Protesters and a giant inflatable rat were stationed outside the New Rochelle offices of United Water Thursday.
About 25 members of Local 1-2 of the Utility Workers Union of America held signs calling the utility company unfair and raised their fists to acknowledge the honking of passing cars.
John Duffy, the national vice president of the union, said he was grateful for people's support.
"The general public has a sense of fairness," he said. "(United Water) is trying to do here in America what they can't do in France."
United Water is a subsidiary of Suez Environnement, a French company.
"These are difficult jobs," Duffy said. "They are the technicians and the lab workers who make sure the water is safe and sanitary."
The union's contract expires April 30. Duffy said negotiations are not going well.
"The company is taking a position at the bargaining table here and in other states that this is the way the company is going," he said.
United Water wants the union to accept a two-tier pension system that would eliminate the existing pension plan for all new employees and replace it with a plan that would curtail the company's contributions to new employees' retirement benefits. The company also wants to eliminate retirement benefits for new employees.
The demand for concessions comes on the backs of double-digit rate increases for New Rochelle and customers in . Not only was there an , but there is a that would draw water from the Hudson River.
"It boils down to corporate greed," Duffy said, adding that "a strike is definitely a possibility."
Bruce Farina, business agent for the local, said there have been only two bargaining sessions and there are only two more scheduled—April 28 and 30—before the contract expires.
"We didn't get around to wages yet," he said.
United Water spokesman Steve Goudsmith responded to Patch's request for a comment by sending the following email:
"The actions by the union are in reaction to adjustments to our retirement programs for new employees that provide an enhanced 401(k) in place of a defined benefit plan. United Water is committed to continue meeting with the union to renew the existing contract which expires on April 30th.
"The changes being proposed by the company continue to offer generous overall terms and benefits, while being responsive to the need to control expenses which are ultimately borne by our customers.
"Plans are in place to ensure continued uninterrupted service to our customers while we work with the union to resolve these issues."
In Westchester County, United Water provides water service to New Rochelle, the villages of Bronxville, Tuckahoe, North Pelham, Pelham Manor, Ardsley, Hastings-on-Hudson and Dobbs Ferry and the village of Pelham, as well as Rye, Rye Brook and Port Chester. The company also serves customers in Rockland County, primarily in the towns of Ramapo, Clarkstown, Orangetown, Stony Point and Haverstraw.