If D.C. 33 gets a better deal, so will D.C.47

Posted: March 15, 2014

The Nutter administration's recent labor contract with AFSCME District Council 47 includes a previously undisclosed side letter committing the city to improving the package if the city provides a better deal to the union's bigger counterpart, AFSCME District Council 33.

The brief letter was written by the city's chief negotiator, lawyer Shannon D. Farmer, to Frederick Wright, the D.C. 47 president, on March 5, the day that the white-collar union ratified the agreement by an overwhelming voice vote.

It states: "The city agrees that if . . . the city negotiates more favorable terms concerning wages, ratification lump sum bonuses, overtime or pensions with any other union (not including any awards issued through interest arbitration) such terms will be applicable to the employees represented by District Council 47. . . ."

"I don't see it as impacting or making it more difficult to reach an agreement with District Council 33," Farmer said.

D.C. 33 president Pete Matthews, whose contract talks with the city have been stalled for close to five years, did not return telephone calls about the side letter, and the union's attorney, Sam Spear, declined to comment on it.

But on its face, the agreement adds one more factor to the issues that have already stymied talks between the Nutter administration and D.C. 33 since its contract expired in mid-2009: any concessions to D.C. 33 would have to be weighed in terms of their potential impact on the D.C. 47 contract.

And it could increase friction between the two AFSCME units: while D.C. 47 members are collecting $2,000 bonuses and immediate pay boosts from step increases and longevity pay, they stand to benefit from any bargaining gains by D.C. 33's blue-collar members, whose paychecks are still frozen at their 2007 levels.

The Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board issued a ruling in 1978 finding the state guilty of an unfair labor practice for entering into a "parity agreement" with one public employee union while negotiating with another.

Matthews has repeatedly declined to comment on details of the D.C. 47 settlement, which includes raises of 3.5 percent next month, 2.5 percent in mid-2015, and 3 percent in mid-2016.

"District Council 33 is moving ahead with what it has been doing, which is to try to get an agreement which is good for its members, not necessarily what is good for the D.C. 47 members," Spear said.


warnerb@phillynews.com

215-854-5885 @bobwarner1

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