Union leader has no love for Nutter

So what was Pete Matthews really thinking when Mayor Nutter during his March budget speech took aim at the city’s four municipal union leaders, saying, “It’s time for leaders to lead, not follow the screaming masses?”

For the mayor to stand up there and insult the union leaders as he did was ridiculous. I have not spoken to the mayor since,” said Matthews, who leads AFSCME District Council 33, the city’s largest union with 7,200 members.

That was the some of the red-hot rhetoric that spilled from Matthews’ lips this morning as he testified before City Council on next year’s budget proposal. Whatever working relationship Matthews and the mayor had last year seems to have disintegrated — and it was a messsage Matthews was keen on communicating as the union’s contract ticks toward a June 30 expiration date.

With the Council chamber, including both balconies, filled with howling DC 33 workers, Matthews recounted a phone call he received from Nutter that March day, informing him — just 20 minutes before he would reveal it publicly — that in a new pact he would seek salary freezes, reduced holidays, pension changes and lower city contributions to the union health plans.

“I consider that underhanded and low,” Matthews said of the short notice. “This is what I said to the mayor: You have hell on your hands if you think we are going to make one more concession.”

He also said, "I don't understand where the mayor is coming from. Maybe one of these days he'll start speaking to me again and explain."

Alternatively, Matthews said the administration has not tried enough to reduce costs by eliminating unnecessary outside contracts. He detailed four areas in which he believes dollars can be saved: in the Water Department, Fleet Management, the airport and the city solicitor’s office.

At least one Councilmember heard his cry. Councilman Curtis Jones Jr. said he was surprised that the mayor’s Private Sector Task Force, according to Matthews, had not reached out to the union to discuss these outside contracts, or anything.

“Blue-collar workers who do something everyday should be listened to,” Jones said. “It doesn’t always take a Wharton grad to figure out where cost savings are.”

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