by Tim Jimenez
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – A few Philadelphia labor leaders unveiled a petition, Thursday evening, calling on Mayor Michael Nutter to give back an award bearing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s name.
A two-day summit, with more than 30 mayors from across the country, started on Thursday in Philadelphia. District Council 33, the city’s blue collar workers union, and District Council 47, the white collar workers, vowed to make their voices heard during the summit, as they continue their years-long contract disputes with the Nutter administration.
A few dozen union members, along with the new “rat-mobile”, made their way to the entrance of The Navy Yard in South Philadelphia. Many of them were bearing signs reading “Mayor Bozo,” under a depiction of the mayor as a clown with red hair and a red nose. DC 33 President Pete Matthews announced they were starting a petition that called on the mayor to return an award.
“You embarrass the name of Dr. Martin Luther King!” Matthews said.
Mr. Nutter was honored with an award bearing Dr. King’s name in January 2010 by the Wissahickon Faith Community Association in Montgomery County. Matthews, citing the disputes the Nutter administration has had with his union along with DC 47 and the city firefighter’s union, Local 22, said the mayor is not following in the footsteps of the late civil rights and worker’s rights hero.
“(Mayor Nutter) is always expounding about Martin Luther King and what he stands for and what he believes in. What he’s doing now to unions across this city – Martin Luther King would not stand for it,” Matthews said. “It’s absolutely ridiculous. We’re saying (Nutter) is a fraud. He’s a hypocrite!”
Matthews and his union received support from a private sector union on this night.
“This is all of the unions’ fight,” said Michael Barnes, Business Manager of IATSE Local 8, which represents local stagehands. “There’s a pattern here that we see a diminishing of people’s power to earn a decent living. As the unions are weakened, the workers are weakened and we all need to stick together to push back in the other direction.”
One direction they are trying to push against is the Nutter administration’s decision to seek permission from the highest court in Pennsylvania to impose contract terms on DC 33.
“Martin Luther King would be embarrassed to know that you have a mayor that takes you to the Supreme Court instead of sitting down and negotiating a contract,” Matthews said.
The Nutter administration, in the past, has contended that union leaders were “holding its members hostage,” and getting in the way of a deal. The three issues that are keeping the two sides apart are pension and overtime changes, along with the administration wanting the ability to furlough workers. As for the petition, Mayor Nutter’s spokesman, Mark McDonald, offered a response:
“The union bosses are thumbing their noses at the city’s taxpayers by refusing to move beyond 20th Century labor tactics and dealing with the Mayor’s reform effort on pensions, healthcare and antiquated work rules. Their tired games are denying city employees the wage increases they deserve.”