February 2013

Save our schools!

On Tuesday, concerned parents, students, and activists marched into Philadelphia City Council chambers to hear testimony pertaining to the proposed closing of 37 Philadelphia schools (already now down to 29 after much protest). Close to 200 protestors packed the room and heckled plans to close neighborhood schools. Protestors waved signs with messaging that opposed closings and shouted, “You’re killing legacies” and “Where’s the money?”

The hearing, with 56 listed witnesses, lasted most of the day and occasionally boiled over in anger.

A common theme in many of the witness testimonies was the idea of small children traveling long distances to schools in unsafe neighborhoods. Councilman Curtis Jones Jr. said he had walked some of the routes that children would have to traverse to get to their new schools and found them dangerous. “Quite frankly, I’m a grown man, and it scares me,” Jones said. “In some cases, we had to cross major thoroughfares that are as wide as rivers.”

Fight for Philly demanded a moratorium on school closings during their testimonies.  Member, Sylana Cristopher spoke passionately about the negative effects the closings would have on her own children. “I do not want my children to be uprooted from their school and placed into an overcrowded school that provides no extra academic support,” she said.

Council then heard from Fight for Philly’s Anne Gemmell, who said “School closings hurt our communities – our families, our kids, our property values, our communities, and more. Cutting middle class jobs and replacing them with low wage, dead-end jobs hurt the households reliant on public education, therefore hurting our schools too.” She went on to further say, “our school district and many around the state are in a state-created crisis exacerbated by the choices Governor Corbett has made. . . we all had to sacrifice while oil and gas companies and other wealthy companies get financial favors.”

The School Reform Commission will hold public school closing hearings Feb. 21, 22, and 23, and is scheduled to vote on the plan March 7.

Did you like this? Share it:
Leave a comment

Protesters to Call on Sen. Toomey to Prevent Cuts to Education and Healthcare

Media Advisory

For Immediate Release

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Contact: Jesse Kudler

617-974-3684, jesse@fightforphilly.org

 

As Automatic “Sequester” Cuts Loom on March 1:

Protesters to Call on Sen. Toomey to Prevent Cuts to Education and Healthcare

Call for Closing Corporate Tax Loopholes, Job Creation Instead as part of National Day of Action

 

Joining protesters in over 100 other cities, a group of concerned constituents will protest against potential cuts to education and healthcare at Sen. Pat Toomey’s Philadelphia office on Wednesday, February 20 as a March 1 deadline approaches for more than one trillion dollars in automatic budget cuts.  The 2012 “fiscal cliff” deal delayed automatic, across-the-board cuts on vital services until March 1, which is only 10 days away.
Federal funding is the single largest source of general revenue in Pennsylvania.  34.3% of state general revenue comes from federal sources.   Federal funds currently pay for 55.1% of Pennsylvania’s Medicaid spending (which would go up next year if Gov. Corbett accepted the Medicaid expansion).  With state budgets already overextended, the loss of federal funding will result in a shortfall in the state’s budget, making a slow economic recovery even worse.  If the sequester happens, Pennsylvania will see cuts in jobs and vital services.  Education jobs will be lost, Head Start will serve thousands fewer children, and veterans’ services will be cut.  But proposals to replace the sequester with significant cuts to other core programs—like Medicaid and Medicare—will also cost jobs and threaten vital services.

Protesters will hold colorful signs opposing cuts to vital programs.  Speakers will testify to the importance of crucial government programs, including Head Start and student aid.  Seniors will talk about the support they receive from Social Security, and others will talk about Medicaid’s help in supporting their health.  The protesters are calling on Sen. Toomey to prevent cuts and instead end tax breaks for Big Oil, Wall Street, and companies that ship jobs overseas and invest in job creation to get the economy moving again.

Speeches will conclude with a candlelight vigil before protesters march to the Comcast Building.  Comcast is a rich corporation that avoids contributing its fair share in state and federal taxes, and its executives are part of groups like Business Roundtable that lobby for cuts to vital services. Additionally, its Executive VP, David L. Cohen, has recently endorsed Gov. Corbett and his painful agenda of cuts to health and education.

WHAT: Protest against cuts to vital services

WHEN: Wed., February 20, 2013, 4:30pm

WHERE: Sen. Toomey’s office, 17th and JFK; Comcast Center, 1701 JFK

WHO: Activists, students, parents, seniors, and other concerned citizens from Fight for Philly, Media Mobilizing Project, Philadelphia Unemployment Project, Alliance for Retired Americans, Pennsylvania Health Access Network, Democratic Socialists, Coalition of Labor Union Women, AFSCME District Council 33, Take Back Vacant Land Coalition, Moveon.org Philadelphia Council.

###

Fight for Philly is building a grassroots coalition of residents, community groups, neighborhood associations, faith organizations and labor groups united in the fight for good jobs, corporate accountability and strong communities.

info@fightforphilly.org * (215) 232-3792 * http://fightforphilly.org

Did you like this? Share it:
Leave a comment

Philadelphians call for Immigration Reform

On Wednesday, community groups, immigration advocates, and faith-based organizations packed into the AFSCME District Council 47 offices for a press conference calling for comprehensive, common sense immigration reform.

The newly-formed Pennsylvania United for Immigration Reform made a collective statement about legislation our country needs to give working immigrant families a chance to stay together and to help our economy with vital immigrant labor, spending, and taxes.

