March 2013

Philadelphians Demand Congress End The Sequester

3.20Last Wednesday, Fight for Philly and 100 federal government employees came together at the Liberty Bell and the Federal building to protest the across-the-boards cuts known as the sequester.

The protest was part of a national day of action showing the sequester’s effects on struggling Americans.  Federal workers are facing reduced hours and furlough notices from the cuts, leading to delays and reduced hours in services for us.  Others are suffering from cuts to health programs, unemployment compensation, and education.

Federal workers and community members chanted, “No more cuts!” and held up signs that read “Freedom, Not Sequestration” and “The Sequestration Stinks”. Union representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency to the National Park Service spoke out against the sequester and called on Congress to come to a resolution.

“There is a budget problem in the United States, but the federal worker did not create the budget problem,” said Richard Gennetti, AFGE District 3 national representative. “The budget problem was created by government decisions, by our national government that spent a tremendous amount of money.”

Fight for Philly member Liz Lassiter has been directly affected by the sequestration. Here’s what she had to say Congress:

“Until last August, I was the Canvass Director for Action United, a community organizing group. I was laid off due to a lack of funding and have been receiving unemployment checks while I look for a job and care for my grandson. It’s a challenge to support my grandson and look for work with the amount I was getting from unemployment. And now I am getting even less! Due to the sequester cuts, my checks got 10% smaller two weeks ago! This is not enough! Cuts like this hurt people like me, who are trying to look for work and take care of our families. Congress needs to reverse the sequester and reverse these cuts!

My grandson attends Head Start programs, which are also losing funding. I don’t know what I would do if he can go for fewer hours or gets kicked out – I really count on this vital early education for him.

Congress, please: End the sequester, for all of us.”

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Raise the Wage!

from National Employment Law Project

In his State of the Union address this year, President Obama called for raising the minimum wage to $9/hr from its current $7.25.  Importantly, he also called for indexing it to inflation.  Historically, Congress has set higher minimum wages only when there has been the political will to do so, meaning minimum-wage workers sometimes had to wait years for a raise, even as the dollar was weakened by the rising cost of goods.  Indexing the minimum wage to inflation means that it automatically rises every year as costs for things like food and fuel go up.  If the minimum wage had been indexed to inflation all along, it would be $10.60 now, based on its 1968 peak in real (inflation-adjusted) dollars.  Here‘s a graph of the minimum wage’s buying power over time.  The wage has not been keeping up!  That’s why it’s long past time to raise the wage.

Taking up the president’s call, Senator Tom Harkin and Rep. George Miller have introduced bills in Congress to gradually raise the minimum wage to $10.10/hr and to index it to inflation, making future raises automatic.  Now it’s up to us to make sure Congress passes them!

There are many reasons an increase in the minimum wage is important for the country.  Most simply, it gives low-wage workers more money to support themselves and their families.  As President Obama said in his speech, “a family with two kids that earns the minimum wage still lives below the poverty line. That’s wrong.”  Additionally, an increase in the minimum wage will help the US economy overall, by putting more money in the pockets of workers to spend on things like food and clothing.  A recent report from the Economic Policy Institute says, “Across the phase-in period of the minimum-wage increase, GDP would increase by roughly $32.6 billion, resulting in the creation of approximately 140,000 net new jobs (and 284,000 job years) over that period.”  The report goes on to state that “Recent research reveals that, despite skeptics’ claims, raising the minimum wage does not cause job loss.  In fact, throughout the nation, a minimum-wage increase under current labor market conditions would create jobs.”

There is simply no good argument for not raising the minimum wage to keep up with inflation.  Let’s demand Congress do the right thing.

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J1 Students Speak Out Against Mcdonalds and Worker Abuse

j1 studentsIn early March, Fight for Philly boarded a bus to Camp Hill, Pennsylvania to support exploited J1 students working for a McDonald’s restaurant.

Students from other countries pay as much as $3,000 a piece to come to the U.S. on J-1 visas, a cultural and educational exchange program administered by the State Department. But students from Chile, Argentina, Peru, and Malaysia visiting central PA were exposed to a darker side of American culture. The J1 students said they lived in the unfinished and cramped basement of their boss’s home and were assigned either too few hours to make much money or overly long shifts.

