After 4 years, DC 47 members ratify contract

SEAN COLLINS WALSH / DAILY NEWS STAFF DC 47 president Fred Wright (right) began negotiating with Mayor Nutter's administration almost immediately after taking office in January.
SEAN COLLINS WALSH / DAILY NEWS STAFF DC 47 president Fred Wright (right) began negotiating with Mayor Nutter's administration almost immediately after taking office in January.
Posted: March 07, 2014

MEMBERS OF the city's white-collar union packed a sweltering auditorium at Benjamin Franklin High School last night, fanning themselves with a handout they were given on the way in.

But after more than four years without a raise, sweating for two hours was nothing for the workers to hear these words:

"The contract is ratified."

After an overwhelming voice vote to approve AFSCME District Council 47's new contract, dozens of members lined up to shake the hand of the man who had made it possible - union president Fred Wright.

"You must be a good negotiator," one said.

"I need this money," another said. "I can't thank you enough."

The vote followed a presentation of the contract terms and a Q&A period. Members asked union leaders whether the city could raise the workers' share of health-care costs in the middle of the contract (No), whether it would benefit them to enroll in the new administration-designed pension plan (No) and dozens of other questions.

When all was said and done, Wright was smiling ear to ear.

"It means a lot to me," he said. "People get stability; they get raises. This is a great opportunity for the city to move forward and grow."

The union's last contract expired in July 2009, and Wright unseated Cathy Scott as union president in September by promising to end the impasse.

Winning a January rerun election after Scott contested the original results, Wright moved quickly to work out a deal with Nutter's negotiators.

The contract through 2017, costing $122 million, includes $2,000 signing bonuses for all 2,000 members and raises totaling 9 percent.

The city is paying $7.5 million into the union's health-care fund and is increasing its monthly per-employee contributions from $975 to $1,100 until 2015. At that point, the city and union will move to a self-funding health-care model that the administration hopes will save money.

Current DC 47 members will pay an extra 1 percentage point of their paychecks into the pension fund, and new members will have the choice of enrolling in a new, less-costly plan or paying a second 1 percentage-point hike.

District Council 33, the 10,000-member blue-collar union, also has been without a contract or raises since 2009.


On Twitter: @SeanWalshDN

Blog: ph.ly/PhillyClout

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