Hundreds of blue-collar municipal workers took to the streets Wednesday afternoon to demand that Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter settle a pair of outstanding union contracts. They intend to resume the protest Thursday.
Members of AFSME District Council 47 and District Council 33, who have worked without a contract since 2009, say Nutter doesn’t want to change that.
To highlight their disgust with his administration, employees blocked off a section of 17th Street in front of the Westin Hotel, where a U.S. Conference of Mayors event hosted by Nutter is set for Thursday and Friday.
“I don’t want to call it a standstill, but [the mayor] won’t budge,” said Gina Edwards, an administrative technician representing District Council 47. “You have to give something. We’ve been out here. We haven’t been on strike. We haven’t stopped work. We’re still doing our job.”
As he stood on a stage facing the Westin, Pete Matthews, president of District Council 33, said the city is taking its workers for granted.
“They truly want you to be a public servant,” he said. “You aren’t supposed to have decent wages. You aren’t supposed to have decent benefits.”
Mark McDonald, Nutter’s spokesman, said the administration has been ready to complete multi-year contracts with both District Councils 33 and 47.
The city is calling for reduced pensions for new workers, changes to overtime rules and the authority to furlough workers during periods of “fiscal distress.”
The unions aren’t interested in pension reform or furloughs.
Following January’s raucous budget address, when union protesters shouted down the mayor, forcing him to stop his speech inside council chambers, City Council President Darrell Clarke said he would work to reach agreements with both unions.
Jane Roh, Clarke’s spokeswoman, said the councilman’s discussions with the union and the Nutter Administration are ongoing, but would not comment further.
District Councils 33 and 47 represent about 15,000 city employees, including workers in the city’s Water Department and at the Philadelphia International Airport.
Protesters are expected to return to 17th Street Thursday morning.