Labor leaders blast Nutter ahead of budget address

A who's who of Philly labor leaders gathered outside City Hall to lambast Mayor Nutter on Wednesday, previewing what's to come tomorrow when union protesters are expected to disrupt the mayor's annual budget address. 

Their message: We're in this together. 

Speakers included Henry Nicholas, of the national healthcare employees union; Pat Eiding, Philly AFL-CIO; Pete Matthews, blue-collar DC33; Cathy Scott, white-collar DC47; Bill Gault, firefighters; and others.

Even the electricians' John Dougherty, the former state Senate candidate who hasn't taken to the microphone much recently, joined in the fracas, calling the mayor a "fraud" and a few other things. 

Nicholas said Nutter, who has never enjoyed tremendous labor support, became mayor because the big unions got behind different candidates in the crowded 2007 mayoral race. They won't make that mistake again, he said.

Nicholas, Eiding and other leaders said they expect so many protesters in the Council chambers tomorrow that the mayor will have difficulty getting in to deliver his speech.

"I don't know whether there's going to be a budget message tomorrow because we might not let him the f--- in," Nicholas said. 

Meanwhile, a pickup truck with an inflatable rat circled City Hall, while another rat and an inflatable cat choking a working man sat on the north side of the building, along with a few hundred union protesters. 

Several held signs with a photoshopped image of Nutter as a strange clown. Others carried ones with an edited version of the mayor's nickname from his DJ days - "Mix Master Mike" - with a couple syllables attached to the second word for profanity's sake.

They're angry, in part, because three of the city's four big unions have been working on expired contracts since 2009. Nutter is demanding cost reductions in work rules and pension plans for the municipal unions, DC33 and DC47. He has appealed arbitration awards for the firefighters. 

Nutter spokesman Mark McDonald said Wednesday that the mayor is pushing for contracts that will give the city much-needed cost reductions. 

"The mayor is calling for a contract that provides needed pay raises for city employees but also critically needed reform in the areas of pension and work rules and healthcare costs to help the taxpayers of this city," McDonald said. "The union leaders have done one thing for between four and five years: put their hand out asking for more money. But they are completely unwilling to help this city make the essential reforms needed for sustainable budgets in the future."