City employee unions are boiling angry at New Haven Mayor John DeStefano for cutting 96 positions in the city including the layoff of 16 police officers. More layoffs may be coming and DeStefano is proposing changes to the union members’ benefit plans.

The unions are understandably upset but having the Rev. Al Sharpton lead a rally against the mayor’s actions is a bad move and may prove to be counterproductive in the court of public opinion.

Interestingly, the police union did not participate in the rally and police union Local 530 President Louis Cavaliere said of Sharpton, “He advocates violence toward cops…Tell him to get out of New Haven…He’s the last person I would stand in a room with. Earlier in the week, Cavaliere said, “Al Sharpton is anti-police. Why would I want to be up there and embrace a man who has been against cops his whole career?”

Sharpton, who has run for president in the past, came to national attention by leading protests against alleged police misconduct and supposed brutality. His most famous case of course, involved the alleged rape of 15-year-old Tawana Brawley by white cops, a story that turned out to be a complete lie.

The unions are upset about their brethren losing their jobs. But having Sharpton lead the rally—and the police opposition to him—distracts from their message and results in lost credibility for their cause. Sharpton is a blowhard, a fraud and most importantly, a has-been.

If the unions really want to get people behind their cause, how about bringing in today’s civil rights leaders like former US Rep. Harold Ford, Jr. or Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (although he is busy with his own state). In end, the New Haven city employee unions lost an opportunity to make their case.