March 2008 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton, Pennsylvania edition of The Union News
Union member Kevin Murphy challenges State Representative Frank Shimkus
By PAUL TUCKER
REGION, February 27th- Kevin Murphy, a member of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union is challenging incumbent State Representative, 113th Legislative District, Frank Andrews Shimkus, (Democrat-Lackawanna County), for his seat in the Pennsylvania General Assembly. Both men are Democrats and there are no Republican challengers.
Mr. Murphy, a former member of the five-person Scranton City Council, and President of the organization, during a interview at the newspaper office stated he now regrets supporting Scranton Mayor Chris Doherty’s financial recovery plan that council passed in 2002. “I know hindsight is 20/20. But, I wouldn’t support it now because Chris Doherty isn’t a good steward of the recovery plan,” said Mr. Murphy.
Mr. Murphy said Chris Doherty assured him that the recovery plan was just the starting point for contract negotiations and it wouldn’t be used to “pound the unions into the ground.”
“I put too much trust into Mr. Doherty to better manage the plan,” Mr. Murphy added.
He said if Mayor Doherty hasn’t even stuck to the financial perimeters of the recovery plan. “He hasn’t stuck to his own plan by increasing spending but wants the unionized workers to sacrifice. He should negotiate a fair agreement for both the city and the unions. I apologize to the union employees for supporting Chris Doherty’s recovery plan. If I knew they wouldn’t get a pay increase for six years, I would have never voted for it.”
The Pennsylvania Municipalities Financial Recovery Act 47 was enacted in 1987 to help debt strapped municipalities in Pennsylvania from filing for bankruptcy. Act 47 was established to offer financial help to the municipalities that have budget shortfalls and stagnant revenues. There are three municipalities in the region including Scranton, that are currently under the authority of Act 47. Scranton has been under the authority of the legislation since 1992.
The first Recovery Plan created for Scranton was during the James Connors Administration. However, Mr. Doherty created his own plan which strips most protections normal for labor contracts and reduces employee benefits.
The International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) Union Local 60, which represents the Scranton Fire Department and the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) Union Lodge #2, which represents the Scranton Police Department, have been without a contract since 2002. Their contract issue is currently in litigation.
Many general assembly members from Northeastern Pennsylvania support changing Act 47 because while under the legislation municipalities are able to circumvent collective bargaining rights while continuing indefinitely in the program.
Representative Shimkus has refused to speak on the record to the newspaper on whether he supports reforming the legislation.
Mr. Murphy is a liquor store examiner for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and has been a member of the AFSCME Union Local 2453 for more than seven years. “If elected who would know more about the shortfalls of Act 47 than me?” stated Mr. Murphy.
Mr. Murphy added he supports the Pennsylvania Prevailing Wage law, which is important to members of the building trade unions, and also is against the privatization of the Pennsylvania Turnpike.