Senator's statement on firefighter OT draws picket to fundraiser

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If you were just looking to grab a doughboy and some clam cakes at Iggy’s on Thursday night, May 30, you likely got more than you bargained for, as a protest of a political fundraiser held by Warwick freshman Senator Mark McKenney drew over 200 firefighter union representatives and clogged Oakland Beach Avenue.

The impetus for the demonstration, which also brought a fire truck from the Providence firefighters’ union, was in response to statements McKenney made on the Senate floor over a month ago during a vote regarding a bill that would dictate whether or not firefighters get paid overtime similar to how other workers are owed overtime – a bill which has since been passed and signed by Governor Gina Raimondo.

“Our picket of Senator McKenney is because of his disparaging remarks he made about firefighter safety during the Senate hearing of Senate Bill S-747 on May 1, 2019,” said Joseph Andriole, President of the Rhode Island State Association of Fire Fighters, in a Facebook post prior to the protest. “The Senator’s statement during the hearing was, ‘I’ve been told there is a safety issue, but I take a look at that and it seems to me that when overtime is paid the safety concern seems to disappear.’ That comment is not true, nor fair and it is disrespectful to the men and women who put their lives in jeopardy every time they respond to an emergency protecting the communities throughout this State.”

Reached on Monday, McKenney said that he felt as though there was a serious misunderstanding regarding his statements.

“I'm looking at this and perhaps I could have stated my point more clearly. But I went back and looked at the video myself and I simply didn’t disparage the firefighters. I disparaged their argument,” he said. “It was my view that it [the bill] wasn't needed and unfortunately they were not pleased with that. They also felt some of the remarks I made on the Senate floor were suggesting that firefighters don't care about their own safety. I didn’t say that. I never would. I think it’s ludicrous to suggest firefighters don’t care about their own safety.”

McKenney said that he enjoyed support from the firefighters during his bid for election this past November, but also insists he was doing what any good politician should do in that situation – voting based on what he felt was best for his constituents, and not based on who supported him or what they would want him to do.

“I didn’t consider the argument they were making on this bill to be strong,” he said. “My understanding is that a senator in America votes for what he think is right.”

McKenney said he was also disappointed in the reaction because, according to people he spoke to at the protest, many were looking for an apology regarding his statement. He said he had offered that apology to both the firefighter union’s head lobbyist, Paul Valletta, and Warwick Firefighters’ Union president Michael Carreiro in mid-May.

“Apparently the leadership didn't pass along to them that I apologized,” he said. “To have that not be known by the folks who were on the line picketing was just disappointing.”

Carreiro said that he recalls the conversation with McKenney, but that of the roughly 1,600 firefighters not everybody likely heard about the apology. He also denied that the protest was purely a retaliation for McKenney’s ‘no’ vote against the overtime bill.

“We've had other senators vote no and we don't go to their events,” he said. “It was not a retaliation.”

McKenney said he felt bad about causing any inconvenience to businesses like Iggy’s during the protest, and about the regular people just trying to enjoy a night out being caught up in the action. He said that he stood by his vote.

“I'm going to do what I think is right,” he said. “You can't please everyone and you can't vote the way that everyone wants you to vote.”

Carreiro said that he accepted McKenney’s apology and was looking to move forward.

“Our safety is always a priority and a concern to us,” he said. “Hopefully we can move past it and work up our relationship back and work together.”

Comments

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davebarry

Your biggest priority is your overtime. Period.

Tuesday, June 4
Jimmy

Dave,

City prefers to pay overtime. End of discussion.

Tuesday, June 4
Cat

I am sure Iggy's and the other local businesses appreciated being the uninvited third party to an issue they weren't involved with in the first place.

Tuesday, June 4
Dozing for $$$$

Please understand that whenever anyone speaks in a fashion that we object to, we will do everything in our power to disrupt business, traffic, trade, and government, to continue feeding as pigs at the trough.

