By Jenn Bernstein
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — At-Large City Councilman Jim Kenney is asking everyone in Philadelphia to keep the city’s firefighters at the forefront of their thoughts, especially with Sunday marking Firefighter Appreciation Day.
Kenney is looking to expand it to all next week and asking folks to stop by firehouses and say thank you. But behind the scenes, a cloud remains over City Hall, as a labor dispute between Philadelphia and the firefighters’ union heads into its fourth year.
For a second time, the city appealed an arbitration panel’s decision this June, which ruled in favor of firefighters. They haven’t had a contract since 2009.
“We are firefighters,” says I.A.F.F.-AFL-CIO Local 22 President Bill Gault. “We demand to be treated respectfully. We’ve earned it.”
“Uniformed employees of our city, firefighters and police officers, are a different level of people,” says Kenney. “We should show them more respect than we are showing them now.”
Mayor Nutter is attending the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, but the Mayor’s Chief of Staff Everette Gillison says any claim that the city is disrespectful of the men and women in uniform is just plain false. He says they aren’t letting politics get in the way of process.
“We have not only respected our uniformed personnel, we have always lauded what they do,” said Gillison. “What we are doing is making sure we equally act as professionals in what we do and how we do things.”
The appeal is now in the hands of Common Pleas Court, although there’s no word on its timeline. Political insiders say they wouldn’t be surprised if it eventually makes it to the State Supreme Court.