Protests overshadow Mayor Nutter's budget address

Click play to watch the report from Action News
March 6, 2014 3:23:47 PM PST
Several hundred unionized city workers shut down the streets around Philadelphia City Hall with a protest march ahead of Mayor Michael Nutter's annual budget address to City Council.

It happened Thursday morning around 9:00 a.m.

The rally and march were organized by AFSCME District Council 33 (DC 33), which represents approximately 10,000 blue collar workers employed by the city, and Utility Workers of America Local 686.

There were no reports of arrests from the demonstration, which blocked traffic as protestors filled the streets and sidewalk, marching around the entire perimeter of City Hall.

The rally and march were designed to call attention to DC 33's lack of contract with the city. Talks have been deadlocked between the union and the Nutter Administration since 2009.

Protestors also voiced their opposition to the proposed $19 billion sale of PGW to UIL Holdings of Connecticut.

City Council President Darrell Clarke assured the utility workers that that wasn't a done deal.

Clarke marched with the union members around City Hall and promised them that once all of the invited guests were seated for the Mayor's budget address, they - as members of the public - would be allowed in, as long as the chambers didn't go over capacity.

Thursday's demonstration outside City Hall came the morning after AFSCME District Council 47, which represents about 3,600 city white collar workers, ratified a new contract with the city after a 5-year deadlock in talks.

THE BUDGET ADDRESS

Nutter's annual budget address began without incident at about 11:15 a.m. Thursday after a brief City Council meeting.

Council chambers were quiet during the speech, in stark contrast to last year, when loud protests from dozens of union members forced the mayor to leave the hall to deliver his speech.

Action News' Vernon Odom reports that despite Clarke's earlier promise to the demonstrators, none were allowed into Council chambers to hear Nutter's speech.

In the address, Nutter called for an additional $2 million for L & I to hire more than 20 new inspectors. This was prompted by the 22nd and Market building collapse disaster back in June.

The mayor also proposed expanding library services in the city back to 6 days a week. Those services were originally cut during the recession of 2008.

There is also $250 million in the proposed budget aimed at labor costs, prompting some to speculate that a long-awaited contract with DC 33 could be on the horizon.

Some of that money could also be used to settle with the police and firefighters unions through arbitration.

Nutter addressed the unions in Thursday morning's address.

"I am hopeful that all of our union leaders understand that my administration wants fair, multi-year contracts with all of our union employees. But again, fair contracts must include work rule changes, health care cost savings and, most importantly, pension reform," he said.

The total city government budget for this year is proposed to be just under $4 billion, not a major difference from last year's. City Council still has to hear from the Philadelphia School District about its budget request.

Council is expected to debate all apsects of the spending proposals over the next four months.


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