Author Archives: Joe Doc

Chester Upland can’t pay its teachers (Because of budget gridlock in Harrisburg) — but they’re working anyway; Union votes to stay on the job without pay and put students first

By Laura Benshoff

- Teachers union president Michele Paulick said she received some unwelcome news at the Chester Upland School District teacher convocation this week.

“Our superintendent, Gregory Shannon, read a letter from our receiver, Francis Barnes, that informed the teachers that there are no funds,” said Paulick, who described feeling “shock, frustration and anger” at the news.

However, in a Thursday evening vote, the 200-member union decided unanimously to work without pay for as long as individual members are able, Paulick said. The Chester Upland School District educates about 3,500 students, with nearly the same number attending area charter schools.

“We arrived at the decision to continue working because we have to put our children first,” she said. “It’s not their fault we’re in this situation.”

Two factors put Chester Upland in an especially difficult position. The district, which has been designated fiscally distressed for more than 20 years, is carrying a $24 million budget deficit from the last school year. Thanks to Pennsylvania’s ongoing budget gridlock, no money is flowing into the district from state coffers.

With no fund balance and no money coming in, officials said they won’t be able to make payroll for the first week of school, which starts Wednesday.

The parent union, the Pennsylvania State Education Association, is helping to raise funds to supplement teachers’ loss of income. This is the second time in recent memory that Chester Upland teachers voted to work without pay. In 2012, the district ran out of operating funds in January and asked for an emergency infusion of cash from then Gov. Tom Corbett.

This year, the timing is worse, said Paulick. “We haven’t had any paychecks coming in over the summer, so it was very difficult to budget” for the coming weeks.

News that the district is too broke to operate comes on the heels of another blow to the district’s finances. Earlier this week, Delaware County Court of Common Pleas Judge Chad Kenney rejected several portions of a recovery plan that would have eliminated the district’s existing fund deficit.

The plan, backed by Gov. Tom Wolf, proposed eliminating the $24 million deficit, largely by cutting back special-education tuition payments to charter schools. Those payments have ballooned in recent years to $40,000 per student, regardless of how severe — and therefore expensive — the student’s disability may be.

Wolf spokesman Jeff Sheridan said the receiver and state advisers to the district “are reviewing our options for further corrective action” based on Kenney’s comments.

When the budget is finally passed, “all districts would have the money come to them retroactively,” said Sheridan. Other districts have cut charter payments or taken out loans to cover their costs while the state budget negotiations sputter along.

Pennsylvania is two months into the fiscal year with no budget as Wolf and GOP legislative leaders wrangle for a spending plan that bends to their priorities.

Paulick said the impasse is “a travesty.”

“We are out here serving our community and serving our students, and we just need the support from our elected officials,” she said.

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Pennsylvania Launches Online Voter Registration To Increase Efficiency And Offer Convenience


- Thank you Governor Wolf for bringing Pennsylvania’s voter registration into the the 21st century. Online voter registration became a reality for Pennsylvania voters this week. The online registration application, hosted by the Department of State, is now available for use by eligible citizens at

We fully support this initiative as one of the many improvements to make it easier and efficient for people to register and to vote in every election. This will help improve citizen participation which will strengthen our democracy. We encourage everyone to vote no matter whether you are blue red or purple.” President Bloomingdale said.

“What a contrast to just a few years ago when we were fighting to protect the right to vote from an “ALEC sponsored” Voter ID law that disenfranchises hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvania voters. Now we have a Governor who believes as we do that our democracy is stronger when people vote and hold their elected officials accountable,” Secretary-Treasurer Snyder said.

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Casino union: ‘Last chance’ for Icahn to avoid strike at Taj Mahal


- Atlantic City’s main casino workers union said Tuesday it has given billionaire Carl Icahn “one last chance” to avoid a strike at the Taj Mahal casino by reinstating employee health and pension benefits.

Local 54 of the Unite-HERE union held a public strike preparation event Tuesday, gathering materials it would need for a strike. It also trained workers to be “picket captains” in the event it makes good on its threat to strike.

