December 2011

Super-Volunteer Elizabeth Goes to Washington

Last month, Fight for Philly super-volunteer Elizabeth Days was one of the lucky ones who was invited to the White House by President Obama’s senior advisor, Valerie Jarrett.

I sat down with Elizabeth after she got back.  She showed me some of the pictures that she took (posted below) and we talked about the message that President Obama asked that she take back to Philly:

Fight for Philly: How did you first hear about the opportunity to meet President Obama?

Elizabeth: My organizer, Melvina, called me and asked me if I wanted to go to Washington.  She said it would be a lottery, and asked me if I wanted to enter.  I said, “Sure!”. And I don’t think it really clicked in until I saw him [laughs]. Not until I was actually in the room with him. We got to meet Valerie Jarrett, she’s a senior advisor to the president.

FFP: What did she talk with you about?

Elizabeth: She talked about infrastructure, and talked about putting a face on the need for infrastructure.  And in that meeting with her, I finally learned what “improving our infrastructure” means to my community.

It’s about the bridges, the roads, and that’s what I need to tell the people.  And she’s right, this is what needs to be done.

And then she talked about what one of our sister organizations, One Pittsburgh, did about raising awareness about these things.  They went on a bridge over an interstate and put up a banner so that everyone could see that we could create some jobs through this.

It actually took me having to go to Washington to find out what we need to do throughout all of Pennsylvania.  And I felt like I was part of something greater, and that we’re all in this together.

We can help and show these needs to our elected officials.  We go to them, and they’re still ignoring us.  We need to come together, stronger, and to make them understand that we’re not going to keep voting for you.  And we’re not going to stand for it.

We’re not going to allow them to make this a 3rd World country.  Because that’s what they’re trying to do.

FFP: And then you got to meet the Vice President and the President?

Elizabeth: Yes, we went from the Executive Building over to the White House, and then the Vice President came out and spoke to us.  And he thanked us for the job that we’re doing, and then he introduced the President.

And then the President came out, and he thanked us again, and he told us how it’s funny that the Republicans were always for building roads and bridges.  But they don’t want to do it now.

FFP: And did he talk about why they don’t, or do you have any thoughts why?

Elizabeth: No, he didn’t say, but my thoughts are that they’re willing to destroy this country because of their narrow minds.  And they just don’t want him to have credit for anything.

But it’s not about the credit, it’s about the people.  It’s about your home.

And if you’re the 1%, do you think you’re going to survive after we become a Third World country?  Without us?  We made you who you are.

FFP: And what was it like to hear from other organizations like Fight for Philly, all over the country?

Elizabeth: It was really wonderful to hear about all of the different rallies and actions that had been taken and had generated more and more support.  It gave all of us ideas on how we could generate more support.

We need to show that we’re not going to tolerate this anymore, and we need to show the people in office that they can be sleeping right now, but they can’t stay sleeping for long.

FFP: Not everybody gets to go to the White House and meet the President.  Do you view yourself as someone who needs to now be an advocate for him?

Elizabeth: Definitely.  The President wants us to keep pushing and not to accept the crumbs, or the small accomplishments, but to use them as stepping stones.   And he said that he was with us.

And that was so great to know, and feel.  He didn’t talk over our heads.  He did not.

But he said that if we can get to building things, then there will be jobs for people.  Roads, bridges, schools…that would be wonderful.

FFP: You know, the one thing that you and I see is that there’s a lot of skepticism out there.

Elizabeth: It’s time for that to change.  Because if you don’t believe that anything can change, you’re not going to go out there.  You won’t have to confidence that you need to show when you go out there.

I just want to encourage everyone to put their best foot forward.  I honestly, really do believe that one person can make a difference.  I was raised that way by my mother.  And over time, those small bites turn into something bigger, and that’s what we need to do.

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Senator Toomey, We’re Not Leaving

Senator Pat Toomey was paid yet another visit on Wednesday, as a group of protesters from Fight for Philly and the Philadelphia Unemployment Project.  We stopped by to urge the Senator to support a full extension of unemployment insurance before December 31.

