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Philly Fast Food Workers Stand Up Against Wage Theft

mc dOn April 3, Fight for Philly joined fast food workers and community and faith leaders to protest against systemic and illegal wage theft (video) in the fast food industry.  Fast food workers also kept up their demands for $15/hr and the right to form a union.  Workers from multiple fast food chains stood outside a McDonald’s at Broad and Allegheny with nearly 100 supporters as many cars honked support and passers-by cheered.

Days earlier, the first-ever national poll of fast-food workers showed companies like McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s are stealing money from 89 percent of their employees. And a recently-released  video shows two former McDonald’s managers speaking out for the first time about how they were forced to steal from workers’ checks.   The managers talk about how they shaved time off of workers’ schedules, among other practices, so they wouldn’t “blow labor,” or spend more than they were supposed to on workers.Mc d 1

Philadelphia fast-food workers and supporters held signs that read “Stop stealing wages” and “Low pay is not OK” in front of McDonald’s.  They chanted, “Low pay is not ok!” and “We can’t survive on $7.25!”

“I know about wage theft,” said Crystal Lopez, a 25 year old Dunkin Donuts employee in Philadelphia. “A few months ago, our store found money missing from the register.  Nobody knew what happened.  I suggested calling the police, but the owners “didn’t want the trouble.”  Instead, they made all the workers pay it back!  That’s right – they had NO evidence any of us were responsible, but they took $2,000 from workers’ tips.  Why couldn’t they report it and file an insurance claim?  They didn’t want to spend money to have cameras in the store to see where the money really went, so they just made us pay for it!  That’s why I am standing up proud to join my fellow workers in calling for $15/hr and a union! “

Pastor Larry Patrick said, “I am standing in prayer with fast food workers because our city and our communities need good jobs that keep people out of poverty and support families.  We need to speak out against wage theft, which offends our religious and moral values and keeps money from those who need it most.  Hard work is supposed to be a way to get ahead, not a dead-end trap.  These huge corporations can easily afford to pay their workers a living wage and treat them with dignity, and it’s long past time they did.”

Justin Watson, a 29 year-old employee of the McDonald’s, spoke to the crowd. He said, “I barely make enough to support myself, but I also support my kids and try to help my parents and brother. $8/hr is just not enough. I struggle every single day…. I have learned to keep precise records of when I clock in and out and take my breaks. Yet every time I get paid, it is for less than what I think I worked. It doesn’t add up. I’ve been working for a long time and have never had this problem with other jobs. You would think that a company that made $5.5 billion in profits in 2012 alone should be able to pay their workers for all the hours they work!”

The first-ever national poll of fast-food workers, conducted by Hart Research, shows that the wage theft described by the McDonald’s managers pervades the entire fast-food industry. Companies like McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s are stealing money from 89 percent of their employees, according to the poll of 1,088 fast-food workers in the nation’s 10 largest metropolitan areas.

In addition to showing that nearly nine out of every 10 fast-food workers experience some form of wage theft, the poll shows:

  • 92 percent of Burger King workers, 84 percent of McDonald’s workers and 82 percent of Wendy’s workers are victims of wage theft;
  • 60 percent of fast-food workers have experienced three or more different types of wage theft;
  • 60 percent of fast-food workers have been required to perform tasks before clocking in or after clocking out;
  • 26 percent of fast-food workers have not always been paid time-and-a-half for overtime hours they worked.

Last month, class-action lawsuits filed in California, Michigan and New York alleged McDonald’s is systematically robbing employees by forcing them to work off the clock, shaving hours off their time cards and not paying them overtime, among other practices. The suits demand McDonald’s, which earned nearly $5.6 billion in profits in 2013, pay back the stolen wages and stop its illegal theft of workers’ pay.

And late last month, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced a second settlement with a major fast-food company for stealing workers’ pay. The settlement with Domino’s, which followed one with McDonald’s earlier in March, means that workers have won back nearly $1 million in stolen wages in just the last few weeks.

The fast food worker movement clearly has energy, and Fight for Philly will be supporting workers in their fight for dignity, respect, and fair wages.  Their fight is our fight!

