With the third of four major city unions announcing who they're endorsing today (the white-collar AFSCME D.C. 47 went for Fattah; police and fire already backed Brady), it's a good as time as any to take a look back at what the candidates said last week about how they'd deal with the tough contract negotiations that face whoever wins November's general election soon after they take office.
The question: You’ll have plenty of work to do with the unions on negotiating new contracts. Describe how you would set out to get compromises from them and work with them toward new contracts and in addressing the pension issue.
The candidates' responses:
Fattah says he won't look for compromises from unions, even as skyrocketing pension and benefit costs threaten to submarine the next mayor's goals. Fattah says his "administration would be a pro-city worker administration."
We want to make sure we provide adequate pay, benefits and pension so we can have the best workforce of any major city in the country. ... Through attrition they’ve cut the number of city workers, we don’t need as many as we needed before but we need to pay a better pay. ... My sense would not to be to come to the table looking for compromises. I’ve said to the unions, I’m looking to have a collective labor-management goal of working together. Let’s look at where the people who know the best know where we can save the most money.
According to Tom Knox, he won't take away any health benefits. It's all about better managing the pension, according to Knox.
We’re going to keep healthcare benefits off the table. We might make them better, we’re not going to make them worse. Pension benefits, that’s already established. The only problem is we have men and women that are being hired that are expecting full [value into their pensions] and they’re not getting them. The reason they’re not getting them is because the pension plan for the past eight years hasn’t met its benchmarks. If we could meet our benchmarks maybe we could give these men and women the increases they deserve. I understand how to run a pension plan.
Michael Nutter points out in his budget policy paper released this week the importance of addressing the pension and benefits issue, noting that none of his opponents are taking them into account as they make their campaign promises. He calls for a commission to form to study the issue.
"I think the most important thing there is there has to be a common understanding of where you are. Let’s at least agree that these are the numbers, this is the base of knowledge from which we are operating. These are the current costs, these are the projected costs, we all agree this is where it’s going. If that’s the case, what will the real impact be on general operating funds, our ability to provide raises and good healthcare benefits and any negotiations I enter into will be coming from a perspective of were all in this together. We all work for the same people, the citizens of this city. It’s not a series of unilateral decisions that by waving the mayoral hands certain things fall into place. Public employees deserve a fair and respectful contract. When people work hard, when people are committed, when people are compassionate they deserve fair compensation. This negotiation around health and welfare costs I think has to be as much negotiation as it is collaboration."
Dwight Evans points out that "you can't spend what we don't have," but he remains interested in more police on the street:
There’s a distinction between interest-based bargaining and position-based bargaining. I’m always trying to get people to understand what is our interest. Our interest, all city workers, is for the city to grow. That benefits the current working staff, that benefits the retirees and that benefits the idea of hiring new people. If the city grows, these are the things we can try to achieve. Growth is the No. 1 issue. It goes back to what impedes growth.
From Bob Brady's statement from last week's televised debate:
The [next] mayor has to get fair and be fair with our unions. I'm not waiting to take office in January. I'm talking to them now. ... I'm working with them now. I'm not waiting until January. I think they need to get a fair contract, I think there are ways to get that done.