Charter change could make it harder for Mayor to challenge arbitration awards

Mayor Nutter (File Photo)

Mayor Nutter has repeatedly appealed a firefighters' arbitration award and now the union has teamed up with other union leaders and elected officials in an effort to make it harder to challenge future awards.

In the fall, City Councilman Jim Kenney will introduce an amendment to the Home Rule Charter that would require that the Mayor get two-thirds of Council's support before challenging future arbitration awards. The proposed ballot question could be before voters in November. Some Council members said they believe there will be enough support on Council to get it through.

"These are individuals who lay down their lives for us," Kenney said. "What has been done to the firefighters is uncalled for."

Mayoral spokesman Mark McDonald said the administration opposes the measure. 

Nutter is currently challenging the firefighters' arbitration award for the third time. He has said the award was too costly.

Elected officials and union leaders gathered inside of Firefighters' union Local 22 headquarters today blasting Nutter, calling his ongoing appeal effort a disgrace that has cost taxpayers $1 million.

"It's totally embarrassing you haven't had a raise since 2009," said Congressman Bob Brady at today's news conference announcing the proposal, adding the city's blue-and-white collar unions have also worked without a contract since 2009. "It's these people who run this city and make this city work."

City Controller Alan Butkovitz said the award is fair and that the administration has "made a mockery of the concept of binding arbitration."

Under Act 111, a three-member arbitration panel reviews competing contract proposals and then issues an award. Police, firefighters and other public safety personnel are prohibited from striking to resolve contract disputes.  

John Dougherty, head of powerful Local 98 International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers said Nutter could have paid for the award through the money spent appealing it.

"The Mayor's a fraud," Dougherty said.

Joseph Schulle, new president for the firefighters' union said he and other union leaders will work hard to gather 20,000 signatures of registered voters in support of the proposal.

Standing in solidarity with the firefighters' union was also John McNesby, head of the Fraternal Order of Police, Pete Matthews, president of AFSCME District Council 33 and Cathy Scott, head of District Council 47. Several Council members and state lawmakers were also at the news conference speaking in support of the proposal.