The J1 students marched from the “dungeon” (their name for the owner’s basement) to the McDonald’s. Inside the restaurant, the students were met by supporters chanting “McDonald’s, McDonald’s, can’t you see, what justice means to me” and holding signs that read “J-1 Abuse, Not Lovin’ It.” J1 Student Jorge Rios spoke out against the owner and terrible mistreatment he and his fellow workers have experienced. “There are six of us are living in a basement. I have never experienced anything like this in my own country,” he said.

After a few minutes, the restaurant manager yelled for people to leave the property and even became physical with a few protestors. Protestors moved off the McDonald’s property after police were called but continued to demonstrate and wave signs as patrons entered the parking lot.

This isn’t the first time the J1 cultural exchange program has come under fire. In 2011, student guest workers walked off the line at the Hershey’s chocolate plant in Palmyra, Pennsylvania. Thousands of students were employed as low-paid temp workers at the bottom of a chain of contractors. They said they spent their days lifting 50-pound boxes under the threat of deportation, with their travel and administrative fees exceeding their meager earnings from the job.

Since the protest in Harrisburg, the story of the J1 student workers has made national headlines, and their allegations of worker abuse have forced restaurant owner Andrew Cheung to walk away from McDonalds.

Last Saturday, the J1 students made their way to Philadelphia to protest a local McDonald’s. Close to 20 people turned out in support of the workers, who demonstrated inside the McDonald’s restaurant at Broad and Arch. The J1 students and protestors chanted “McDonald’s must pay!,” and one of the students told the group about living in deplorable conditions and working for very little hours and pay. Security officers who were already stationed inside the McDonalds before the protest started escorted the students and protestors outside of the building, where the protest continued.

The students will be heading to the McDonalds shareholders meeting to demand a face-to-face meeting with McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson to discuss reforms to the J-1 Visa Program.

 

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Fight for Philly to protest GOP Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in Center City TODAY

Media Advisory

For Immediate Release

Monday, March 18, 2013

Jesse Kudler

617-974-3684, jesse@fightforphilly.org

 

Fight for Philly to protest GOP Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in Center City TODAY at Noon

Protesters will call attention to Republican obstructionism, hurtful budget cuts, and unwillingness to raise the minimum wage

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – Acting on last-minute information that GOP Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will be appearing at a private event at the Union League today, Fight for Philly is quickly mobilizing activists to protest the GOP’s ongoing obstructionism in refusing to negotiate a fair budget.   McConnell has consistently refused to raise taxes, letting the devastating budget sequester take effect and hurting the economy and Pennsylvanians.  By supporting harsh GOP spending cuts to programs like health care and education, McConnell is hurting the economy and hurting everyday Philadelphians.  When we desperately need jobs, he is supporting more cuts to crucial programs that both help citizens and create jobs.

McConnell has also refused to raise the minimum wage, which would help millions of American families get out of poverty.  McConnell has been doing nothing to help families in Philadelphia, which is why he is only appearing in the city in secret.  It’s time to let everyone know.

 

Who: Fight for Philly and citizen activists

What: Protest for a fair economy

Where: Union League, 140 S. Broad St. at Sansom

When: TODAY, Noon, March 18, 2013

Visuals: Diverse crowd of activists, speakers, colorful signs, chants

 

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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

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Philadelphia’s 99% to call attention to Mayor’s priorities in budget address

Media Advisory

For Immediate Release

Tuesday, March 14, 2013

Jesse Kudler

617-974-3684, jesse@fightforphilly.org

 

Philadelphia’s 99% to call attention to

 Mayor’s priorities in budget address

Activists, community members, and workers calling for policies that serve ALL Philadelphians, not just corporations

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – Mayor Michael Nutter will unveil his proposed city budget on Thursday, March 14.   Citizens, activists from local community groups, and union members will respond at 12:30pm, highlighting the need for a budget that serves the 99% with fair taxation, adequate funding for schools and education, and fair labor contracts.  Speakers from Fight for Philly, PCAPS, Neighborhood Networks, AFSCME District Council 33, MoveOn Philadelphia Council, and others will discuss the need for a budget that serves the people, through progressive taxation and good funding for schools and other social services.

Thursday’s rally will be the capstone to a week of actions calling attention to the budget and the mayor’s priorities.

Thursday, March 14, 12:30pm:  Fight for Philly, AFSCME District Council 33, MoveOn Philadelphia Council, PCAPS, Pathways PA, and others will counter the mayor’s address with calls for fair taxation and funding for social services.  Philadelphia homeowners will talk about the difficulty in paying increased taxes, and parents will talk about the pain of cuts to education.

