Emboldened by their union leader and mayoral candidate T. Milton Street Sr., several hundred city municipal workers withstood a hot sun and crowded LOVE Park Tuesday afternoon to rail against Mayor Nutter as they endure their 42nd month - that's more than three years - without a raise.
"Are we gonna crack under this non-union mayor? He is more Republican than some of the Republicans out here, when it comes to unions," said Pete Matthews, president of AFSCME District Council 33.
Then he introduced the first of a handful of city candidates and others who stepped to the microphone over the course of a 45-minute rally that ended in a march around City Hall, and then Matthews' testimony in City Council chambers on next year's budget.
First up: Milton Street, endorsed last month by the union in what was viewed as a coup for Street, an ex-convict who served 26 months in federal custody for not paying taxes on $3 million in income.
"He's about the community. He's about poor people. He's about working people," said Matthews in an introduction. "He reminded me of the things he has done, and I said, why not support a man with a track record of helping working people? Sisters and brothers, I give you the next mayor of Philadelphia, Sen. Milton Street!"
Street gave a rousing speech, met with applause and whistles and shouts. "If that man over on the second floor is re-elected, you will not be spoken for at all. Can you feel me?"
He continued, "If we do not stand up and speak for ourselves, we will not be spoken for at all."
Among others who spoke were Democrats Bill Rubin, running against Republican Councilman Brian J. O'Neill in the 10th District; Jeff Hornstein, who faces three rivals to succeed retiring Councilman Frank DiCicco in the 1st District; Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, who has no opponent; former City Controller Jonathan Saidel; NAACP Philadelphia branch president J. Wyatt Mondesire.
Rubin, the city's former supervisor of elections, reminded DC 33 members that most of Philadelphia's elected officials would receive 2 percent raises as of July 1st, which happens automatically under city legislation. "I want everyone of them to pledge that they won't take a dime until we get a contract," he said.
The largest of the city's four municipal unions, DC 33 represents nearly 10,000 city workers, including from the departments of sanitation and water - and they've been working without a new contract since June 2009. A one-year agreement reached in 2008 included no wage increases, or other major changes.
A spokesman for Mayor Nutter, Mark McDonald, reiterated the mayor's promise to reach an agreement that is fair to both city workers and taxpayers, "but he will not sign a contract that does not have a strong reform agenda in it." McDonald referred to Nutter's focus on pension and health care changes to save the city money in the years to come, as well a the mayor's push for the right to furlough workers to reduce city costs.
"The mayor has made it clear he will not kick the can down the road," McDonald said, "and that's why he won't sign a contract that lacks those elements."
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