NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) -The theme of family took center stage as supporters stood behind dozens of firefighters amidst their labor dispute with city leaders.
Union leaders spoke out against fire chief Tim McConnell who said firefighters staged a “sick-out” over the weekend with approximately one-third of staff members scheduled to report calling in sick.
Amanda Reuther was one of them.
“They said the only way you can leave is if you pull up sick, so they basically forced me to pull up sick to go home on my regularly scheduled day,” Reuther said.
Reuther and her husband Robert both work in the department. They explained how between their two schedules, two little ones, and the mandatory overtime policy she felt there was no option but to pull up or call in sick.
“She told them she had family to go take care of, I was going into work and she needed to get home to our kids, and the only way they would let her go was if she signed a paper saying she was sick,” Robert Reuther said.
“We like to reiterate that was not a sick-out, there was not an organized function,” Union president Aaron Mischler said.
Mischler says they still have yet to hear from city leaders about a list of proposed solutions to end the dispute.
Dillard University political analyst Robert Collins says they likely won’t simply because of what happened when the NOPD went on strike in the 1970s during Mardi Gras.
“The Carnival krewes sided with the mayor, and when they sided with the mayor they decided to simply cancel Mardi Gras and when you cancel Mardi Gras, the police union basically lost all of their leverage and you’re forced to come to the bargaining table and accept whatever the mayor gave them,” Collins said.
Collins said the mayor is in her legal right, as the firefighters are still under contract with the city, but firefighters believe they have the support.
Union president, Aaron Mischler says the firefighters do not have a current contract with the city, saying it expired in 2012 and Mayor Landrieu refused to sign a new one.
“It’s a high-stakes poker game and neither side wants to blink right now, and Mardi Gras is basically the chips on the table,” Collins said.
“You can see everyone standing behind me they have our backs they wouldn’t show up,” New Orleans Firefighters Association president Aaron Mischler, said.
City leaders did not respond to Fox 8 ‘s request for comments regarding their intention for negotiations.