Correction to This Article
The article reported that mayoral budget aide William Singer said there was money in the District's proposed 2010 budget for teacher salary increases as part of a performance-based contract. Dena Iverson, a spokeswoman for Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee, said that Singer was referring to "the many costs of the initiatives affiliated with implementing a new contract." She said any payroll increases or merit payments the District has proposed are dependent on funding from private foundations.

D.C. Mayor Fenty's Budget May Further Sour Relations With Unions

By David Nakamura and Bill Turque
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, March 26, 2009

Relations between D.C. government labor unions and Mayor Adrian M. Fenty's administration, already severely strained, could worsen after the mayor's proposal to lay off employees, freeze salaries and eliminate a holiday for city workers.

Labor leaders expressed outrage this week that Fenty (D) failed to include them while developing his $5.4 billion spending plan for fiscal 2010. Union officials said that they recognize the District's budget strain but that it doesn't excuse the administration from consulting the unions for other suggestions, such as alternative spending cuts.

"This administration thinks it can make unilateral decisions and ignore the contract and ignore the role the union is supposed to play in the life of the city," said Joslyn Williams, president of the Metropolitan Washington Council, AFL-CIO.

Fenty administration officials said the pain is being shared. The mayor's proposal would lay off as many as 776 workers, freeze salaries in all agencies except schools and eliminate the April 16 Emancipation Day holiday for city workers.

None of the mayor's appointees received bonuses last year, including Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee, who was eligible for up to 10 percent of her $275,000 base salary but turned it down. Neither Fenty, who is paid $200,000 a year, nor D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D), who is paid $190,000, is eligible for a raise.

However, the other 12 council members, who receive $125,583, are scheduled to receive their annual cost-of-living increases of 3 to 5 percent in 2010. Gray said he will advise his colleagues to decline the raises.

While presenting the budget to the council this week, City Administrator Dan Tangherlini noted that neighboring suburban jurisdictions have also proposed layoffs and salary freezes. But Gray said the relationship between the unions and mayor's office "couldn't be more acrimonious than what it is at this stage."

Since Fenty took office in 2007, his administration has sought to fire employees in the attorney general's office, the schools, the police and the Child and Family Services Agency, moves opposed by unions.

"Our position is that we're more than willing to talk and work with organized labor," Tangherlini told Gray. "The question is: I would like to hear from them the definition of a path" out of the sour relationship. "I'm not sure what it is myself."

D.C. teachers are the lone exception in the no-raise budget, assuming their union reaches a deal with Rhee, who has proposed a controversial performance-based pay system. William Singer, a mayoral budget aide, said teachers are "a special case" whose potential raises are being financed in part by $29.4 million in federal stimulus money.

That has angered Kristopher Baumann, head of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 1, the union representing D.C. officers, who said: "It's outrageous that on one hand Chancellor Rhee is running around telling people the city can afford to pay teachers, yet the administration is turning to police and saying they cannot afford to even keep up with inflation."

Steven Anderson, who represents lawyers in the attorney general's office, said his organization has worked to find a compromise, offering to scale back a previously negotiated pay raise and bonuses so 12 colleagues will not lose their jobs.

Geo T. Johnson, who represents 10,000 D.C. workers for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, promised to fight the mayor.

"Don't think we won't take him on," Johnson said. "These things may be of necessity, but let's try to sit down and say, 'Look guys, we may be facing hard times, but let's talk about it.' "

Staff writer Nikita Stewart contributed to this report.

© 2009 The Washington Post Company