With contracts for the four municipal unions due to expire one week from today, the Pew Charitable Trusts is planning to release this week an updated version of a study released with the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia in January 2008, warning about the rising costs of employee benefits for those unions. That report, entitled "Philadelphia's Quiet Crisis," riled union leaders, especially District Council 47 and Local 22 of the International Association of Fire Fighters. Those unions attacked the report in the Daily News, denying that there was a crisis and calling the research "fatally flawed." Pew said the city needed to reign in benefits or they would consume 28 percent of the city's annual budget by 2012.
District Council 47 isn't waiting for the updated report to attack it. Bob Bedard, a union spokesman, sent out a long e-mail Sunday complaining about inaccurate information he said the union found in a partial draft of the report supplied by Pew for fact-checking. Bedard also complained about the timing of the updated report, coming out so close to the expiration of the contract. "It can only have the impact of coloring the discussion," Bedard told PhillyClout.
We asked if the timing might inform the discussion, since union benefits are expected to be an important topic during the current contract negotiations. Mayor Nutter is seeking $125 million in labor savings in the next five years. Bedard said he didn't want to guess at Pew's motives but again called the timing "suspect."