Unions march against all Republicans and one Democrat - Nutter

Posted: September 05, 2012

THE RAIN came down hard and steady at times during the city's 25th annual Labor Day parade Monday, but the downpours did nothing to dampen the fire and indignation felt by many marchers toward the Republican Party and their newest bogeyman - Mayor Nutter.

"Nutter the Dictator," and "Nutter Doesn't Negotiate He Dictates," read signs that dozens of soggy union members carried while trooping down Columbus Boulevard toward a picnic at Penn's Landing.

An estimated 5,000 union faithful and their families participated, representing about 50 unions, said Liz McElroy, the newly elected secretary-treasurer of Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO.

"I was really impressed by the number of people who came out in the rain," she said, noting that city firefighters and sanitation workers are among the many union members who regularly work in inclement weather.

But this Labor Day, just two months before the presidential election, many of those city employees lumped Nutter in with national Republicans as an enemy of the labor movement and the middle class.

"Brothers and sisters, Nov. 6, 2012, is not just another election. It's a war," Joseph J. Dougherty, business manager of Ironworkers Local Union 401, said before the parade began at the Sheet Metal Workers meeting hall on Columbus near Washington Avenue. "It's a war between the workers of America and the Republican Party. It's a war to protect the very existence of the American labor movement."

"Obama Yes, Nutter No," chanted marchers from district councils 33 and 47 - the city's blue and white collar workers - who have worked for four years without contracts.

Nutter was nowhere in sight. During a conference call with reporters Monday, the mayor said he was packing to attend the Democratic National Convention.

"We need reform in the area of pensions and health care and in the area of work rules," said Nutter spokesman Mark McDonald. "The mayor stands ready tomorrow to sign such a contract if the unions will sit down and negotiate the kinds of changes that are required."

U.S. Rep. Bob Brady - who told the crowd Republicans are "trying to get rid of us" - said he's been talking with Nutter about the contracts and plans to have meetings after the convention.

"We've got to get them talking," the chairman of the city's Democratic Party said. "They've been working too long without a contract."

City Councilman David Oh - one of the few known Republicans at the picnic - said he was willing to help resolve the contract standoff: "If we don't, it will get kicked down the road."

- Staff Writer Catherine Lucey

contributed to this report

Contact Mensah M. Dean at deanm@phillynews.com or 215-568-8278. Follow him on Twitter @MensahDean.

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