Icahn is in the process of acquiring the casino from bankruptcy court, but the transfer has not yet become official. The union wants the restoration of health insurance and pension benefits that Trump Entertainment Resorts canceled last October.

Icahn has called the benefits unaffordable, adding he will close the casino if an appeals court reinstates them.

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Wolf strikes back at GOP lawmakers on Pa. budget tactic


- Gov. Tom Wolf is blasting Republican lawmakers over a plan to force piece-by-piece override votes of his budget bill veto, saying GOP leaders can’t negotiate in good faith while staging what he calls an unconstitutional and unproductive move.

Wolf’s comments in a letter to Pennsylvania lawmakers Monday afternoon came a day before the planned veto override votes and the resumption of talks on an 8-week-old budget stalemate that’s shut off funding to a range of safety-net services.

Pennsylvania is nearly two months into its new fiscal year without a legal spending plan in place. On June 30, Wolf vetoed the GOP’s entire $30.2 billion budget bill within hours of its passage with only Republican support.

Republicans accuse of Wolf of holding the safety-net service providers hostage to get what he wants.

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State GOP Leadership In The Senate And House Continue To Hold Up Progress On Budget Agreement


- The Pennsylvania AFL-CIO reiterates its call to the Republican leadership in the Legislature to stop playing politics and get back to work now in passing a responsible budget that solves Pennsylvania problems. Every day that they continue to stall adds to the costs of providing much needed human services. Social service agencies all over the state are on the brink of either closing their doors or borrowing to provide services to their communities. Costs for child care for working parents, early child learning programs, help for our seniors, people with disabilities and addictions. And our schools especially in our urban and rural areas of Pennsylvania that really more on state funding to teach our kids.

The GOP leadership’s latest offer, amounts to repackaged proposal to cut pension benefits of public employees in exchange for agreement on how much to spend on public education but not how to pay for it. Cutting pensions won’t provide additional funds. And along with the massive cuts to pensions House Majority Leader Dave Reed publicly suggested privatizing wine and spirits stores as a possible way to pay for restoring their cuts in our public schools.

They say that if this is not accepted by Governor Wolf and Democrats, it’s back to square one in negotiations. They’ve never gotten off of square one! Same attacks, just a different day. They still are not addressing the budget deficit in a responsible way or providing the funding to restore the cuts in public education and social services. It’s time to get off of their square and begin negotiating in good faith instead of more of the same political theatre and budget gimmicks. Get to work and start addressing the real issues for Pennsylvania as outlined and addressed by Governor Wolf’s budget.

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Pennsylvania AFL-CIO Supports College Scholarship Athletes Rights To Form Their Union


- The Pennsylvania AFL-CIO joins with the United Steelworkers in reiterating their full support for greater protections for scholarship athletes despite the decision of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to decline jurisdiction, for the time being, over college football player efforts to form a union to have a voice and to end the exploitation of college athletes.

USW President Leo Gerard said in a statement that, “while we are disappointed by the NLRB decision, the USW remains committed as ever to the idea that scholarship athletes deserve the same rights and protections afforded to other Americans. We will not stop fighting until athletes secure the basic protections they so desperately need.”

Eventually, Gerard said, the players will win the right to collectively bargain, Maybe it won’t happen in 2015, but before today’s athletes send their children to college, every college scholarship football player and every college scholarship basketball player will be a proud union member and no longer exploited on their jobs.

The USW provided legal assistance to the Northwestern University players in their attempt to join the College Athletes Players Association (CAPA), the first union seeking to represent college athletes in collective bargaining. The protections the athletes sought include guaranteed scholarships that cover the full cost of attending school, a greater emphasis on concussion treatment, and better health care for student athletes during and after their playing days.

Kain Colter, the former Northwestern quarterback who led the unionization effort stated, “College athletes everywhere should take note. A few dozen 18- to 20-year-old Northwestern football players joined together to challenge an unjust system, while we hoped for a different ruling from the NLRB, we’ve succeeded in starting a conversation that is already changing the culture of college athletes as we know it.”

