In rerun, DC47 keeps new president

Posted: January 09, 2014

AFTER A PROTEST forced a rerun election, the city's white-collar union voted last night to keep its new president by a slightly wider margin than he had won the first time around.

Fred Wright defeated former president Cathy Scott in a 3,645-2,755 vote of delegates from District Council 47 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

The result will likely continue the recently reinvigorated talks between Mayor Nutter's administration and the union. The two sides have been deadlocked without a contract since 2009.

"I'm going to reach out and try to start negotiations," he said. "I'm confident I will get a contract."

Scott protested the first election, in September, by arguing that a local had voted as a unanimous "block" without the consent of all its delegates. The international ordered the rerun, which Wright said he saw as a move to keep him out.

"The challenge was bogus," Wright said before the rerun. "This really stands in the way of progress for this union."

Because of the contract stalemate, DC 47 workers, like their blue-collar counterparts in DC 33, have gone four years with frozen wages and a dwindling health-care fund - a major factor in the unrest among members that led to Scott's ouster.

Just before Christmas, Nutter agreed to a request from Wright to advance the union's health-care fund a $2.5 million lifeline and spoke optimistically about the possibility of reaching a deal with the new president.

Nutter spokesman Mark McDonald said last night that the administration was "encouraged" Wright is keeping the job.

"We're hopeful that in the coming weeks we can come to some resolution, some kind of a contract that would meet that test of fairness to taxpayers and to employees," he said.

Wright is an unusual fit for the job of negotiating with the mayor: As an Abington resident, he does not live in the city, and as former president of a local for nonprofit workers, he does not come from a municipal-worker background.

But that doesn't mean he lacks union bona fides: Wright has negotiated more than 50 collective-bargaining agreements and led two work stoppages, according to a bio on DC 47's website.

Despite the optimism from Wright and Nutter, it's unclear where they might find common ground.

Wright said last night that he is "committed" to preserving defined-benefit pension plans and preventing the possibility of furlough days. McDonald said the mayor hopes to reach a deal that "addresses the needs for critical reform in the areas of pensions and other work rules."

Still, Wright believes his style will help the union get a contract in the coming months.

"I'm not going to draw lines in the sand," he said. "That's what got us [this long] without a contract."

On Twitter: @SeanWalshDN


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