contribute to health care, and include incentives for a healthy lifestyle.

At his budget address last month, Bloomberg said the city simply does not have the money for big increases.

"There is no practical ways to pay our workforce given the current environment, current tax structure, current other obligations more than what we have been with the possible exception of dramatically raising taxes," Bloomberg said.

But United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew questioned the mayor's claims, and said the city will finish the year with a $2.5 billion surplus.

If the standoff between the mayor and the unions continues through the rest of the year, as it likely will, the problem will be turned over the next mayor.

The UFT will endorse a candidate next week, and Wednesday's rally could be a message to all the Democratic candidates who want union support.

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