Workers protest Nutter's budget address

Unionized workers with the city of Philadelphia protest outside City Hall on the morning Mayor Nutter is to give his budget address inside city council chambers.
Unionized workers with the city of Philadelphia protest outside City Hall on the morning Mayor Nutter is to give his budget address inside city council chambers. (ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff Photographer)
Posted: March 08, 2014

Timing their protest to Mayor Nutter's annual budget address, scores of unionized municipal workers marched outside City Hall today to decry a lack of a labor contract and the proposed sale of PGW.

Jeering union protesters last year prevent Nutter from addressing Council, prompting him to deliver the budget message later in the day from a heavily guarded the Mayor Reception Room.

The protesters dispersed about 10:30 a.m. and some entered City Hall, where a number were admitted to the Council chambers gallery for Nutter's speech without their signs and a with a warning against outbursts.

The address comes a day after AFSCME District Council 47, which represents white collar workers had been without a contract since 2009, approved a labor agreement with the city running through 2017.

District Council-33, which represents blue-collar city employees and has also been without a contract since 2009, had urged its members to turn out today to protest the absence of a labor agreement.

"No contract, no peace," DC-33 members shouted outside City Hall.

Joining them this year were PGW workers, members of Utility Workers Union of America Local 686, who are opposed to the deal announced this week to sell the city-owned utility to a private firm for $1.86 billion.

Addressing the crowd, City Council President Darrell L. Clarke said, "We are not supportive of privatizing municipal workers."

DC-33 President Pete Matthews asked for solidarity among the unions in an impassioned speech in which he likened Philadelphia to Wisconsin's union battle.

"I'm tired of the Scott Walker of the east side upstairs," Matthews said, equating Nutter, whom he also called a dictator, to the Republican governor of Wisconsin.

"This city has the money to give us a fair contract," Matthews yelled from a stage set up outside of City Hall.

Taking the solidarity message to heart, John Eddowes, a pump mechanic for the Water Department and DC-33 member, wore a PGW sign around his neck.

"Nutter's on Wall St. Grandma has no heat! Don't Sell PGW," the sign read.

Eddowes and his colleagues fear that the water department will be next on the privatization list.

"He's like a drug addict, he's selling everything," Eddowes, an 18-year city veteran, said.

Follow @InqCVargas on Twitter for updates.

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