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Thirty-five Niagara County sheriff's deputies Friday night picketed the West Avenue restaurant of Legislator Jerry DeFlippo in a protest over working without a contract for the past 21 months.

"We're a first-rate police agency working for third-rate wages," said Capt. James Meierer, president of the union, the Niagara County Deputy Sheriff's Police Benevolent Association.

"Police officers for the (county's three) city police departments make about 25 percent more than we do on the average, but we still have to meet high standards in training and are required to have a two-year college degree. They make more than I do and I'm a captain," Meierer said.

He said road deputies are still working for the same wages they were making on Jan. 1, 1996. He said a new deputy still makes $9.91 an hour.

Meierer said the county made a recent offer for a contract settlement that union members feels is inadequate, especially because so much time has lapsed in the negotiations.

He said he could not give out details on the county's latest offer and the union's counteroffer -- made earlier this week -- because it is prohibited under negotiation procedures.

"We've been passive up to now, but we are starting to become active," to help get negotiations moving, Meierer said.

He said road-patrol deputies and other officers would like to see a little appreciation for doing a good job.

Meanwhile, the pickets marching in front of DeFlippo's Restaurant carried messages such as "I risk my life for you" and, "We pay taxes, too."

Meierer said the union picketed DeFlippo Friday evening because he is chairman of the Legislature's Human Resources Committee, which is in charge of contract negotiations.

"We started with him just because somebody had to be first," he said. "But we'll be picketing others (legislators)."

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