It was a bittersweet Labor Day for many workers in the Philadelphia area. They celebrated the holiday despite nasty weather as well as the continued labor unrest in the region. Thousands of union members also used Labor Day as an opportunity to reissue their demands, calling for fair pay, better benefits and fair working conditions.
During today’s events, union leaders claimed the city and corporations were wringing concessions from their workers.
“You’re not some guy or some fat cat up on Wall Street that screwed up the economy,” said city council president Darrell Clarke to a crowd of workers. “So why should this problem be fixed on your backs?!”
Philadelphia firefighters, who have been without a contract since 2009, also took part in today’s events.
“The reason we don’t strike is because we live in these communities in Philadelphia,” said Joseph Schulle, president of the Philadelphia Firefighters Union. “We have a contract with Philadelphia that we take care of you.”
City teachers also let their voices be heard. With opening day approaching, they’re dealing with massive budget cuts and an expired contract.
“The parent that I deal with wants to know what’s going on,” said Darrell Robinson, who works with autistic students. “She says her child hasn’t been able to pick classes. It just puts us so far behind when we’re trying to advance.”
Many of the union members blamed Mayor Michael Nutter who has said that cuts and concessions are simply economic realities.
“They won’t give us a cost of living raise,” said Betty Foster, a school bus driver. “If you keep taking, taking, taking, then you have nothing else to give.”
The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers held a meeting Monday night to discuss their current status on contract negotiations with the Philadelphia School District. No votes were made on any issue during the meeting.