CAPA President Ramogi Huma, a former football player at UCLA, said the decision is disappointing because it’s likely to delay action. It may cause a loss of time and leverage in securing what players need for their safety,” Huma said, “And any delay can have serious ramifications for players.”
Both President Bloomingdale and Secretary-Treasurer Snyder on behalf of the members and leadership of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO expressed their full support and commitment to both CAPA and the USW in their efforts form their union now, to have their voices heard.

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Christie Vetoes Bills to Fund New Jersey Pension

By The Communications Workers of America

- New Jersey Democrats trying to undo damage done to the state’s public-employees’ pension system met a familiar roadblock, Gov. Chris Christie wielding a veto pen.

Christie vetoed two bills that would have injected new money into the system and improved future funding. One bill called for a special one-time $300 million payment; the other mandated quarterly payments into the system. The state of New Jersey has not made a full pension payment since 1995. To make matters worse, Christie cut nearly $900 million from the budgeted state pension payment last year when he faced a $1 billion budget deficit.

“Even when the State has the money – or when it wouldn’t cost a penny – Gov. Christie acts to deliberately harm the pension systems that 1 in 10 New Jerseyans depend upon,” CWA New Jersey Director Hetty Rosenstein said.

Christie had signed a 2011 law requiring the state to do its part in restoring proper funding for the pension system, after forcing pension cuts for workers. But Christie reneged on the deal and in fact has vetoed more than $ 3 billion in pension payments from the budget in the past two years.

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Philly Vet, 89, Joins “Stop Staples” Campaign

By June Cohen

- An 89-year-old Philadelphia veteran is the latest supporter of the Stop Staples campaign.

A group of activists from the Philadelphia PA Area Local were handing out flyers in front of a Staples store in Springfield, PA, on Aug. 13, when they met the elderly gent on his way out of the store, said June Cohen.

“The man, who is active in veterans’ organizations, was very concerned about protecting the USPS against privatization, especially since the Postal Service is the largest employer of veterans”, said Randy Zelznick.

Besides boycotting Staples himself, he said that he would speak to veterans’ groups, such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and the American Legion about endorsing the boycott.

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Tell Google: Families Need Living Wages!

By Jobs With Justice

- Google is a multibillion-dollar corporation, yet workers at its Google Express warehouses can barely make ends meet. They say they’ve been pressured to work at unsafe speeds, in poor conditions, and with damaged equipment. That’s why they’re standing together for decent wages and a decent life.

Lazslo Bock, Google’s senior vice president for “people operations” is on the record saying that Google employees and contractors “have a legal right to organize without fear of retaliation.” But without pressure from people like you, we can’t count on Google to live up to those words.

Will you stand with the Google Express workers as they join together for a better workplace? Make sure Google knows you support its employees’ right to speak up for each other with a union. To Send your message, Go To:

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Sen. Vincent Hughes Slams Republicans’ Tying Ed Funds To Liquor Privatization

By The Philly Public Record

- Sen. Vincent Hughes (D-W. Phila.) released the following statement in response to Pennsylvania House Speaker Mike Turzai’s recent comments on state budget negotiations:

“I am disappointed by recent comments made by Turzai, who once again tried to link the issue of education funding to the privatization of our highly profitable state liquor-store system.

“Republicans refuse to seriously address education funding or property-tax relief, two of the most-important issues. We know test scores are dropping, critical educational programs are being cut, and over 20,000 public-school employees have been laid off across the state. It’s unacceptable to hold our schoolchildren hostage for an ideological agenda that is a bad deal for the people of Pennsylvania. Republicans simply cannot run from the basic fact that education funding is the top priority for the people of Pennsylvania.

“It’s also a complete fantasy that there are Democratic votes in the Senate to override Governor Wolf’s veto of the phony Republican budget. Senate Democrats stand united to fight for a state budget that fully funds the needs of Pennsylvania, including public education. The Republican budget fails that test by only providing $8 million in additional funding for public schools.

“It’s time for Republicans to come back to the negotiating table and start talking compromise. Together, we can find a path to a state budget that addresses the many needs of Pennsylvania in a way that works for the entire Commonwealth. However, that agreement must include significant new dollars for public education to win any Democratic votes.”

Hughes is the Democratic Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

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