The leader of the city’s firefighters union said his organization will not seek to have Mayor Michael Nutter “recalled” from office after members loudly demanded Nutter’s ouster during a Jan. 8 demonstration at the city’s newest firehouse.
Off-duty firefighters and their supporters chanted “recall” and demanded the same on handmade signs as Nutter, Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers and other city officials dedicated the new Engine 38 fire station at Keystone Street and Magee Avenue in Tacony.
In a printed statement issued Jan. 10, Local 22 president Bill Gault said, “After carefully weighing our realistic odds of prevailing in an uphill and costly legal battle, Fire Fighters Local 22 is dropping its planned recall effort of Mayor Nutter. This decision should in no way be construed as a softening of the fire fighters’ and paramedics’ disdain for this callous mayor, who continues to defy the law by denying our members their binding arbitration award …”
Union firefighters and Nutter have been at odds over the administration’s repeated appeals of a contract awarded to union members through arbitration in 2009. Two arbitrators and a Common Pleas Court judge have all upheld the contract award, but the administration continues to challenge it, claiming the city cannot afford its terms.
Local 22 members are working without a contract under the terms of a former labor agreement. The current contract, which has not been implemented, is due to expire on June 30.
Reached by telephone, Gault told the Northeast Times that the “recall” chants and signs at the demonstration were more of a “symbolic statement” than a plan of action. The union leader said that during the tenure of Mayor Frank Rizzo, citizens initiated a “recall” campaign, but the courts derailed the effort. Gault noted that Nutter would likely complete his second and last mayoral term before any recall effort might play out in the courts. Nutter is one year into his second four-year mayoral term.
“Basically, we wanted to disrupt his photo op,” said Gault, who recently began negotiations on a new Local 22 contract by e-mailing the union’s terms to the administration.
The union doesn’t plan to sit at a negotiating table until the administration honors the current contract, he said.
“Honor the [arbitration] award, that’s what it’s all about,” Gault said. ••