The city's municipal workers are hoping to secure a contract settlement in the wake of the city's agreement with the 20,000 member teachers' union, a labor official said yesterday. "What we're proposing to them is a similar thing [to the teachers' settlement] . . . that part is encouraging," said Leonard Tilghman, secretary-treasurer of the union representing Philadelphia's blue-collar workers. "They proved that by the teachers' settling that there was some give and take." Under their settlement, which came on the heels of a strike deadline late Monday night, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers will keep their current health benefits but get no raises until 1994. Both the city's blue-collar and white-collar unions have threatened to strike. Strike deadlines have not been set because of a pending state appeals court decision, but both unions have authorized their leaders to call a strike if necessary. But Tilghman said he is discouraged by statements by Mayor Edward Rendell reported in yesterday's Philadelphia Inquirer. Rendell told the paper the city could not afford to give the city workers a settlement comparable to that given the teachers. He added that the two situations do not parallel one another. The pressure to come to terms with city workers has also been somewhat relieved, Rendell said. "Obviously, those things are beneficial to us -- not having a [teachers] strike to deal with, having a restrained settlement," Rendell said. "Those are messages that if I were in the public unions or a public employee, I would heed." The city's ongoing labor dispute brought national leaders, including AFL-CIO President Lane Kirkland, to Philadelphia earlier this week for the Labor Day rally and parade through Center City. Speaking to a crowd of thousands in JFK Plaza across from City Hall, many of whom carried signs denouncing the Rendell administration's handling of the labor dispute, Kirkland pledged national support should the unions strike. The workers "will have the unflinching support of a unified labor movement that will spare no effort on their behalf," he said to applause. A number of speakers took the platform Monday morning, taking turns blasting local and national politicians. And Senator Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), who said he was invited by Teamsters Union officials, was heckled as he tried to speak to the crowd. As Specter was introduced to the group, he was booed and ignored as most of the crowd walked away, turning their backs on his speech -- given first into a microphone, which was inexplicably turned off, then into a squeaking megaphone. Specter told the crowd, which eventually dwindled to a few dozen, that he "would work for jobs in Philadelphia." He later dismissed suggestions that he should be embarrassed by the walkout, saying the parade was about to begin. The program, which was not entirely over, was cut short by the crowd's departure. "I knew that it took a lot of guts [to come to a Labor Day parade]," Specter said.Comments powered by Disqus
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