PHILADELPHIA ― A boisterous crowd of some 500 members of AFSCME Local 1723 and their supporters rallied on the Temple University campus here April 1 in a noontime action to protest the university’s stalling tactics. The local represents office and professional workers at Temple; they have been working without a contract since September.

Gathering at the Bell Tower in the center of campus, the demonstrators marched down Broad Street to the steps of Conwell Hall outside the office of the university’s first year president, Ann Weaver Hart. Spirited chants of “No Merit Pay” and “the workers united will never be defeated” echoed off the campus buildings.

Merit pay has been the main demand of the university administration and, along with health care costs, the main stumbling block to a settlement. Local President Paul Dannenfelser drew shouts of agreement when he told the crowd, “We cannot have merit pay at this university; we cannot have the kind of health care costs they are demanding.”

Also speaking at the rally were AFSCME International President Gerald McEntee and District Council 47 President Cathy Scott. McEntee told the crowd that on the issue of merit pay, “We cannot and will not back down; it is bad for workers, bad for students and ultimately will be bad for Temple.” Scott said that “Local 1723 does not intend to be the guinea pig for all the other workers at Temple.”

Other speakers who addressed the rally included Art Hochner, president of the AFT local representing the 1,250-strong Temple faculty; Andrew Dixon of the AFT-affiliated graduate student union TUGSA; and Kathy Black, president of the Philadelphia chapter of the Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW). Black told the crowd, “Merit pay has been disgraced time and time again; I cannot believe they are trying to ram it down your throats this time.” She also acknowledged that “Local 1723 has been the strongest supporter of women’s rights among all the unions in the city.”