Mar 14 2013

philly.com: City union officials assail Nutter’s handling of labor issues

As Mayor Nutter prepares to unveil a new budget to City Council, the city’s top union leaders on Wednesday excoriated Nutter’s handling of municipal labor issues and called on Council members to take their side.

“He’s trying to take away our right to collective bargaining,” said Patrick Eiding, president of the Philadelphia AFL-CIO, at a lunchtime rally that drew about 300 union supporters to the north side of City Hall.

Eiding said the union movement would be out in greater force Thursday, trying to pack into City Hall and Council chambers when the mayor delivers his annual budget speech.

“I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” said Bill Gault, president of the city firefighters union, predicting that 1,000 city employees would attempt to attend, joined by hundreds from other unions. Council’s seating capacity is 350.

The firefighters are battling the administration over raises awarded to the union in arbitration but delayed by a court appeal from Nutter, who says the city cannot afford the expense.

Eiding and other labor leaders urged Nutter to immediately give firefighters the pay increase and drop another legal motion, now before the state Supreme Court. Nutter has petitioned the high court for the right to impose contract terms on 6,800 members of AFSCME District Council 33.

Henry Nicholas, national president of the hospital and health care workers union, focused on Council, complaining that its 17 members have been “too quiet” about Nutter’s tactics.

“They must tell him to stand down and do the right thing,” Nicholas said. “And if they do not do that, we are coming after all of them in the next election.”

City Controller Alan Butkovitz, seeking reelection this year, joined the attack on the administration.

“They have no respect for binding arbitration, no respect for collective bargaining,” Butkovitz said. “This is not a question about saving money. . . . This is about taking away the tools by which we work out what the relationship between labor and management is going to be. It is a disgrace and we are behind you.”


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