Unions use MLK weekend to rally in Philadelphia

January 19, 2013 8:20:32 PM PST
Martin Luther King Jr, Day is Monday and this weekend a group of unions decided to use the holiday as a platform to rally in Philadelphia.

Hundreds of people filled Independence Mall on Saturday representing various unions currently at odds with the City of Philadelphia.

The Firefighters Union and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), represent thousands of city employees.

They held signs and aired their issues.

Many people said that MLK weekend is the perfect time to have a rally like this.

"It's a great day to honor a great man that we will not embarrass by what goes on in the City of Philadelphia," said Pat Eiding, president of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO).

Mayor Michael Nutter has not signed contracts with members of AFSCME's district councils 47 or 33. He also gave council 33 their final offer this week.

"Our members have been without a contract for four years without a wage increase for four years," said Lee Saunders, president of the AFSCME.

The Firefighters Union has also been without a contract. Currently the city is fighting an arbitration ruling against firefighters that awarded them retroactive raises.

Mayor Nutter's office released the following statement:

"We need contracts that are fair to city employees and to the taxpayers now and in the future. We can't afford the firefighters arbitration. We won't sign contracts with DC 33 and 47 until they agree with reforms they need so they can have sustainable budgets in the future."

Saturday the American Federation of Teachers joined the rally, calling for a halt to impending school closures.

"Have a moratorium on closing schools, let's fix schools let's make sure we invest in kids rather than de-invest," said Randi Weingarten, president of the AFT.

Meanwhile, Saunders says they will follow Mayor Nutter until they get a contract for Philadelphia.