 

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“Trying to get by on $7.25 is not easy,” says PHL Airport Worker Nathaniel Smith

Nathaniel Smith, a baggage handler at Philadelphia International Airport, spoke at the Philly stop of the “Give America A Raise” bus tour last week.  The tour is crossing the country sharing stories of how important it is to raise the federal minimum wage to lift millions out of poverty and help our economy.  Nathaniel is one of the sub-contracted workers at the airport who falls through a loophole in Philadelphia’s 21st Century Minimum Wage and Benefit Standard law.  He doesn’t make the $10.88/hr minimum wage that the city requires contractors to pay.  But we’re going to change that on May 20 when we vote to give thousands of airport and sub-contracted workers a raise!

Read our report on poverty jobs at the airport here.

Watch the video below to hear how hard Nate works and how difficult it is getting by on low pay:

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PCAPS Charter Accountability Report and Rally

caLast Friday, the Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools (PCAPS) held a charter school accountability rally at City Hall and announced the release of a new report, “RestoringThe Public Trust: Public Accountability for Pennsylvania Charter Schools.” Teachers, students, parents, and community activists called for commonsense regulation and oversight of Pennsylvania’s charter schools to make sure they are committed to properly educating students. Ralliers chanted and held signs that read “Charter schools should serve all students!” and “Fund public education.” Public school champions State Rep. James Roebuck and State Sen. Shirley Kitchen both spoke on the importance of protecting public education and keeping a watchful eye over charter schools.

Loose oversight of charter schools has allowed them to undermine traditional public schools by draining resources from neighborhood schools. Charter schools are funded with public money, but they don’t abide by the rules of the school district in which they operate. They aren’t required to admit all students, and they aren’t always transparent in their governance and budgeting.  Last year, the office of state Rep. James Roebuck released a report showing investigations or problems at 44 charter and cyber charter schools in PA.

At the rally, Fight for Philly member and charter school parent Sylana Christopher told the crowd, “Public dollars are going into these charter schools, so why are we being left in the dark about how they operate? It is our right as citizens to know what is happening with our tax dollars. The governing board of any charter school in this city should be required to be an open book to the communities they serve. The best ideas for improving schools come from the students, parents, teachers, school employees and volunteers that are in our schools every day. And speaking of these governing boards – they should be elected students, teachers, and parents! We know best!”

PCAPS released a detailed report, “RestoringThe Public Trust: Public Accountability for Pennsylvania Charter Schools” that introduces a platform to establish more accountability and oversight of charter schools operating in the Philadelphia School District.  It’s time we stop giving charters free rein with our money!

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Fight for Philly Stands with Hundreds of Pittsburgh Medical Workers

Fight for Philly members answered the call to join healthcare workers in Pittsburgh in their fight for higher wages and good jobs earlier this month. Over forty FFP members boarded a bus and traveled five hours through the wintery weather to stand in solidarity with University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) employees and the entire city of Pittsburgh as they demanded good wages from UPMC, the ability form a union, and that the Medical Center contribute more to the city.

UPMC has been a major economic engine in Pittsburgh for years and is the largest non-governmental employer in Pennsylvania.   But they’ve consistently failed to do right by the citizens of the Steel City. Their non-profit status has allowed them to avoid millions of dollars in taxes while raking in over a billion dollars in revenue over the last three years.  Thousands of UPMC employees work full-time and are paid anywhere from 8% to 30% below what’s needed to make ends meet in Pittsburgh.  UPMC’s starting rate for many jobs is $10 an hour, but a unit secretary at Presbyterian with over 30 years’ experience makes only $13 an hour.upmc

Jim Staus, one of thousands of hospital workers taking a stand against UPMC said, “Everyone told me that if you wanted to get ahead go into the healthcare field, so I did and got an associates’ degree. Almost 20 years later, I’m only making $11.81 an hour and I have to rely on food stamps, heating assistance and food pantries to support my family. I came to work at UPMC because I thought there would be opportunities to move up if I worked hard, but I just feel stuck. Forming a union with my co-workers is what’s giving me hope we can make these jobs good middle-class jobs.”

The millions of dollars in taxes UPMC avoids paying could have erased the budget deficit for Pittsburgh public schools and reversed cuts to education. As the leading employer in the city, UPMC has also failed in providing family-sustaining jobs, even though they made $1.3 billion in profits in the last three years, have $4 billion in reserves, and pay 28 top executives $48.8 million a year.

Many UPMC workers rely on food stamps and even public health care to make ends meet.  Despite being considered a leading American healthcare provider, UPMC offers their employees below-par medical insurance. Many UPMC workers become indebted to the very same hospital they work for because the insurance provided is just too expensive.  Leslie Poston has worked as a medical secretary on the heart and lung transplant floor at UPMC for 10 years. Poston has amassed $15,000 in medical bills that are due to her employer. The bulk of that was for surgery with a $9,000 co-pay!