There are millions of families that rely on emergency unemployment benefits, and we heard from some of them outside Toomey’s office.  Unless Congress agrees to pass an extension of these benefits, these families will face a New Year without any source of income.

Take a look:

Unbelievably, Toomey’s office building locked its doors the moment we showed up with our megaphones and signs.  Even the group of long-term unemployed folks with the Philadelphia Unemployment Project who had a scheduled meeting with the Senator’s staff had a hard time getting in.  When a portion of the group was eventually allowed to go to their meeting, the rest of us continued chanting and marching outside the office.

Although Senator Toomey consistently refuses to meet with us in person, you can call his office to demand that he support extending unemployment benefits fully.

Call him at 215-241-1090 and let him know that we need to extend unemployment benefits without cuts or preconditions that hurt the 99 percent.

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We, The People, Need to Meet With You

After a week in Washington, DC, Fight for Philly is back and ready for action. Our Take Back The Capitol event was a rousing success, and we made sure we took your words and your messages right to Senator Pat Toomey.

Since early July, we’ve requested to meet with Senator Pat Toomey —but time and time again, he has refused. A countless number of his staff suggested to us that we might have better luck in DC, so that’s exactly where we went.

That’s why, yesterday, we went into Senator Toomey’s office in Washington, DC and requested a meeting in person. But Senator Toomey was seen ducking out the back door, escorted by security, and even refused to look up at those who called his name to even just say hi.

Senator Toomey’s Chief of Staff, however, did spend some time with us and assured us that if we submit our request in writing, Senator Toomey would be willing to meet with us…eventually.

So, huddled in Senator Toomey’s office, all of us wrote down our requests and the reasons why we need to talk to the Senator. Here they are, unedited, and directly from the people.

Here’s our letter:

Dear Senator Toomey,

We, the People, need to meet. Below are 29 different reasons we need to meet with you.

1. Theresa needs to meet because with the cuts to the school system, there is nothing for children to do. Children are the future, and if you take everything away from them, how could they ever be a Senator? Fifty years ago, kids had recreation centers. People worked hard in the very same neighborhoods that are now deserted. What happened? When kids don’t have things to do, they become ignorant. These kids could be musicians or scientists and instead they are running drugs to make money. Also, Social Security is something I earned and I won’t have it taken away from me. When did the economy stop working for regular people?

2.  Dorothy worked all her life and paid into the system. Now she is eligible for social security and they want to take it away, she cries, “Foul Play!”

3. Bill says the senator should give us what they have!

4.  Donna is worried she won’t have social security and her savings plan won’t cover it. We are not going to have anything she says, including a decent retirement and is worried when Senator Toomey says, “It’s all on the table.” There is plenty of work that needs doing and there are plenty of unemployed people to do it. It is a simple equation that could be solved if we just made everyone pay their fair share.

5.  Marcia says she needs to meet for a lot of reasons. Most personally is social security. They are considering cuts, privatization, and removing benefits; in fact, our elected leaders should be adding to our social security by making sure our health insurance is secure. There is an easy fix to scrapping the cap. She is extremely opposed to the gap between the top .5% and the rest of the population. Our country has a two tiered system with no middle class. She believes that without a national solution to health insurance, many of us will land in poverty.

6.  Jean needs the senator to figure out how to make sure everyone pays their fair share so our kids can have a decent education. We don’t want handouts, but we need access to decent education she emphasizes.

7.  Ginger needs to meet because she needs a job and you, Senator Toomey, killed the American Jobs Act. She needs you to stop putting Medicare “on the table” The super rich need to be on the table. We need a senator who’s not afraid to face his constituents.

8. Penny says you need to start voting for the benefit of the people, not for the benefit of corporations.

9.  Josh says the senator needs to listen to people instead of corporate lobbyist. Solve the revenue problem by taking corporations and fix our crumbling infrastructure and education system. Also, we need to extend unemployment benefits, or two million people with instantly be without an income.

