Salt Lake firefighters brought their grievances to the city Employee Appreciation Day Wednesday, but their picket signs gave other city employees at the half-day party upset stomachs.
"They're giving me indigestion," said public utilities employee George Burningham, sitting at a picnic table chewing a hot dog at city-owned Raging Waters, 1200 W. 17th South.Members of the International Firefighters Association Local 1645 boycotted the annual event and walked a picket line to vent their frustration over low manpower and lack of pay raises provided by Mayor Palmer DePaulis.
"The real reason we're here is to squeak the wheel," said Dorrel Henderson, spokesman for the union.
"It's not solving the problem to eat a hot dog and get wet," said Henderson, adding that some firefighters believed the Appreciation Day was a "Band-Aid" attempt to smooth over poor mayoral-union relations.
Salt Lake Police Association members also were boycotting the event, but none were picketing, said union boss Elden Tanner.
The firefighters union display raised the ire of other city employees at the event, some of whom belong to the American Federation of State County & Municipal Employees, one of the city's three employee unions.
"I think they ought to do it somewhere else . . . We agree they've got something to say but it doesn't show much class to bring it down here to Appreciation Days," said Bob Lewis, a public utilities worker.
Many employees sided with the firefighters in their objection over DePaulis' refusal to grant pay raises in a fiscally austere year. But most said the firefighters chose an inappropriate forum for their grievances.
"There's a time and a place for everything," Lewis said.
But firefighters said Appreciation Day was in part designed to placate firefighters. To counter that, union members brought their frustrations to the attention of the mayor, who served food to some of the 4,500 people at the picnic.