Union Leader: Nutter Drove City Workers Into Poverty

A Story From the Philadelphia Public Record (http://www.phillyrecord.com/2013/05/union-leader-nutter-drove-city-workers-into-poverty/)

BY PETE MATTHEWS, President, AFSCME District Council 33/ Mayor Michael Nutter’s stubborn and vindictive refusal to settle fair contracts with AFSCME District Councils 33 and 47 is driving city workers ever deeper into poverty and negatively impacting the City’s ability to deliver vital services.

Many Philadelphia neighborhoods are facing cuts in City services due to the policy decisions of Mayor Nutter. It is not the members of AFSCME District Councils 33 and 47 who decide to brown out firehouses, close libraries and recreation centers and diminish the quality of service delivery due to chronic understaffing.

These are the policies of an Administration whose guiding principle is making due with less while cutting the tax burden of the richest 1%. That policy direction results in a demoralized, overworked and underpaid workforce unable to deliver services ordinary taxpayers expect. We now have proof to support that assertion.

A recent study written by Michael Bognanno, PhD, an associate professor of economics at Temple University, entitled “Poverty Thresholds and Rates of Poverty Within AFSCME District Councils 33 and 47”, contains valuable information that the citizens of Philadelphia need to know.

This study shows almost 42% of the employees represented by both District Councils 33 and 47 earn less than the US Dept. of Health & Human Services Poverty Guideline of $35,310.00 for a sole wage-earner in a family of four in Philadelphia.

Even more alarming, the study shows fully 58% of District Council 33 members are working below the poverty line.

In 2007, the last time members of District Councils 33 and 47 received a raise, the portion of DC 33 and 47 members beneath the poverty guideline at that time was 21%, so that the number of members of both Councils living in poverty has doubled over the last six years.

Under the scale used by the US Census Bureau, a more accurate barometer of the proportion of our population living in poverty, the portion of District Council 33 and 47 members living in poverty is 54.2% for those who have no mortgage and are the sole wage earner in a four-person household. This figure rises to 75.8% for renters and 76.7% for homeowners with a mortgage.

The Women, Infants & Children program insures proper nutrition for poor mothers and their children, and 69% of city employees represented by District Councils 33 and 47 earn less than the Pennsylvania WIC cutoff of $42,643.

These figures dramatically show the horrible effects the Mayor’s imposed contract would have on a large proportion of our members who are increasingly becoming poverty-stricken.

They prove that up to three-quarters of our members now live beneath the accepted definitions of the “poverty level” in Philadelphia – and Mayor Nutter has accelerated that trend.

If the Pennsylvania Supreme Court allows the Mayor to impose his version of a contract, this will force all of our members to contribute much more of their falling income than they already do to obtain decent health-care insurance coverage, to be subject to an increased contribution rate for an inferior pensions, to earn salary increases that amount to about less than two-thirds of one percent per year (far below the rate of inflation) over the life of the proposed contract and, to top it off, to lose at least an additional 6% salary reduction when they are furloughed.

Mayor Nutter is again trying to balance the City’s budget on the backs of our members, who are falling farther and farther behind the cost of living even as more are becoming poverty-stricken.
To force this on a workforce that is predominantly poverty-stricken is inhumane. It is a badge of shame that a significant portion of city workers are forced to work under these conditions while withstanding the rigors of poverty that increasingly claim them and their families as victims.

To continue to deny these hardworking members of our city community a fair and reasonable contract is an embarrassment that can only result in the continued deterioration of city services.