For two long days, close to 1,000 protestors packed the streets in front of UPMC’s headquarters in downtown Pittsburgh, shutting down streets and making sure the whole city knew we were there. Nurses, janitors, and other UPMC workers, along with clergy, union members, community members, and others chanted “UPMC you’re not a charity, you’re greedy!” Others hoisted signs and banners demanding UPMC allow their blue-collar workers to unionize and increase their hourly wages from $11/hr to $15/hr.  A village with tents, signs, food, and drink quickly filled the street in front of UPMC’s tower, as hundreds of people danced, chanted, rallied, and spoke.  Rapper Jasiri X performed his song “People Over Profits.”

On the final day of the rally, protestors moved from the sidewalk and street into the plaza of the UPMC headquarters. The crowd filled every inch of the plaza, waving banners that read “UPMC = Poverty Jobs” and chanting “Pittsburgh is a union town!” A group of protestors attempted to stage a sit in, but reconsidered after  Mayor Bill Peduto, who was in Washington D.C., sent word that he was cutting his time short in the nation’s capitol and returning to Pittsburgh to address issues between UPMC and workers.  The Mayor’s Chief of Staff read a statement from the Mayor asking UPMC and workers to come together and find a way for UPMC to be a good citizen of Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania. He then urged protesters to warm up with their families now that their message had been heard.

UPMC could single-handedly lift thousands of workers out of poverty and into the middle class. Instead, it uses its power to bully workers who want nothing more than a voice on the job. UPMC should do better by all the people and communities, and help cultivate a Pittsburgh that works for all.

Want to see more? Click here to see pictures from the rallies.

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Take the survey! Who should run our schools?

Click here to take just a minute to fill out this survey and tell us what you would do to make our schools better moving forward.

As we all know, Philadelphia public schools have been struggling with Gov. Corbett’s massive budget cuts, leading to shortages in teachers, nurses, school staff, supplies, and more.  We’ve joined groups like PCAPS and others to vigorously protest what’s being done to Philadelphia schools.  But there is little local recourse right now because Philadelphia does not have full control of its own schools.

In 2001, the state took over the Philadelphia School District, creating the School Reform Commission (SRC).  The SRC is the board that governs Philadelphia schools, and a majority of its members are appointed by the governor.  The SRC also appoints the Philadelphia schools superintendent.

Do you want to have more local control of our schools?  As a parent or a resident of Philadelphia who cares about the city’s public schools, what are your concerns about Philadelphia education? How do you feel about the state-controlled Student Reform Commission (SRC)?

Click here to take just a minute to fill out this survey and tell us what you would do to make our schools better moving forward.

Click on the image below to begin the survey.

online-survey
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“Too little, too late” for Gov’s Budget Proposal

photo 1(1)On February 4th, over fifty Fight for Philly community activists boarded a bus to Harrisburg to protest  Gov. Corbett’s annual budget address. Based on the governor’s record, we knew he’d have little good news for the people and plenty of help for big corporations, and we needed to tell him to change his priorities.  Hundreds of other activists from across the state met us at the State Capitol Building to share our message: the governor continues to put big business ahead of working families.

Activists packed the Capitol rotunda to protest the governor’s record of putting corporations before people and cutting vital programs for health and education.  Activists booed and shouted “Governor Corbett tells lies” and “Corporate Corbett” at the television sets airing the budget address. Activists also wore bright orange t-shirts that read “Governor Corporate” on the front, and “Whose side are you on?” on the back.  Later, we found out that people in the chamber where Corbett was speaking could hear us!

Corbett cut nearly $1 billion from education when he took office in 2011. $272 million was cut from the Philadelphia schools. In the governor’s new budget, he is promising to spend $386 million more on education, but this is only a fraction of what was cut.  He is also restricting the way districts can spend the money, adding nothing at all to basic education funding.  Instead, he is proposing one-time fixes and block grants that don’t do much to help budgets. Many education activists say his proposals primarily benefit wealthy districts.

Corbett’s proposal will bring only $29 million in new money to Philadelphia schools, which does very little to restore programs and services lost from the previous budget cuts.  Additional funds for public schools are certainly beneficial, but these funds will not go back into the classroom. Giving schools more money only for special programs instead of basic education is one of Governor Corbett’s gimmicks to better his chances of re-election.

