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Firefighters Union Blasts City Hall Over What It Says Is A Discriminatory Disability Policy

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A stunning charge was levied against the de Blasio administration on Monday.

A union representing firefighters claims a discriminatory disability policy leaves new hires with little in the way of benefits if they get hurt on the job, CBS2's Marcia Kramer reported.

The charge was astonishing – that newly hired firefighters, many African-American, Hispanic and women, recruited to bring diversity to the FDNY will get so-called "second class" disability pensions amounting to a paltry $27 a day if they're injured on the job.

A lower tier of benefits was added during a job freeze under then-Gov. David Paterson and is only now being felt.

Recent FDNY Recruits Demand Change To Benefit Plan

The feelings were so intense, the passions so high that hundreds of firefighters showed up at City Hall to send a message to Mayor Bill de Blasio, Kramer reported.

"It's a bait and switch. They spent millions of dollars telling new recruits (it's the) greatest job (with the) greatest benefits. They forgot to tell them one thing: don't get hurt in the line of duty. This is one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. You cannot run into burning buildings worried about who's going to take care of your family," said Steve Cassidy, president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association.

"I love this job and love this city, but God forbid something happens to me in the line of duty, I want to be able to afford to live in this city that I swore to serve and protect and I can't do that on $27 a day," said Giselle King, 34, who just became a firefighter at Engine 15 on the Lower East Side.

The UFA mounted a multimedia campaign, producing protest videos that expose the notion of $27 a day in benefits. The videos were sent to all members of the City Council, the state Legislature and the public. They will pop up on smartphones if you tap into any one of 12,000 apps.

The blitz is designed to pressure Mayor de Blasio and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito to send a home rule message to Albany so the pension law can be rewritten, so that all injured firefighters get a three-quarters disability pension.

"It needs to be fixed now," Cassidy said. "The mayor and the speaker need to come around."

"There's a valid concern that we want to find a way to address. I don't think going back to the old approach on pensions is the way to do it. But I think there are other ways," de Blasio said.

De Blasio aides said giving every firefighter a three-quarters disability pension would add $40 million and they don't want to spend that much, Kramer reported.

The mayor arrived at City Hall as the firefighters' protest was going on, but he ducked in a back way to avoid the possibility he would be booed, Kramer reported. He said with such a large number of people in the plaza, "it just made more sense" to take the back door.

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