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AFL-CIO Meeting Turns Into Brawl Over Privatization

September 12, 1991

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ The brawl between two union locals at an AFL-CIO meeting was sparked by the issue of privatization.

City trash workers and Teamsters threw chairs, bottles, ash trays at each other in a downtown hotel Wednesday night. About two dozen police officers broke up the melee.

Police said no arrests were made, but Hahnemann Hospital spokeswoman Phyllis Fisher said three men required stitches for head gashes.

An estimated 1,000 people - primarily members of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the city’s blue-collar union, District Council 33 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees - crowded into the hotel meeting room for the AFL-CIO District Council meeting.

A motion calling for the AFL-CIO to oppose privatization was on the agenda.

Before District Council President Edward Toohey could call the meeting to order, trash workers of District Council 33 and members of Teamsters Local 115 began shouting insults at each other.

They then threw chairs at each other, causing the melee to break out.

The crowd was quieted by James Sutton, president of District 33.

″We are here for two things, one is neutrality for mayor,″ Sutton said. ″The second is to demand that this council take a position against privatization.″

Following Sutton’s call for peace, a second melee erupted. Toohey then announced a request from police to clear the room.

The AFL-CIO, which normally endorses the Democratic candidate for mayor, has taken a neutral stand this year because Edward Rendell favors privatization, or contracting with private firms to handle jobs now performed by the city.

The Republican candidate, Joseph Egan, opposes privatization.

″We came here to oppose privatization, to save people’s jobs,″ Sutton told The Philadelphia Inquirer after the brawl. ″This was completely uncalled for.″

Teamsters Local President John C. Morris declined to comment as he left the building, but at least one other union official understood the Teamsters’ position.

The Teamsters opposition to the anti-privatization resolution ″makes sense,″ said Henry Nicholas, president of Hospital and Health Care Workers Local 1199C. ″If it goes to privatization, he gets the members.″

AFL-CIO President Edward F. Toohey said he would meet with local officials in a meeting next week to discuss the umbrella organization’s next move.

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