 

 

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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

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Philadelphia’s 99% plan week of actions to call attention to Mayor’s priorities in budget address

Media Advisory

For Immediate Release

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Jesse Kudler

617-974-3684, jesse@fightforphilly.org

 

Philadelphia’s 99% plan week of actions to call attention to

 Mayor’s priorities in budget address

Activists, community members, and workers to stage events calling for policies that serve ALL Philadelphians, not just corporations

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – Mayor Michael Nutter will unveil his proposed city budget on Thursday, March 14.   Citizens, activists from local community groups, and union members will respond at 12:30pm, highlighting the need for a budget that serves the 99% with fair taxation, adequate funding for schools and education, and fair labor contracts.  Speakers from Fight for Philly, PCAPS, Neighborhood Networks, AFSCME District Council 33, MoveOn Philadelphia Council, and others will discuss the need for a budget that serves the people, through progressive taxation and good funding for schools and other social services.

Thursday’s rally will be the capstone to a week of actions calling attention to the budget and the mayor’s priorities.

Wednesday, March 13, 10am: Media Mobilizing Project, SumOfUs.org, Action United, and Fight for Philly will deliver a petition demanding Comcast stop opposing Earned Sick Time for Philadelphia workers.  Mayor Nutter vetoed legislation in 2011 that guaranteed earned sick time for Philadelphia workers, caving in to pressure from Comcast and other corporations.  10am, Outside Northeast Corner of City Hall.

Wednesday, March 13, 12pm: AFSCME District Council 33 will rally at the Northeast Corner of City Hall to call attention to their four years without a contract, as the Mayor seeks legal authority to unilaterally impose a contract.

Thursday, March 14, 12:30pm:  Fight for Philly, AFSCME District Council 33, MoveOn Philadelphia Council, PCAPS, Pathways PA, and others will counter the mayor’s address with calls for fair taxation and funding for social services.  Philadelphia homeowners will talk about the difficulty in paying increased taxes, and parents will talk about the pain of cuts to education.

 

###

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

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Council’s Public Health Committee approves Earned Sick Days Bill

photo(2)Last Tuesday, workers, business owners, economists, and many others packed City Council in support of a bill requiring businesses to offer employees paid time off when they are sick.

Before the hearing, supporters held a press conference to explain the importance of earned sick time.  Claudia Williams, an economist for the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, explained that employers in the city would save an estimated $500,000 if they offered earned time off, contrary to the claim that it hurt businesses and the economy.  Workers also talked about how much paid sick time would help them, and a daycare operator came out in support of the bill as a business owner.

The hearing began with Alan Greenberger, the Deputy Mayor for Economic Development, claiming that the the Earned Sick Days bill would hurt Philadelphia business. During his testimony, activists held up signs reading, “No sick days make me sick!”  Councilman Bill Greenlee, who is strongly in support of the bill,challenged Greenberger’s testimony, telling him at one point, “You can’t handle the truth!” about the benefits of earned time off. Greenlee then spoke about how successful earned sick time has been in San Francisco. A similar bill was enacted in the Bay Area in 2006, and jobs grew by 3.5% in 4 years, even during the recession.

Childcare provider Karen Barnes and waitress Rosemary Divine spoke next. Karen Barnes contracted impetigo from a child and missed two weeks of work- unpaid. She described the bill as a “necessity” and asked council to consider approving mandatory paid sick time for part time and full-time workers. Restaurant worker Rosemary Devine echoed Karen Barnes’s concerns about going to work sick or working alongside someone who is sick, saying servers especially need to be able to stay home instead of coughing or sneezing on customers’ plates.

The Earned Sick Days bill would create job security for families and help workers take care of themselves or families members without losing income.

Earned Sick Days Bill:

  • Workers would earn one hour of sick leave for every 40 hours worked.
  • Firms with between six and 10 workers would have to offer up to four sick days per year.
  • Larger firms would have to offer up to seven earned sick days per year. Businesses with fewer than six workers would be exempt.
  • Victims of domestic abuse could use the sick days for other personal matters, such as meeting with an attorney.