10. Renee needs to meet with Senator Toomey because the balance between the rich and poor is crazy. Her grandchildren will have no future if we can’t figure out how to create some good jobs. She is tired of chasing you – Toomey – from Pittsburgh to DC. She’d like you to show some respect for your constituents

11. Eugenia would like the chance to help the Senator become somebody who represents regular people. Quit making the rich richer and the poor poorer. Rich people can afford to pay their fair share. Also, it’s upsetting to hear Republicans being against things just because Obama is for them.

12. Matt Wheeler needs to meet with Toomey because he would like to know why he pays into a government that is not guaranteeing his rights as a human being and a citizen including, “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” The amount taxpayers pay should provide basic healthcare. All Americans should have the right to marry. We should have the right to housing. He’d like to see Toomey representing a state like Pennsylvania, a state that was built by the middle class, not lose its middle class. Instead of funding off-shore drilling, how about renewable resources? He’d like to know where Toomey stands on our issues, not just the issues of the super-rich.

13.  Kaden Smith would simply like to know if Senator Toomey is personally fulfilled by his job and if he likes taking power from the people.

14.  T Bone needs to meet with the Senator. He’s currently unemployed and feels like no one is listening. He’s been trying for six months to learn how Toomey plans to create more jobs, restrict corporate lobbyists and whether or not he supports the 99%. He’d like to know what concrete plans Toomey has and what he is doing to solve these problems.

15.  Jalisha Jones needs to meet with Senator Toomey because it’s very difficult to find a job, get transportation in order to keep a job and then find and be able to afford child care. To top things off the idea of crippling student loan debt is extremely discouraging. She’d like to know what the Senator plans to do to help hard working people have a decent life.

16. Glenn Grayson wants to meet with Senator Toomey about the overall inequality and the state of things in America. Lack of jobs, opportunity, and the depressing state people reach when they can’t make ends meet all lead to violence. When there are less jobs, there is more violence. This has affected my family directly. When there is no hope for the future – for my daughter and the children – we have problems, we need things to change. Also, politicians seem to show a lack of respect for their constituents they don’t ever seem to care about the concerns of the people that they work for. They won’t even meet with us.

17.  Wesley Johnson needs to meet with Toomey because he has his first grandbaby who is smart and inquisitive and love and he doesn’t deserve the world he’s facing right now. There’s no end of meetings and effort and struggle that are worth more than his young life. That’s why he’s here.

18. Lawrence Funck needs to meet the Senator because he represents retirees. There is a lot of uneasiness about raising social security and retirement age while cutting benefits under Medicare.

19. Lisa says she needs to meet with the Senator because he and a few other very powerful people are making decisions that affect millions of us and they’re the wrong decisions. We need to end the recession by putting Americans back to work doing work that needs done – teaching our kids building bridges caring for the sick and the elderly. The rich have obscene amounts of wealth because we no longer have enough.

20. Tyler would like to talk with Toomey because we need to tell him about all of his best friends from high school and college who went to school, and took out loans, got good grades, worked for free on Capitol Hill and have nothing to show for it except tens of thousands of dollars in student debt that they cannot pay off because they can’t find jobs. That breaks his heart.
Brad needs to meet Senator Toomey because he feels that it’s much easier to ignore people and vote against their interests when you refuse to have any dialog with them, regardless of whether somebody voted for or against him, they are residents of PA and even if he refuses to vote in the interests of the 99% he should treat us as human beings with dignity.

21. Thomas Jones lives in Pittsburgh and has been trying to speak with Toomey there, he wouldn’t so he traveled all the way to DC and Toomey still won’t see us. He’s thinking maybe he needs to go to Wall Street in order to see Toomey. He believes Toomey needs to work for us not Wall Street.

22. Julia visited Senator Toomey because she has many friends who have done exactly what they were expected to do; be a good citizen, care about their community, get good grades in school, go to college and get a job. They have done all of those things and yet they do not have health insurance or any other benefits. They have student debt that will haunt them for decades, many are not paid wages that they can support a family on. This is not the America we have been promised. They held up their side of the bargain, they deserve the jobs benefits and future we were always promised. In addition, we need to end corporate personhood, democracies are ruined by corporate greed.

23. Marsha Lambria wanted to meet with Senator Toomey to discuss the cuts to social security and Medicare. We have not received a raise in over three years and now you want to talk about cuts? I just read in the paper that politicians received a cost of living increase. Where is ours?

