20-foot rat stops by the Nutters' house

A 20-foot-tall inflatable rat and a few hundred union protesters made their presence felt on Mayor's Nutter's block in Wynnefield on Thursday evening.

The mayor likely wasn't there, spokesman Mark McDonald said, but District Council 33 got its point across anyway. The union, which represents 11,000 blue-collar municipal workers, has been working without a contract since 2009 and without wage increases, and they aren't happy about it. 

"Workers got to stand up. You can't just keep taking this," shouted DC 33 President Pete Matthews. "Labor is the new civil rights issue." 

The rat was loaned from the stagehands union currently fighting its own war against the Philadelphia Theater Company. But DC 33 officials say they'll be getting a rabblerousing rodent of their own soon.

(So don't worry. Even if labor rats are going out of style elsewhere - they're here to stay in Philly.)

The stakes are getting higher in the stalemate between Nutter and the union. Wednesday marked the Nutter-imposed deadline for the union to agree on his "final offer," which included pay raises, possible furlough days and reductions in pension costs.

No deal was reached despite late-night negotiations Wednesday. 

The mayor is holding a press conference Friday morning on the issue, and many think he will announce a plan for the administration to get its way through court intervention. 

Matthews' speech Thursday highlighted the urgency of the situation.

"There might be a time when we have to make the ultimate sacrifice," Matthews said, apparently alluding to a strike, "but we're going to do that at the right time."

McDonald said the workers would be wise to take the administration's deal. 

"Instead of standing outside the mayor’s house, the members might want to bring pressure on their union leadership to agree to something would give them raises," he said.

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