Blanca Pacheco of the New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia told the assembled crowd, “We reject immigration reform that separates our community, that categorizes our community by professional versus unskilled… We want immigration reform that is inclusive!”  Brave immigrants to this country stood up and told stories of working hard to earn a living and build a family in this country and wanting a path towards citizenship.

City council members Jim Kenney and Maria Quinones-Sanchez also spoke at the press conference.  Councilmen Kenney said “I am the face of immigration,” telling the story of his family’s journey from Ireland in the 19th century.  He went on to explain that immigrants are the reason Philadelphia’s population is growing for the first time in years.  “It’s because of Latino immigration, Asian immigration.  We need to keep filling up our cities,” he said.

This Thursday, Philadelphia City Council will vote on a resolution urging the US Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

The time is now for Comprehensive Immigration Reform.  Here’s why:

  • It’s the right thing to do for hard-working immigrants who aspire to be citizens and participate in our democracy.
  • It will raise the wage ladder for all workers and make employers pay everyone equally, above the table.
  • It will allow our immigrant community to continue contributing to our economy as customers in local businesses, as voices against economic injustice, as tax payers, and as Americans committed to working hard for our future.
Did you like this? Share it:
Leave a comment

Extremists in Congress Threaten Children, Seniors, and Working Families

Once again, extremists in Congress are threatening our economy and livelihoods in order to protect the wealthy and corporations from paying their fair share.  Right-wing members of Congress are planning to make enormous cuts to education and vital services like Medicare and Medicaid that will hurt our children and seniors and hurt our working families.

Robert Choice is one of thousands of individuals on the verge of losing Medicaid or Medicare benefits.  Here’s what Robert has to say to extremists in Congress who are planning to cut vital services and education:

“I need Medicaid to help me with my medical needs.  Without it, I would not be able to pay for vital prescriptions.  I worked a variety of jobs for many years, including housekeeping and cooking, but I had to retire from my last job as an inventory control technician for the city of Philadelphia in 2006 because of mental health issues.  I am now retired on disability and count on Medicaid to help manage my medical expenses.   I don’t know what I would do without it. I also have two children in the public school system. If there are more cuts to education, my children may have to travel longer distances to school or be packed into overcrowded classrooms – hindering their academic growth.”

Individuals like Robert are standing up to let  Congress know they need to work for people and invest in good jobs and vital services.

Here is what Congress should do to get our country back on the right path:

  • The truth is that we need jobs, not cuts, to get our economy moving again. Cuts to Medicaid, Medicare, student financial aid and Head Start not only don’t create jobs, they eliminate them. The best thing we can do to cut our deficit long term is to create more good jobs by investing in education and by rebuilding our country’s infrastructure.
  • We need more tax revenue from the top 2 percent and big corporate special interests. The tax increase passed in January was only a first step. It does not generate anywhere near enough revenue to allow for investment in the middle class and to deal with the deficit. There are hundreds of billions of dollars in tax loopholes used by big business and the wealthy to allow them to avoid taxes that could give us more revenue. America is not broke, we just need to re-establish tax fairness and create more good jobs, and we can solve our fiscal problems
  • Any deficit reductions must come from new revenue, starting with ending tax loopholes and deductions for the wealthiest 2 percent. Since 2011, we have seen $1.5 trillion in spending cuts and only $610 billion in revenue. Any further long-term deficit reduction must come from revenue raised from corporations and the top 2 percent, at least until the balance is even. Closing loopholes and ending special tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy would raise well over $1 trillion.
Did you like this? Share it:
Leave a comment

Hundreds Flock to Harrisburg to Protest Gov’s Budget

Hundreds of activists from across the state traveled to Harrisburg on February 5 to protest Governor Corbett’s 2013-2014 budget address. Fight for Philly and the Philadelphia Student Union, United Food and Commercial Workers, and One Pittsburgh packed the Capitol building as Governor Corbett unveiled his budget plans inside the House Chamber.

Protestors wore t-shirts that read “Governor Corbett, Whose Side Are You On?” and held signs supporting education and Medicaid.

The boisterous crowd booed and jeered the governor’s plans, including privatizing state liquor stores, privatizing the PA lottery, and transferring pensions into risky 401ks.  The governor presented false choices to the state’s citizens, tying increases in funding for education and social programs to his privatization plans and other cuts. In addition to the $1 billion in tax giveaways that have been a part of every Corbett budget, the governor announced ANOTHER $375 million in giveaways to big corporations.

While the Governor has claimed that the tax breaks he offered would help create jobs, Pennsylvania has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, in large part because of the misdirected policies and layoffs the governor has driven forward. Governor Corbett’s budgets have eliminated thousands of jobs for hard working Pennsylvanians. His cuts have led to job losses for teachers, school employees, healthcare workers, and many others.

The governor also announced his refusal to accept federal money to expand Medicaid coverage to an estimated 700,000 Pennsylvanians who make too much to receive aid under current law but can’t afford private insurance. The governor has chosen to play politics instead of strengthening our Medicaid program, which would save millions of taxpayer dollars, protect existing healthcare jobs at hospitals and health centers, and even create new jobs.

After the governor’s address, protestors marched up the capitol rotunda stairs with hopes of speaking to the governor or his aides, but they chose not to face the public. Even after the end of the governor’s address, the energetic crowd kept up their chants, cheers, and signs as lawmakers and press gathered in the rotunda.  Special credit goes to the young people of the Philadelphia Student Union and Youth United for Change, who made sure their voices were heard!

Check out pictures from Harrisburg on our Facebook page here

Did you like this? Share it:
Leave a comment