Ballot Questions: 2020 Primary Election June 2 Key Independent Groups advise: “VOTE YES”

Teds OPINION Ballot questions

Registered voters who have not yet voted will find two ballot questions on the new voting machine screen when they enter polling booths for the Primary Election next Tuesday, June 2. Both have to do with changing the way our city is organized under its governing constitution, the Home Rule Charter. The proposed changes amend that Charter as follows:

Question No. 1: Creating a Department of Labor for the City 

Question No. 2:  Revising Political Activity Rules for City Employees Outside Work

Question No. 1 Text:  Shall the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to create a Department of Labor, headed by a Cabinet-level Director, to enforce City laws that protect Philadelphia workers; to oversee labor relations, such as collective bargaining, with the City’s unionized workforce; to investigate compliance with worker protections set forth in City contracts; and to manage programs concerning City employees; and to create a Board of Labor Standards to review and adjudicate matters arising from such work?

Comment:  At present, all the labor activities listed in the proposal are handled under the Mayor’s Office of Labor which was created a directive of the Mayor.  The proposal transfers these functions into a new Department of Labor under the Home Rule Charter.  Little or no changes in relations between the City and its employees and those of contractors working for the city.   What additional cost to taxpayers will come from the change has not been estimated yet.  What the new arrangement does provide for is a separate Board of Labor Relations to act as a judge on the Labor Department regarding in a legal and proper way.

A “Yes” vote brings the labor operations of the city under the Home Rule Charter.  And it sets up an independent Board of Labor Standards to make sure workers and the city are protected in labor matters.   The Philadelphia Inquirer and the independent Committee of 70 both favor a “Yes” vote.   A “No” vote means that governance of labor matters remains with the Office of the Mayor.

Question No. 1 Text:  ”Shall the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to revise rules pertaining to prohibited activities of appointed City officers and employees, to generally allow such officers and employees to volunteer for state and federal political campaigns outside of work time and without using City resources; to continue to prohibit participation in any political campaign for a City office or Philadelphia-based state office; and to revise penalty provisions pertaining to such restrictions and prohibited activities generally?

Comment:  Philadelphia has some of the nation’s strictest regulations prohibiting its employees’ working on political campaigns.  After the proposed changes, the City’s rules remain among the toughest.  What it does allow is that outside work city workers can volunteer on political campaigns of candidates running for offices in localities outside of Philadelphia or on a state or federal level.  

The expectation is that these employees will bring to such campaigns additional energy, commitment, and practical knowledge to the electoral process – outside the city.   Restrictions remain in force on participating in campaigns for Philadelphia offices, state representatives, state senators and local judges for whom Philadelphia voters cast votes.  The new regulations also up-date the penalties if employees violate the amended rules.

A “Yes” vote, supported by the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Committee of Seventy, hallows changes to the Charter that relax rules on volunteer political activities by city workers.  A “No” vote keeps the present restrictions in effect.

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