by Kevin Zapf Hanes | August 28, 2014
PHILADELPHIA – After more than five years, AFSCME District Council 33 reached a tentative contract agreement with Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter's administration. Perseverance paid off for the hard-working members of DC 33. If the contract is ratified, they will receive a $2,800 signing bonus and wage increases, among other improvements.
The Nutter administration spent the past five years trying to force the council to accept a contract that would have reduced wages, benefits and working conditions. The mayor even went to the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court to overturn decades of collective bargaining law in order to have the ability to impose the city’s “last best offer.”
But the AFSCME members stayed strong.
“Even as life became increasingly hard for our members, with increased health and welfare costs, frozen wages and threats to their collective bargaining rights, the members of DC 33 did not give up,” said Pete Matthews, president of District Council 33. “Many thought our firm bargaining position would not work, but our members knew they would prevail. I am proud to lead a district council that stood firm and remained strong.”
The lawsuit filed by the Nutter administration would have negatively affected public-sector bargaining rights throughout Pennsylvania. After the state Supreme Court declined to hear the case, Mayor Nutter quickly appealed the decision to a lower court. The case was still active throughout the negotiations. As part of the tentative agreement, the city agreed to drop the lawsuit upon ratification of the contract.
Should DC 33 members ratify the agreement, they will receive a $2,800 signing bonus, increases in health and welfare contributions, and a 3.5-percent wage increase in September and a 2.5-percent increase next July. The mayor froze step increases and longevity pay during negotiations in an attempt to force workers to accept his unreasonable terms. Both will be reinstated immediately upon ratification of the agreement, which would be in force through July 2016.
A major sticking point in contract negotiations was the city’s demand for 15 furlough days, which President Matthews argued were not necessary and the members of DC 33 refused to accept. The Nutter administration was forced to abandon its position and there are no furlough days in this agreement.
“Our fight for fair wages, benefits and working conditions did more than just awaken our members, it made the community more aware of the important jobs we do that make Philadelphia work,” Matthews said. “I want to thank the other unions, members of the community and faith leaders who came out in support for the work we do. This not only helped our cause but it also made our city stronger.”