(Read More Here)

After a four-hour long hearing, Council’s Public Health Committee approved the bill!  Now, it goes to a final vote in the full Council next week.  Mayor Nutter is expected to veto the bill, like he did to a similar one in 2011, so it’s up to us to get City Council members to vote to over-ride a veto.  Click here to sign a petition telling Comcast to stop opposing this bill.

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The many benefits of Medicaid expansion in PA

Send a letter to the governor demanding Medicaid expansion!

Where the States Stand

Recently, Governor Corbett made an unsurprising but still disappointing decision when he announced he was “not recommending” Medicaid expansion in PA. This means thousands of uninsured families will fall by the wayside and have no way of covering medical expenses.  It also refuses billions of dollars in federal funds that could help our state’s economy and create jobs.

According to the Maternity Care Coalition:

Today, one in five residents in Pennsylvania receives health coverage through Medicaid. In addition, almost half of all births in Pennsylvania, and 35% of children, are covered by this critical program. While Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) together provide a strong base of health coverage for low-income children and pregnant women – as Medicare does for the elderly – eligibility for low-income adults ages 18 to 64 remains extremely limited. And pregnant women’s coverage ends almost immediately following birth.

The Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion, which increases the number eligible for coverage by significantly raising the income limit, to 138 percent of the federal poverty level ($26,344 for a family of three), is key to providing coverage to millions of uninsured adults.

Not only is Governor Corbett denying families health coverage that will cost the state nothing, but he also is smothering future job growth in PA. A report from Families USA and the Pennsylvania Health Access Network said expanding Medicaid would lead to 41,200 new jobs in 2016, as $3.5 billion more in Medicaid funding would flow into the state to cover as many as 682,000 uninsured low-income Pennsylvanians.

Here are reasons why Medicaid expansion is needed:

  • A large proportion of low income individuals are presently uninsured.
  • Even some low income people with disabilities don’t qualify for Medicaid.
  • Medicaid is good for health.
  • Medicaid offers financial protection.
  • Expansion costs states very little; most of the cost is covered by the federal government.
  • More broadly, health reform saves many states money.
  • Medicaid expansion supports the economy.

Despite the Governor’s statements, supporters of Medicaid are still pushing for him to change his mind and accept the Medicaid expansion, like the governors of 24 other states have, including 8 Republicans.  Just last week, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie announced his state will accept the Medicaid expansion, saying “It’s simple. We are putting people first.  We have an opportunity to ensure that an even greater number of New Jerseyans who are at or near the poverty line will have access to critical health services beginning in January 2014.” He said that “expanding Medicaid will ensure New Jersey taxpayers will see their dollars maximized.”

Philadelphia’s City Council has called for hearing on the state’s decision on Friday, March 22, 2013.

Send a letter to the governor demanding Medicaid expansion!

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Philadelphians Call Out Senator Toomey and Cuts to Vital Services

On February 20, 100 concerned Philadelphians spoke out against potential cuts to education and healthcare at Senator Pat Toomey’s office on 17th and JFK.  A trillion dollars in automatic budget cuts take effect on March 1st, which will hurt thousands of Pennsylvanians and devastate our economy.   The “sequester” will also cut funding from Head Start programs, meaning low-income children and their families are at risk of losing programs and resources designed to foster stable family relationships and enhance children’s physical and emotional well-being.  The cuts will also decimate other health and education programs for children.

President Obama agreed to a deadline for automatic cuts to go into effect thinking it would force GOP extremists to agree to a reasonable compromise.  Instead, Republicans like Senator Toomey are saying that they will only agree to lift the automatic cuts in exchange for other severe cuts to important programs like Medicaid and Social Security.

Activists ranging from a college professor to middle school student spoke out against Senator Toomey and the cuts to vital services. 13-yr old student Jaionna Hines spoke up about the need for more funding for education, saying “Senator Toomey is hurting our state.  We need funding for education, not more tax cuts for corporations.”  Retiree Virginia Harris told the crowd, “people with Medicare coverage need to be protected – not threatened by cuts.”

After the rally, the crowd of activists marched to the doorstep of the Comcast Center.  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.  Protesters booed Comcast and low tax rates for corporations.

“Comcast gets millions of dollars in tax breaks and makes billions of dollars off of cable subscribers across the country,” said Bryan Mercer, an organizer at Media Mobilizing Project. “Comcast needs to pay their fair share in taxes to fund the basic services of millions of their customers.”

Hear what 13-year-old Jionna Hines had to say about  Senator Toomey:

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