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Unions file lawsuit against Philadelphia for mandating that full-time city workers return to the office

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Unions file lawsuit against Philadelphia for mandating that full-time city workers return to the office


Labor unions representing thousands of Philadelphia city employees filed a lawsuit seeking to block Democrat Mayor Cherelle Parker’s requirement that full-time city employees return to the office five days a week starting this month.

District Council 47 of The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees alleges in the lawsuit filed Monday that the mandate violates its contract and will harm city workers, according to Reuters. The union, which represents 6,000 administrative and supervisory employees and negotiated remote work at the beginning of the COVID pandemic in 2020, also filed an unfair-practices complaint with the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board.

Several local unions represented by District Council 47 filed the lawsuit against Parker on Monday in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. The lawsuit urges the court to issue a temporary order blocking any work policies that were not negotiated with the unions. The court will hold a hearing on that request on July 11, just days before city employees are required to return to the office.

Parker announced in May that hybrid work was coming to an end and that city employees must work in offices or on work-sites full-time beginning July 15. The mayor said working full-time in offices would improve communications between workers and promote “social connection along with collaboration, innovation and inclusion.”

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“Employee presence at the workplace allows for more personal and productive interactions,” Parker said in her announcement. “It facilitates communication. It promotes social connections as well as collaboration, innovation and inclusion.”

The mayor also said that changes were made to be more worker-friendly, including extending paid parental leave from six weeks to eight weeks and designating the Friday after Thanksgiving as a holiday.

There will also be relaxed restrictions on the use of sick leave to care for family members.

Most of Philadelphia’s municipal employees have already returned to full-time-in-person work, but roughly 3,000 unionized workers have secured agreements with the city since 2020 to work remotely at least one day a week, according to District Council 47.

The union also said the mayor’s office has refused to negotiate over the change and is violating labor law and existing collective bargaining agreements.

The city denies these allegations.

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The National Labor Relations Act and the Pennsylvania Public Employees Relations Act state that employers must negotiate proposed changes to wages, hours and terms and conditions of employment with unionized workers. Employers are required to negotiate with workers in good faith, either to agreement or an impasse.

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Parker’s office has said it does not believe those laws apply to the change in working arrangements.

The unions said many employees who joined the city’s workforce since 2020 were told the flexible working arrangements would remain indefinitely.

Reuters contributed to this report.



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