By Pete Matthews
President, AFSCME District Council 33, City Municipal Workers
A recent public opinion poll by the Pew Charitable Trusts found that Mayor Michael Nutter’s job approval rating has improved to 60 percent, with his highest numbers generated among white, college-educated citizens making more than $100,000 a year. That may be good for the Mayor’s public image in the media but if a similar poll was conducted among City workers, especially the members of AFSCME District Council 33, the results would be considerably less positive.
As a mayor who has failed to settle fair contracts with City workers in District Council 33 for the last four years, while continuing to demand unjustified contract concessions in negotiations, it is no wonder that the members of District Council 33 remain unimpressed with Nutter’s performance.
In 2008 the newly elected Mayor Nutter appeared before a District Council 33 General Membership meeting and declared that our union’s members deserved a fair contract and promised to make it happen.
Four years later we are still waiting. In the interim, District Council 33 members have gone without pay raises and the City has made no increased contributions for our health benefits. We have continued to work through snow emergencies and floods because we care about the citizens of this City.
One of our first responses to the Mayor’s pleas for help as he was starting his administration was to work with him to reassign District Council 33 members to funded jobs allowing the Mayor to save $35 million by eliminating 200 positions.
The lack of pay raises to AFSCME Municipal Workers District Council 33 members over the last four years has saved the City $61 million.
We preceded the City by two years by unilaterally converting our Health and Welfare Fund from fully insured to self-insured, assuming greater risks in order to preserve benefit levels. Combined with the lack of increased contributions to AFSCME Municipal Workers’ Health Fund, the City has saved $84 million over the last four years thanks to our union’s initiative.
District Council 33 also played a pivotal role in securing legislative approval from the General Assembly in Harrisburg for a deferral of payments to the City’s Pension Plan that resulted in $235 million in funds that the City did not have to immediately disperse.
Our efforts in these areas alone have saved the City $415 million and made it possible for the Mayor to balance the last four City budgets in a row. But there is more…
When the City needed support in Harrisburg for approval to increase the Sales Tax, where it was being stalled by partisan legislative infighting, the Mayor personally reached out to District Council 33 and we delivered once again.
The bottom line is that, for the last four years, when District Council 33 members promised, we delivered. The Mayor has yet to live up to the one promise he made to our members.
The Mayor is fond of saying that were it not for Doctor Martin Luther King he would not have been able to achieve the electoral success that has enabled him to lead Philadelphia.
While that may be true, it would be wise for the Mayor to remember that Martin Luther King was killed in Memphis in 1968 as he was supporting striking AFSCME sanitation workers. Our Union’s link to the legacy of Martin Luther King was paid in blood and we won’t ever forget.
While the members of District Council 33 have been living up to Martin Luther King’s legacy of sacrifice, dignity and dedicated public service every day, and especially in the last four years, the Mayor has been sullying his reputation among our members by failing to live up to his promises and showing even greater disdain for them by continuing to insist on contract concessions in health benefits that our actions have already shown are completely unjustified.
District Council 33 members live in the real world. We don’t view the City through rose-colored glasses. That is why we believe that the Mayor must settle a fair contract with our Union before we consider giving him anything approaching a passing grade on his job performance.