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July 03, 2024

Union sues over Mayor Cherelle Parker's return-to-office policy for city workers

District Council 47 says the mandate that all employees work on site five days each week violates its contract. They are due back July 15.

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Cherelle Parker return-to-work Colleen Claggett/For PhillyVoice

All city employees are expected to work on site five days each week by July 15, but a union is suing to block Mayor Cherelle Parker's return-to-office mandate.

A union representing thousands of city employees filed a lawsuit Tuesday seeking to stop Mayor Cherelle Parker's return-to-office plan, which takes effect July 15. 

District Council 47 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees claims the mandate for employees to return to the office on a full-time basis violates the union's contract and is asking a judge to block the policy. The Parker administration contends the policy doesn't require collective bargaining.

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District Council 47, which represents 6,000 administrators and supervisors, also filed a complaint alleging unfair labor practices with the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board. 

Parker has said that about 80% of the city's 26,000 employees worked on site five days a week in 2023, and that the remaining workers spent about half of their work days in their offices. She has said a fully in-office workforce creates more consistent workplaces and improves equal opportunity efforts. 

"Employee presence at the workplace allows for more personal and productive interactions, facilitates communication, and promotes social connections – along with collaboration, innovation, and inclusion," Parker said in a statement in May. "It delivers on my promise of an accessible City workforce that is best situated to serve the people of Philadelphia." 

The union said the policy will negatively impact the city's workers shortage and that instituting the requirement during the summer complicates matters for working parents. The Parker administration recently announced a pilot program that will keep 25 schools open year-round by offering optional summer enrichment programs, but it won't begin until the fall.