The governor’s decision to increase funding for education is too little, too late. Philadelphia schools have struggled all year, but students and teachers have been resilient. Three of Philadelphia’s best performing high schools exceeded expectations despite the governor’s cuts to school staff and counselors.

Many saw through Governor Corbett’s budget gimmicks. “Corbett’s budget proposal just confirmed for me that he doesn’t care about Philadelphia kids and is proposing a tiny increase in funding just to look good for re-election,” said Fight for Philly member and parent Tara Tillman.  State senator Vincent Hughes, the ranking Democrat on the state Senate Appropriations Committee, panned Corbett’s budget speech. “Pretty weak budget presentation,” Hughes said afterward.  “Failed on job creation, failed on education.”

Pennsylvania working families have to keep fighting against the governor’s attacks. Thanks to activists like us making sure everyone knows what he’s doing, the governor’s approval rating is a mere 23%, and he is considered one of the most vulnerable GOP governors in the country. Pennsylvania has a real chance of dumping the Corbett agenda this year.

Check out this awesome video of activists rocking the Capitol rotunda!

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Governor Runs From Mess He Created with Schools

tara tillmanGovernor Corbett showed his true colors on January 17th when he decided to play hooky and ditch an event to honor the achievements of Central High School and three other high-performing public schools in the city.

Central High students and teachers were left dumbfounded when the governor abruptly canceled his visit at the very last minute, leaving students waiting. His visit would have been the governor’s very first trip to a Philadelphia public school during his entire term. Under the Corbett administration, funding for education has been cut by $1 billion, including $272 million in cuts to Philadelphia.  The governor cut $1.4 million to Central’s school-based budget, which means they’re educating their students on just $5,177 per child – the lowest in the entire district.  And last year, Corbett’s draconian cuts led to the closing of 24 Philadelphia schools and massive school employee layoffs.  But the governor couldn’t even go see what his cuts are doing to our schools and our students.

Hundreds of education activists marched from the corner of Broad and Olney to Central High. Activists waved signs and chanted, “Hey, hey, ho, ho Governor Corbett has got to go!” But as the march approached the school, protesters received word that Governor Corbett had turned tail and bailed on his own event. centralProtestors crowded onto the lawn in front of Central, and official word was given about Corbett’s cancellation, which was met with jeers and boos. Parent, teachers, education activists, and clergy spoke out against Corbett and his blatant disregard for public education.

“You don’t get any credit for our student’s accomplishments!” Fight for Philly’s Tara Tillman, a South Philadelphia resident and public school parent, told the governor.  “The only thing you should get credit for is hurting our schools!”   Tara told the crowd, “Governor Corbett is the root of the education crisis in our city! Why would he highlight the success of our best high schools, when he and administration had nothing to do with it?”

Protesters caught up with Corbett outside his Philadelphia office, where he had fled to present the achievement award to Philadelphia Public Schools Superintendent Dr. William Hite.  Amazingly, Corbett told reporters his reason for the last-minute venue change was not wanting to be “a distraction to the school day.”  Never mind the huge daily distraction of massive program cuts and layoffs caused by his budgets.  Corbett also dismissed the protesters, claiming, “I was not going to engage in the theatrics of what the adults wanted to do.”  Did the governor miss all the students protesting him too?  The governor even claimed,  “We have not received, to my knowledge, any requests to sit down and talk,” from proponents of more public school education funding.  Did the governor miss the invite to our candidates forum, our phone calls, our hunger strike at his office, our visits to the Capitol, and all our protests?  We’d love to talk to him!

In addition to giving the award, Corbett nominated City Councilman Bill Green to head the School Reform Commission.  Bill Green has strongly supported charter school expansion and voucher programs in the past, which worries many public school parents. The fight for full funding for education continues every day.

We’ll be in Harrisburg Tuesday for the governor’s budget address, demanding he give our schools what they need!

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PCAPS talks to Sen. Williams about charter school reform

Bbovf4LIcAAYHGLOn Monday, December 16, Fight for Philly joined Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools (PCAPS) in a meeting and rally at the office of State Senator Anthony Williams. PCAPS requested a meeting to talk to the senator about his support for Senate Bill 1085, the “Charter School NON-Reform” bill.  We think SB 1085 will do the opposite of providing the real reform Pennsylvania’s charter school system needs and will instead make it even easier for unaccountable charter schools to grow.  The bill would cut state funding for charter pension costs and make local school districts make up the difference.  It would remove caps on charter school enrollments, leading to unrestricted charter expansion without local community input.  It also strips language requiring charter schools to be models of innovation for public schools, eliminating their intended purpose as laboratories for new teaching methods.

