Hundreds of Philadelphians, representing many of the area’s labor organizations, gathered in the Mall in front of the Constitution Center in Old City this morning, to voice their displeasure over what they consider to be Mayor Michael Nutter’s dictatorial stance in negotiating a contract with city workers’ union District Council 33. The rally opened with hymns sung by the Bright Hope Baptist Church choir from a stage flanked on either side with large portraits of Dr. Martin Luther King.
Last Wednesday, Mayor Nutter delivered to the union what he called his “final offer,” which offers no retro pay, and includes a 2.5% wage hike from the date of ratification through January 1, 2014, then a 2% wage hike from January 1, 2014 through July 1, 2014. The offer also included changes to the workers’ pension plans and allowed for unpaid furloughs, measures to which the union has remained vehemently opposed throughout negotiations. The union immediately rejected this offer, leading Nutter to declare talks with the union to be in a state of deadlock.
Speakers at the rally, which included local AFL-CIO president Pat Eiding and National Executive Vice President Arlene Holt Baker, repeatedly invoked Dr. King’s legacy, calling for unity from the Philadelphia community and fairness and compassion from city officials.
Conspicuously absent from the crowd of teachers, Water Works employees, laborers, and firefighters were any members of the Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police. The FOP had their contract terms awarded in an arbitration process accepted by the city without any objection.
Mr. Eiden responded to the mayor’s offer, which he characterized as “take these terms or else,” with the suggestion “It’s time for ‘or else.’