What you lay people don't understand is that we firefighters (self proclaimed hero's) have more social equity than you. So pay your tax bill and shut up. Now I need to sleep on my overtime night shift, and thank one of my fellow brothers for calling out sick so I can milk the taxpayer.

Laughing all the way to the bank!

Tuesday, June 4
Dozing for $$$$

Please understand that whenever anyone speaks in a fashion that we object to, we will do everything in our power to disrupt business, traffic, trade, and government, to continue feeding as pigs at the trough.

What you lay people don't understand is that we firefighters (self proclaimed hero's) have more social equity than you. So pay your tax bill and shut up. Now I need to sleep on my overtime night shift, and thank one of my fellow brothers for calling out sick so I can milk the taxpayer.

Laughing all the way to the bank!

Tuesday, June 4
Hepdog

One of the those thugs in a firepickup truck stared me down hard at a 4 way stop about an hour ago. Thought that was strange. Now i know why. They were all amped up aftter their show of force at oakland beach. Nasty greedy people

Tuesday, June 4
SaltyJake

Quote from another Beacon article:

“I think we [the city council] agreed it was actually less expensive to pay overtime than pay new firefighters,” he said, explaining that between medical and retiree benefits, hiring more firefighters to reduce the potential overtime was not necessarily a better cost saving measure than just paying increased overtime. According to testimony during hearings, 212 firefighters would cost about $24.5 million, while 190 firefighters, including the budgeted overtime, would cost about $24.4 million.

No issue paying the OT by mayor Joey's administrations own admission. And the 100k savings, wow!!! Balance the budget with it, really????? All bad. Anyone working outside of the public sector would be paid overtime for anything over 40 hours. Not firefighters though. They fought for and had legislation passed to rectify that. Congrats guys, job well done! Peaceful assembly/protest has been part of this great country since the beginning. If the politicians who were elected and make derogatory or offensive statements can't take being called out about it, don't run for office. Or, make an educated, cognizant statement instead. But, alas, politicians usually do neither.......sad state of affairs

Wednesday, June 5
Jimmy

Salty Jake,

I love how the administration and council just realized how OT is cheaper and why there is OT etc.... I’ve been to dozens of budget meetings in years past where OT was explained the exact same way. But thus year they understand it? Ok got it. They really think the city is full of morons. Merolla likes to hear himself speak even though he has done nothing. I notice he singled out the fire department with the pencil and paper comment. He left all other departments that do the same out. Vendetta?

Wednesday, June 5
Mike02886

OT while shopping and sleeping.

REMEMBER THAT.

Thursday, June 6
Jimmy

OT while trying to cut two kids out of a mangled car. OT while pulling 5 bodies out of a house fire. OT while reviving a heart attack victims. Etc... remember that

Thursday, June 6
Fed up

Jimmy will probably go out on a 2/3 disability pension with a shoulder injury sustained from constantly patting himself on the back !

Thursday, June 6
Mike02886

Imagine seeing a let's say UPS truck parked in the fire lane at Stop & Shop and the driver inside shopping with a carriage. How long would that last? But he eats at work , they would say. Pretty much every employee eats at work, but their shopping...... Its always interesting to see the same responses for when a legitimate issue is brought up. Yet to see the police or municipal workers doing their grocery shopping parked in a no parking or fire lane while working. We've all seen it. Jimmy spin that truth. Does Citizens Bank have beds for employees?

Thursday, June 6
Jimmy

The police and Municipal workers get Lunch breaks. Actual time off to eat their meals, they can go get a sandwich or sit down at Wendy’s. Does the fire department get this? No they get no break. NEXT QUESTION

Thursday, June 6
Mike02886

Lunch break...... My comment said nothing about lunch break. Dinner break. Breakfast break. The fire stations have kitchens ( bedrooms, gyms, game rooms and more). Some have industrial equipment same as expensive restaurants. Seen grilles at them too. Shopping with a city vehicle. Spin that Dimmy. No breaks.

Thursday, June 6