To my fellow residents,
I was proud to see so many Union brothers and sisters at the City Council meeting last night. I was moved by their show of respectful protest and solidarity. Often it is difficult to band together, even through a common cause, but seeing all of our City’s Union Locals coming together to express their discontent was impressive.
I was reminded of the recent contract fight that our Local, USW 10-1, went though with our employer, Sunoco, Inc. Our Grievance & Negotiating Committee was confronted at the bargaining table with threats of layoffs (211 proposed in total), wage reductions (by as much as 30%) and various other givebacks in benefits, with an overall reduction in our safety.
Our Local 10-1 (Philadelphia Refinery) and our brothers and sisters of Local 10-901 (Marcus Hook Refinery) responded in a strong show of solidarity, pledging to each other a commitment of “two or none”, meaning that each local received a fair contract or neither would sign. Our Unions utilized the spread of information to enlighten residents and consumers to our cause. We handed out flyers, gathered signed petitions, took out ads, wore armbands and held a rally at Philadelphia’s City Hall then marched on Sunoco’s Headquarters. We used respectful but firm protest to remind our employer that we were not just simply going to go away. I am happy to report that our Locals and the Company came to a fair compromise, without the need for a strike. No one was laid off, no wages were cut and the Company received needed changes to our structure that allows them to stay viable. It could not have happened without communication.
Admittedly, the struggle our City workers are facing is not the same as the one I just described. We had the ability to strike if the Company would not come to the table and negotiate in good faith. Also, we were dealing with a prosperous Oil Company, not a Municipality supported by taxpayers. It is a wholly different situation but the underlying necessity is the same, the lines of communication must stay open.
The middle ground is unoccupied as both sides still debate what is considered good faith bargaining. Compromise here is a dire need. Taxpayers have concerns for the overall impact new contracts will have on our City’s budget but are supportive of our public servants. Our Elected officials have a duty to the taxpayer but seem to be unsure of how to best proceed in negotiations without guaranteed funding being available from the State. In this very poor economy, both sides realize the need for cost cutting and moderation, especially in regard to how this will reflect on the tax base. I appreciate the position our Mayor and Council are in as it must be difficult to find a balance that is beneficial for all parties. Talks of arbitration, however, reflect a frustration that needs to be satisfied. The time for reopening the lines of communication is now so we can avert further costs to our City and it’s workers.
I believe that our City’s Workers, the individuals who are pledged to serve, protect and defend this City, desire and deserve good faith negotiations. I trust that our City Government has heard their call and will respond with earnest bargaining. Last night’s display of Solidarity was a needed step in jumpstarting talks again. Let’s all hope that, through everyone’s dedication to solving this problem, an amicable accord may be reached.