by Pablo Ros | February 08, 2013
Democratic Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter’s latest attempt to deprive workers of their right to collectively bargain borrows from the playbook of ultra-conservative Republican governors Rick Snyder of Michigan and Scott Walker of Wisconsin.
Mayor 1 Percent Nutter’s new trick play? If you don’t have the support of the public for your anti-worker schemes, go right to a state Supreme Court stacked with conservatives.
On Tuesday, Mayor Nutter asked Philadelphia’s highest court to impose the terms of a contract on his city’s public employees, members of AFSCME District Council 33 – terms they maintain will result in drastic cuts to the vital services of the communities they serve. In effect, Nutter has attempted to bypass the process of collective bargaining and dismantle its 40-year history in the state of Pennsylvania.
At a press conference Wednesday, AFSCME District Council 33 Pres. Pete Matthews said the mayor “has gone full Scott Walker with this attack on public sector workers.”
And full Rick Snyder, who pulled a similar trick in Michigan last month by asking a Republican court to nullify challenges to the so-called “right-to-work” law that he hurriedly signed in last year’s lame-duck legislative session.
“This will do nothing to reach a fair contract settlement, but it could set a precedent that could have far-reaching and harmful effects on public employee contract bargaining in Pennsylvania,” Matthews said. “But Mayor Nutter doesn’t seem to care… All he is interested in doing is dictating terms to our union and other city workers. He has shown no interest in conducting real negotiations.”
In 1970, collective bargaining in Pennsylvania became reality when the state Legislature recognized the need to respect workers’ rights for public employees. Consequently, a successful organizing campaign led by then-Council 13 Director and former-AFSCME President Gerald W. McEntee resulted in the biggest statewide organization of public workers.
Omar Salaam, a Philadelphia sanitation worker for more than 13 years, travels to neighborhoods across the city to keep them “neat and clean,” he said. “I am proud of the work I do because it’s rewarding when a neighbor walks out and says, ‘Thank you.’ Unfortunately, this mayor has chosen to disregard my commitment to this city and take me for a fool. This mayor thinks we are stupid, but I have one thing to tell him. We aren’t.”
AFSCME DC 47 Pres. Cathy Scott attended the press conference in solidarity, along with representatives of community and civic groups, including Jobs with Justice, Philadelphia Unemployment Project, Unite Here, and Fight for Philly. Labor groups, such as the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and many, many more, also came out in droves to stand in solidarity for justice for all workers.
Philadelphia city workers have done their best to negotiate with Nutter and continue to do so. Members of AFSCME DC 33 are proud to say they pulled together to help their city find real solutions to its budget problems.