Open Letter From Philadelphia City Council on Municipal Contract Negotiations

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[UPDATE] Progress!

“Asked if anything in particular had propelled the talks forward after such a long deadlock, Wright credited an open letter signed by all 16 members of City Council, released Monday, urging the administration to give up its furlough demands.”

“City Reaches Tentative Deal With White-Collar Union” via Philadelphia Inquirer


Feb. 24, 2014

Dear Mayor Nutter,

The City Council of Philadelphia joins you in expressing gratitude to the heroes of this historically harsh winter: the hard-working municipal employees braving freezing temperatures and long hours to keep our streets passable and our most vulnerable safe and warm.

We also say, in unison: It is time to have a serious conversation about the five-year impasse between your Administration and the workers who provide vital services our residents expect and deserve.

While severe weather alone is not the justification for our call, it certainly is the impetus. More than two months after the state-operated Philadelphia Parking Authority struck new contracts with workers represented by AFSCME District Council 33, workers represented by that same union under your Administration still suffer the indignity of working without a new contract.

Meanwhile, 2014 so far is filled with gleaming indicators that Philadelphia’s business climate is roaring back.

It is simply unfair for thousands of our blue collar workers to remain frozen in a time of recession-induced fear and uncertainty. The City of Philadelphia must reconsider its contract demands, and AFSCME District Council 47 and District Council 33 workers must show a willingness to negotiate.

The national economic meltdown might have justified austerity measures like forced unpaid leave, or furloughs. But with the economy rebounding, it is difficult today to argue that those who fix our potholes, salt and shovel our streets and process our business licenses deserve less than they currently receive.

Sensible adjustments to workers’ pensions might be in order, as you have said. But we remind you that our pension liability is high in part because the City deferred payments to the fund – with the consent of the unions – during the recession. In that sense, the Administration, Council and employees should take some ownership of the City’s large unfunded pension liability – not the workers alone. The long-term health and sustainability of the pension fund should be a goal we all share.

Our municipal employees acknowledge that work rules are the prerogative of management. But during budget hearings, Administration officials confirmed that furloughs do nothing to alleviate health care costs and pension contributions – two of our greatest fiscal challenges. They also affirmed there was no meaningful difference in savings between layoffs versus furloughs – and that neither layoffs nor furloughs were anticipated in the City’s Five-Year Budget Plan.

Why dig in your heels for something you do not intend to use? Indeed, the PPA’s new contract with DC 33 workers does not included mandated unpaid leave.

This coming budget season will be the sixth since contracts expired, and the second to last of your tenure. We call on your Administration and our municipal workers to resolve this crisis now. It is time for fairness and for peace.


Councilman Mark Squilla, 1st District

Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, 2nd District

Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, 3rd District

Councilman Curtis Jones, Jr., 4th District

Council President Darrell L. Clarke, 5th District

Councilman Bobby Henon, 6th District

Councilwoman Maria Quiñones Sánchez, 7th District

Councilwoman Cindy Bass, 8th District

Councilwoman Marian Tasco, 9th District

Councilman Brian J. O’Neill, 10th District

Councilman At-Large W. Wilson Goode, Jr.

Councilwoman At-Large William K. Greenlee

Councilwoman At-Large Dennis O’Brien

Councilman At-Large James Kenney

Councilwoman At-Large Blondell Reynolds Brown

Councilman At-Large David Oh

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