Politics and healthcare mixed it up at yesterday’s Labor Day parade and party along the Delaware River.
Although Democratic mayoral candidate Michael Nutter got an unusual chance to speak from the platform, he and GOP candidate Al Taubenberger chatted amiably as they walked practically side by side in the parade along Columbus Boulevard.
Behind them was a blocks-long rainbow of T-shirts, as thousands of union workers in their families — many wearing their union’s colors — marched along the boulevard toward music and burgers at a Penns Landing party under bright skies.
Whoever gets to be mayor of Philadelphia will almost immediately begin labor contract talks with the union that represents city workers, with health care costs being one of the top issues.
And it won’t only be an issue in Philadelphia.
The AFL-CIO, the nation’s largest labor federation, plans to make health care a national priority in the upcoming presidential race.
AFL-CIO international president John Sweeney, making a rare Labor Day appearance in Philadelphia, vowed from the speakers’ podium yesterday to activate millions of union workers to speak out on health care reform.
“Nobody should have to fear the consequences of getting sick,” he said, adding that no business should have to go out of business because health care costs have gotten out of control.
In Philadelphia, “we’ll have to start right away,” said Taubenberger, who vowed to make ongoing talks with the city’s unionized workforce a priority, even after the contracts are settled. “That’ll be an evergreen.
We’ll meet, maybe once a week, to talk over what’s going on, what the problems are. I might have some issues I want to bring up.”
Nutter plans to draw on the experience he gained negotiating contracts when he was chairman Pennsylvania Convention Center Authority.
“My perspective is that whatever resources the city has have to be used to give workers a fair and reasonable contract,” he said, “and it has to be fair and reasonable for the taxpayers who are paying the bill,” he said in an interview.
Nutter promised honest, fair and reasonable negotiations. “We have a lot of work to do.”