Firefighters’ Union Campaigns for Change to City Charter (And Get A Pay Raise)
Philadelphia firefighters want to change the city charter, to require that city council approve appeals of labor contract arbitration awards. They hope to put the proposed change to voters, on the November ballot.
State law requires binding arbitration for public safety workers, but Philadelphia won an exception, in 1991, and is allowed to appeal. The Nutter administration has used the provision to forestall a new firefighters contract for more than three years, appealing — and losing — three times. Union president Joe Schulle, who took office this month, says it’s time for a new approach.
“This is the time to restore fairness and balance to city government by granting council the authority to effectively do its job.”
Many of the speakers used the event to castigate Nutter and trumpet a newfound bond between unions that have not always worked in concert.
John J. Dougherty, head of Local 98 of the electricians’ union, was the final speaker at the news conference, held at the firefighters’ union headquarters.
“The mayor’s a fraud. The people who elected him in the high-rises overestimated his intelligence,” he said. “The thing we underestimated was his arrogance.”
I have to say, their plan is clever. It could work. Whether it’s good for the city’s taxpayers, and even its union members over the long run, is another question.
Covering city government for decades now, I’ve come to truly appreciate the value of the collective bargaining process. You really need the balance of city managers who want to improve services and protect the public purse on one side and unions leaders determined to make sure members get fair treatment and compensation on the other.
If the unions’ charter change is approved, it will significantly erode the authority of this and every future mayor to manage labor relations. Council will be taking on something it hasn’t in the past, and may some day come to regret it. After all, it will have to fund every labor contract the city signs, and raising taxes isn’t exactly fun either.