PHILADELPHIA — A Philadelphia firefighter union president was visibly upset at what he saw as a glaring omission from Vice President Joe Biden’s speech here to the International Association of Fire Fighters on Wednesday. Bill Gault, president of Philadelphia Fire Fighter’s Union Local 22, said after Biden’s speech that he wanted Biden to endorse the implementation of an award to city firefighters that provided raises and protections against furloughs. An arbitration panel granted the award in early July, and last week the union filed a lawsuit against the city to ensure that it is enacted.
“I just wanted him to say one sentence to my mayor to honour the firefighters’ award,” Gault told Business Insider. “But I guess I can’t expect him to do that.”
The union and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter told the Philadelphia Daily News that he is “fully examining that award,” noting that the city has 30 days to decide whether to appeal the arbitration panel’s ruling.
Gault was hoping for an endorsement from the vice president, which led to his disappointment.
“We feel unappreciated in this city. And if you ask these men in here, they’ll feel the same way,” Gault said. “I’m disappointed that the vice president didn’t say, ‘Mr. Mayor, honour their agreement.’ It’s a very simple sentence.”
Nutter has emerged as a top surrogate this campaign season for President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign. Gault said that he invited Nutter to speak at the convention, but he never heard back.
Biden did attempt to contrast Obama and presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney during his speech, mentioning a gaffe from Romney in June in which he said he didn’t want “more firefighters, more policemen, more teachers.”
“They just have a fundamentally different view,” Biden told the crowd of firefighters about the Republican Party. “They have a different value set. They act like you’re the community’s problem, as if you’re not part of the community, as if you’re from some other place.”
That was not specific enough for Gault. He said that the IAFF had asked Biden to mention the Philadelphia union’s efforts.
“All politicians are the same to me right now,” he said.
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