A strange scene unfolded during a traditional event at a landmark Philadelphia building Thursday. Scores of angry protesters yelled from the balconies, bringing Mayor Michael Nutter’s budget address to a halt.
Zack Stalberg, of the government watchdog group the Committee of Seventy, calls the unprecedented union protests during the address, “an extraordinary mess. I don’t know of anything quite like this.”
Stalberg says the scene reflected poorly on the city.
“The city is going to end up with national attention on this and it gives us another black eye in Philadelphia, which we do not need,” he said. “The unions certainly didn’t distinguish themselves. And if I had to guess, I’d say over the long run this will translate to a little less public support for the municipal unions if they end up in a strike situation.”
But, on the day after the chaotic protest, District Council 47 president Cathy Scott said she had no regrets.
“We thought that it was appropriate to call the mayor to task for the fact that he has not budgeted for contracts in the time that he has been a mayor,” she said. “We think that it is, after four years, time that we have a collective bargaining agreement.”
Scott says she’s proud of union members for making their voices heard.
“We think it’s unfortunate that things have gone on so long. And we would like to see contract negotiations certainly resolved before any budget is adopted,” she continued.
Following the budget address chaos, City Council President Darrell Clarke said he will try to help the unions and the city reach agreement.
The union welcomes anything that brings contract negotiations to a successful conclusion, Scott said.