Michigan state mediators are scheduled to try today to help end a strike by more than 7,000 Detroit city employees who shut down virtually all city services Wednesday.
Meanwhile, 2,400 striking sanitation workers in Philadelphia were placed under court order to return to work today to begin clearing a three-week accumulation of garbage, the result of a bitter and continuing strike by city workers.
"Our people seem pretty determined," said Al Garrett, spokesman for the striking American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 25, which represents more than a third of Detroit's 18,500 workers. The union is seeking a 26% pay hike over three years. The city has offered a 2% increase for one year.
More than 200,000 Detroit bus riders were left stranded by the strike, City Hall telephones went unanswered, the city's two zoos were closed and caravans of police cars had to escort supervisors into Detroit's water and sewage treatment plants.
Election Workers Strike
Also striking were election workers who were in the final stages of preparing polling books and voting place materials for the Aug. 6 Michigan primary. Police and firefighters, also engaged in wage negotiations with the city, are prohibited by state law from striking.
At least one incident was reported during the early hours of the strike when three picketers were hit by a car as they attempted to block access to a city bus garage. However, police reported no arrests.
Garrett said other major unions in the strong labor city are honoring AFSCME picket lines. Among them is Teamsters Local 214 whose 1,700 garbage truck drivers stayed away from work Wednesday.
Negotiations in Detroit, the nation's sixth largest city, ended early Wednesday. New talks are scheduled for this afternoon.
Average Pay Is $16,000
The union, which says its employees have received a 2% raise over the last three years, is asking for a 12% increase in the first year of a new three-year contract and 7% raises in each of the next two years. City workers currently earn an average of about $16,000 a year.
Detroit, which was last struck by the same union in 1980, is offering a 2% pay increase in the first year of a contract and increases in the following two years based on a complicated formula that links raises to increases in city revenues.
The union contends that the city has a surplus of more than $50 million and that union members have already reduced their wage demands at the bargaining table. "But the city is just resisting movement," Garrett said. "We've even indicated we're prepared to move some more."
Detroit Mayor Coleman Young, himself once a labor activist, could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Ruling in Philadelphia
Meanwhile in Philadelphia, the nation's fifth largest city, Common Pleas Judge Edward J. Blake Wednesday ruled that the large accumulation of garbage was a "clear and present danger or threat to (public) health," and ordered trash collectors to return to work today.
Earl Stout, president of District Council 33 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, had said Tuesday that he would obey a back-to-work order. Blake's order did not affect another 10,000 striking blue-collar city workers and 1,600 other employees.
Philadelphia Mayor W. Wilson Goode said garbage collectors would work around the clock to clear huge, stinking mountains of waste from 15 temporary dumps opened by the city to cope with the strike. The mayor also said that workers who defied the court order would be cited for contempt of court and would be fired if they refused to cross picket lines.
City officials report there have been more than 1,000 trash fires in the Philadelphia area since the strike by a total of 14,000 city workers began July 1. On Wednesday the body of a man was found in one of the temporary dumps. He had been shot once under the chin.
The first negotiations since Sunday convened in Philadelphia Wednesday when state mediator Edward Feehan and representatives of the city and AFSCME District Council 33 met. No details of the talks were released.