After months of back and forth allegations, it appears the powerful 32BJ local union of the Service Employees International Union is close to signing a contract with the School District of Philadelphia.
This dims the chance of a work stoppage in the fall that would affect just about every facet of public school operations.
Details of the agreement will not be publicized until membership has had a chance to ratify it, but that process seems little more than a formality for the hundreds of local members.
This move also helps clear the path for the district to negotiate with its other powerful union — The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. That contract is set to end in August.
The district is still coping with the unexpected move by city council to give the district less than half the funds it requested through the Actual Valuation Initiative. Those details will illustrate what, if any, concessions were made by the union to get the contract to its members.
School district officials could not be reached for comment, but if the Blueprint for Transforming Philadelphia’s Public Schools — the five-year reorganization plan authored by School Reform Commission’s Chief Recovery Officer Thomas Knudsen — is any measure, then it can be assumed that the union had to give something back.
In fact, 32BJ spokesman George Ricchezza has previously said the 2,700-member strong union has made several concessions as recently as last month that were valued at several million dollars.
The blueprint calls for the district to trim $156 million from its personnel expenditures, and another $133 million in operations. Being that the majority of 32BJ’s membership work as security personnel, bus drivers, maintenance and janitorial crews and food service workers, it can be argued that these cuts will affect them the most.
Still, Ricchezza looks at this as a positive step.
“This agreement will help keep public schools open,” Ricchezza said, “and provide a clean and safe learning environment for our kids — and save the jobs of thousands of hard-working men and women.”