Union lobbying state reps to nix amendments to city budget-reliefbill

Posted: September 01, 2009

As the state House of Representatives gears up to vote on legislation that provides budget relief to the city, municipal unions continue their lobbying against amendments made to the bill by the state Senate.

Cathy Scott, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees' District Council 47, which represents the city's white-collar workers, and Bill Gault, president of the firefighters union, sent e-mails yesterday to state representatives asking them to oppose the amended House Bill 1828.

HB 1828 grants the city permission to raise the sales tax temporarily and to defer some pension payments - moves worth $700 million over five years. Amendments that were added in the Senate would bar elected officials from the controversial Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP) and would require the city to freeze the pension plan and create a lower-cost plan for all new city employees that would have to be negotiated with municipal unions.

Mayor Nutter has asked the state House to approve the bill - set for a vote next Tuesday - with the amendments, saying that if it isn't passed soon, he will be forced to enact a budget that forces the layoff of 3,000 city workers. So far, union leaders have staunchly opposed the amendments, saying they would hurt the collective-bargaining process.

"This is simply not pension reform - it is rewriting labor law to hurt employees and their chosen representatives," Scott writes in a document of "talking points" on HB1828 she sent to state representatives.

Meanwhile, the president of Lodge 5 of the Fraternal Order of Police, John McNesby, said the union has hired a lobbyist and plans to launch a public-relations campaign against the amendments.

"This is ridiculous. It hurts all police officers," McNesby said. "As much as they stand up there and care about us at funerals, they turn around and screw us."

Asked if they were concerned about pending layoffs if the bill isn't passed, union leaders said they were fighting for their workers.

"That's on the mayor. He created this monster. I can't give up stuff we bargained for," said Gault.

Pete Matthews, president of District Council 33, the blue-collar counterpart of DC 47, did not return a call for comment.

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