About 50 D.C. Corrections Department employees picketed the District Building yesterday to try to persuade the D.C. Council to reverse its recent rejection of a 2 percent pay raise for government workers.
Chanting and carrying signs that said "The D.C. Council is unfair to employees," the demonstrators were protesting a council action last week rejecting a proposed 2 percent pay increase for 24,000 city government employees. It was the first time the council rejected a pay raise negotiated by the Barry administration.
The action, prompted by officials' attempts to reduce a projected $100 million to $200 million budget deficit, will save the District $31 million this year.
The negotiations, covering 15,000 unionized blue-collar and white-collar workers, produced an agreement for a 2 percent pay increase and a 1 percent Christmas bonus. Barry, who leaves office in January, subsequently proposed a similar package for 9,000 nonunion workers.
"We want this issue back on the table" Tuesday evening, said Ed Kornegay, president of Teamsters Local 1714, which represents 4,000 corrections workers.
Council reconsideration is unlikely because Chairman David A. Clarke (D) already has forwarded the action to Barry, an aide in Clarke's office said.
The council's action essentially sends the union package back for renegotiation. If the city and the unions are unable to reach accord, an arbitrator possibly could order the city to accept another, perhaps more costly salary package.
Union leaders said they also are looking to Mayor-Elect Sharon Pratt Dixon to provide leadership on the pay raise issue. They have said Dixon told them during the election campaign that she supports employee pay raises.
Dixon recently declined to comment on her position, but union officials said they want to force her hand.
"We think the citizens of this city need to know exactly where she stands on this issue," Kornegay said.
Dixon is on vacation and will not return until tomorrow. "Right now it's not hers to deal with because she doesn't take office until Jan. 2," said Ed Bruske, a Dixon press aide.
Several council members said that in light of the District's severe fiscal problems, underscored by a $100-million shortfall in projected revenue and overspending in some departments, it is unlikely they will change their minds.
Council member William Lightfoot (I-At Large) said the council would look closely for additional money during budget considerations in February, and will reconsider pay raises if the deficit picture improves by that time.