- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 8, 2004

BOSTON (AP) — Hundreds of union members picketed outside the site of the Democratic National Convention yesterday to show solidarity with city police, a stance that could delay preparations for the political gathering.

Union firefighters, electricians and other trade workers joined police officers picketing over a long-simmering dispute with Mayor Thomas Menino. The 1,400-member police union has been without a contract for two years. Talks broke down on Monday, with each side blaming the other for the impasse.

The beginning of round-the-clock picketing coincided with the start of a $14 million construction project to prepare the FleetCenter, a sports arena, for the Democratic National Convention July 26-29. Telecommunications workers have said they won’t cross police pickets to install thousands of miles of telephone and data lines.

Pickets gathered at the city’s North Station commuter site, which shares a building with the FleetCenter. Union members handed out leaflets to hundreds of commuters on their way to work. Some held signs reading, “Friends Don’t Let Friends Cross Picket Lines.”

The Greater Boston Labor Council on Monday rejected a project labor agreement that promised no union strikes if convention organizers used only unionized labor on construction projects at the FleetCenter. Organizers could be forced to hire nonunion workers, an unthinkable prospect for a Democratic Party built on a foundation of organized labor.

Patrolmen’s union President Thomas Nee said he was honored by the vote of the labor council, which represents 90,000 workers in 93 unions in the area. “I think the message that’s been sent is that nobody owns organized labor in the city of Boston,” Mr. Nee said.

A spokeswoman for convention organizers declined to comment. Seth Gitell, a spokesman for Mr. Menino, had no immediate comment.

Dennis DeMarzio, the city’s chief operating officer, said the patrolmen’s union twice has refused an offer to settle the contract through binding arbitration. He said the union’s financial proposal is “far and away in excess of any contracts the city has agreed to, including the teachers.”

Richard Rogers, head of the labor council, said the vote showed area unions are behind the police.

“If I’m head of the [Democratic National Committee], if I’m Terry McAuliffe, I’m thinking maybe it’s time to get involved and push this process along,” Mr. Rogers said of the city-police dispute. “In my mind, it sends a very strong message to the mayor that he needs to get back to the table and resolve this.”

Verizon workers who were hired to begin installing telephone and data lines have said they will not cross the picket lines.

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