Supreme Court Denies Nutter in Labor Dispute

The state Supreme Court on Friday denied a petition from Mayor Nutter to have the court immediately hear why the city should be allowed to impose a contract on 6,800 municipal workers represented by AFSCME District Council 33.

The city had filed suit in Common Pleas Court earlier this year seeking to impose terms on its blue-collar workers - including modest raises, potential furloughs, reduced overtime, and a new pension model for future employees.

DC 33 employees, along with their white-collar counterparts in District Council 47, have been working without a contract for nearly four years.

Nutter petitioned the Supreme Court to hear the case immediately because of the “pressing public consequence.” He also anticipated that any lower court decision would be appealed to the state Supreme Court regardless.

The high court denied Nutter’s request in a one-page note, but Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille filed a 5-page dissent. He said the two sides have met more than a dozen times since April 2009, to no avail. He noted that the court ruling at the heart of the case holds that cities cannot impose terms unless the union goes on strike.

The city argued that the ruling, handed down by a lower court 20 years ago and not reviewed by the state Supreme Court at the time, “fosters a state of stalemate,” Castille wrote.

“Although the issue could have been reviewed by the court at that time, it should not be ignored now,” he said. “It is apparent that this court will ultimately need to weigh in on this issue. In my view, it is prudent to do so now rather than forestall review, as if this were just another case.”

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