24. Linda Warman needs to see Senator Toomey for a few reasons.

  • We need jobs in Hazelwood and surrounding communities. Due to our depressed economy many people are out of work and jobs are scarce. Of the jobs that are available they are only seasonal and jobs that require you to be on your feet all day with low pay and no benefits -Cuts to social security to a person on that fixed income would not be good because it’s like cutting the jugular vein on a bleeder. An example is herself; She used to work at McDonalds, she couldn’t make ends meet, social security was a the cushion she needed to keep a roof over her head. Now, due to health issues, she is unable to work and the social security and disability together help her to keep that same roof over her head, but she is not able to afford to fix the leak in the roof.
  • Medicare/Medicaid – cutting those would not be good for Linda and others like her. To be able to see a doctor for things like a minor cold or more serious conditions that she suffers from are crucial for her health and survival. She’d like to see Senator Toomey about all those things and not see him run like a coward.

25. Marilyn Dirkson graduated from high school and went to college, and is now unemployed. Her benefits were taken and she was separated from her family. She has now lost her home. She did what she was supposed to in order to attain the American Dream, and now she is unemployed, and has lost everything.

26. Nija would like to talk with Senator Toomey because she goes to school and it is becoming increasingly difficult to pay for school without working full time. She has been looking for a job to help pay for school, but is finding that discouraging. Most jobs out there are only minimum wage, and she would like to know how she is supposed to support herself, her family and pay for school on that kind of wage.

27. Josie Nyame needs to talk with Senator Toomey because she thinks we need more jobs for the unemployed and that unemployed need more money when they are out of work. They need to take the abandoned houses and fix them up, make them places for people to live. No more taxes on the working poor! She says they are high enough already, tax the rich, they should start paying their fair share.

28. Samuel Jones needs to talk with Senator Toomey because this is the third city he’s tried to talk with the Senator. He was invited to Allentown where the staff stated that they had no idea how to contact the Senator. In Philadelphia he was denied access to his office. His message is that we need to fix this unemployment problem. He has a BA from Yale and prior to his current job was unemployed for 18 months and he knows that folks with less opportunities are suffering greatly. The senator has repeatedly blocked any legislation to alleviate the unemployment situation.

29. Marguerite from Philly would like to talk with Toomey because of the jobs situation. We need to create more jobs. She lives in the Sommerset Shelter System. There is no one to help them with the job search. She is a part of the Philadelphia Unemployment Project and they have a job club every Tuesday at 10am. She has applied continuously without success. There are a lot of abandoned warehouses and factories in Philadelphia, and she feels that if we refurbished them we could create thousands of jobs. She is also a part of “Lift” an organization assisted by Temple University Students. It is a vocational center where one can take classes but they cost $200 for the classes. It’s not a lot of money, but when you don’t have a job, it is. She has been out of work for over a year and has to choose between minutes on a cell phone and bills. When she was working at

30. Aramale she was living on the streets because she could not afford a place to live. She would like the Senator to improve the Shelter System and make it mandatory for case managers to help people find jobs and provide job training.

We’re now eagerly awaiting the response promised by Senator Toomey’s Chief of Staff, and certainly expect no less than the meeting that was promised to us. When we hear back from them, you’ll be the first to know!

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Full Funding Fridays!

Since the first week of school, the Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools (PCAPS) has held weekly events for the coalition’s “Full Funding Fridays” campaign to empower teachers and students to demand more funding for public schools. Each Friday for the last five weeks, PCAPS has rallied with teachers from various elementary, middle, and high schools to spread the word about the tough conditions they and their students have been subjected to. The campaign will continue full steam into November, keeping pressure on Governor Corbett, City Council, and Mayor Nutter to fully fund Philadelphia Public Schools.

Check out some pictures taken over the last several weeks below! You can view the rest of the album here.  If you would like to be involved in Full Funding Fridays, visit to find out if a school near you will host a Full Funding Friday action.

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HAPPENING NOW: Livestream from the Capitol Building Offices in DC

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