Senator Williams is the only Democratic co-sponsor of the bill and the only one from Philadelphia.

PCAPS is also concerned with provisions of SB 1085 that require direct payment to charter schools, require ten year charter school renewals, and require all school districts to make their “strategic vision for chartering” available on their public websites.  Under state funding trends, these provisions would severely impact school district budgets at a time when districts are struggling financially.

Senator Williams listened politely to our concerns but wouldn’t cancel his sponsorship of SB1085.  He also told us he won’t end his support for removing caps on charter school enrollments.  So we’re still lobbying him and asking you to help.  Sen.  Williams should be focused on getting more resources and funding for the Philadelphia schools instead of pushing the agenda of corporate backers and un-proven charters.

Help us keep up the fight for public education!  Sign here to demand the Senator drop his support of SB 1085 and invest in public education!

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Reclaim Public Education

PCAPSOn December 9, Philadelphia joined over 90 other cities across the country in a national day of action to reclaim public education.  More than a hundred students, teachers, parents, community members and labor activists rallied in front of Governor Corbett’s downtown office, demanding a fair funding formula for Philadelphia public schools.

The root of Philadelphia’s public school crisis is massive spending cuts made by Governor Corbett.  The governor cut nearly $1 billion from state-wide education funding when he took office, including $272 million in cuts to Philadelphia since 2011.  This is the deepest per pupil cut in the state.

The “Day of Action to Reclaim the Promise of Public Education” was designed to highlight the lack of investment in public education across the country.  Cuts to urban public education are damaging communities and the futures of children.  In Philadelphia, activists “took the street,” marching up Broad Street, holding signs in support of Philadelphia public education, and chanting against Corbett.  Activists then rallied in front of the Philadelphia office of Loop Capitol, at 2 Penn Center.  The Chicago-based investment bank has been blamed for harmful swaps deals that drained money from Chicago schools and is now involved in the deal to sell off and privatize Philadelphia Gas Works.

Public school parent and community activist Kia Hinton told the crowd, “Our most vulnerable children, the ones in my neighborhood, in low income neighborhoods, are the ones that are being affected the most. So we have to fight for our children’s education.”

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Tom Corbett: Turkey of the Year!

MARCH TGOn November 19th,  Fight for Philly members boarded a bus to Harrisburg to present Governor Tom Corbett with the “Turkey of the Year” award.  The governor has refused to accept Medicaid expansion for thousands of working PA families, leaving them without healthcare.  Along with allies from SEIU Healthcare, One Pittsburgh, and others, Fight for Philly marched to the Governor’s Mansion to protest this shameful decision and let the governor know he’s being a big turkey.

Despite guaranteed funding from the federal government, Gov. Corbett has refused to follow the lead of many Democratic governors and even some of his Republican counterparts and expand Medicaid coverage.  Medicaid expansion would extend health insurance to over 400,000 Pennsylvanians who currently lack care.  Governor Corbett still has the power to help uninsured Pennsylvanians get access to the care they need by January 1st by accepting federal Medicaid expansion funding.

Medicaid expansion advocates – some in wheelchairs and walkers – marched to the Governor’s Mansion and called on him to expand Medicaid. Outside of the mansion’s giant iron fence, activists chanted for expansion as healthcare providers and people without insurance told their stories. Anthony, a former nurse, recently sold his house to pay for hospital bills. He explained he suffered a heart attack and then lost his healthcare.  Thousands of folks like Anthony, who lack insurance through no faults of their own, would be helped by Medicaid expansion.  But the heart-wrenching stories didn’t stop there. A resident from Pittsburgh said if Governor Corbett accepted Medicaid expansion, he could finally have the surgery to repair his damaged knee and live without pain.  After the rally, activists presented the governor with the “Turkey Award” and demanded he stop being a turkey and expand Medicaid.

Aside from helping hundreds of thousands of people, Medicaid expansion is a no-brainer for our state’s economy.  Expanding Medicaid will put more people to work in Pennsylvania, creating 35,000 good-paying jobs.  Extending Medicaid will save taxpayers $522 million in 2015 and bring billions of dollars into the state. The January 1st deadline to expand Medicaid is quickly approaching. If Governor Corbett does not follow through, hundreds of thousands of working families will be left without coverage for another year, and the state will lose billions of dollars that could help boost our economy.

Spread the word about Medicaid Expansion here!

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