Rescue workers enter the Escambia County jail in Pensacola, Fla., after an apparent gas explosion killed two people and injured more than 180 others. (Michael Spooneybarger/Reuters)
Teachers’ deal could be template

New York City and its largest teachers union struck a deal on a new contract Thursday, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced, ending a nearly five-year labor dispute and potentially setting a template for negotiations with the city’s other unions.

Teachers will receive back pay equivalent of nearly 8 percent of their salaries and a series of additional small raises through 2018 under the nine-year contract.

The contract also will fund merit pay for teachers and provides the city $1 billion in health-care savings over the length of the deal, an important point among city negotiators wary of the budgetary strain caused by rising health-care costs across the municipal labor force. De Blasio noted that the agreement is being funded within the city’s current budget framework and called it a victory for taxpayers.

The deal is the first major labor agreement struck by de Blasio, a Democrat who took office in January, and it could affect negotiations with the other nearly 150 city labor unions, all of whom have been working with expired contracts.

The United Federation of Teachers, one of the most powerful unions in the city, represents 100,000 teachers and other school employees who have been working on an expired contract since 2009.

— Associated Press

Jail explosion kills two, injures over 180

An apparent gas explosion all but destroyed a jail in the Florida Panhandle, killing two inmates and injuring more than 180 people, and officials lost track of three inmates in the chaos, authorities said Thursday.

The three inmates went unaccounted for in the confusion as hundreds of inmates were bused to hospitals and others were taken to nearby jails because the crippled building had to be evacuated, Escambia County spokeswoman Kathleen Castro said.

Monique Barnes, an inmate who spoke by phone after she was moved to another jail said that several inmates had complained of smelling gas ahead of the blast, and some reported headaches.

— Associated Press

More than 600 gang suspects arrested

More than 600 suspected gang members have been arrested in the Homeland Security Department’s largest crackdown on street gangs, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said Thursday.

ICE agents, along with local authorities in 179 cities, arrested 638 suspected gang members over a month-long period in March and April. ICE said 78 suspected gang members were arrested on federal charges while 447 others face state charges. ICE arrested 113 others on administrative immigration charges.

Arrests were made across the country, including in Dallas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Maryland and New Mexico. The latest crackdown, dubbed “Project Southbound,” is part of a larger initiative started in 2005 to target street gangs with international ties. Since the effort, ICE says it has arrested more than 33,000 suspected gang members.

— Associated Press

Mo. governor vetoes income-tax-cut bill: Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D) vetoed an income tax cut Thursday for millions of state residents and business owners, warning that the priority measure of the Republican-led Legislature could devastate funding for public schools and services. Republican lawmakers vowed to attempt a veto override as soon as next week. The legislation would cut Missouri’s top individual income tax rate for the first time in nearly a century.

Seattle mayor proposes $15 minimum wage: Seattle Mayor Ed Murray on Thursday proposed a phased-in increase of the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour over the next seven years — a compromise endorsed by both business and labor. If ultimately approved, Seattle would move toward having the highest minimum wage of any city in the United States. Currently San Francisco, at $10.55 an hour, has that distinction.

— From news services