Author Archives: Joe Doc

Protesting classroom cuts, 100 students march to Philly district headquarters

By Kevin McCorry

- More than 100 Philadelphia School District high school students cut classes Thursday morning to protest a lack of resources in their classrooms.

Students first took to the streets outside of their respective schools – mainly the city’s elite magnet options – in an attempt to convince classmates to join them.

From there, a mass of students chanting and carrying signs gathered at City Hall and then marched north on Broad Street toward district headquarters.

By noon, the sidewalk in front of 440 N. Broad St. was packed with high-schoolers who say that city residents need to be more up in arms about cuts made to classrooms in recent years.

“They’re just being complacent about it. Just because nothing has changed, doesn’t mean that things are getting better,” said Creative and Performing Arts senior Cy Wolfe, one of the event’s organizers,

Wolfe says Harrisburg isn’t the only entity to blame for the city’s school funding woes.

“A lot of the situation is happening in Harrisburg, but the fight is still occurring here in Philadelphia,” he said. “The SRC and Superintendent [William] Hite are still trying to close schools and meanwhile spending money to open new ones and charter schools as well. So there is something that could be done here in Philadelphia.”

Wolfe referred to Hite’s recent proposal to close, open and convert schools that he says will ultimately lead to better outcomes for 5,000 of the city’s neediest children. The plan, though, will cost up to $15 million that could be directed into the district’s existing options.

Science Leadership Academy junior Arianna Haven took the district to task for outsourcing substitute teaching services – a move that’s, so far, been a major disappointment.

“We have classes without our teachers because they are absent, and so other teachers lose their prep periods because they have to cover our classes, which is not fair to the teachers, and not fair to the students because then our teachers are not as prepared as they should be,” said Haven.

Source 4 Teachers, the private substitute provider, promised a 90 percent fill rate for teacher absences. In the first week of school, the rate sat at 11 percent. Now, it’s ticked up to 22 percent.

The students ended the protest shortly after noon to get back to school by 1 p.m. and be counted as present for a half day.

A district spokesman said leaders agree with the students’ central premise: that additional funding and better schools are needed.

Thursday’s protest marked the anniversary of a student protest last year to decry the School Reform Commission’s vote to unilaterally cancel the district’s contract with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.

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Wolf formally endorses Kenney for mayor

By Katie Colaneri

- File this one under: Huh? That didn’t already happen?

Gov. Tom Wolf formally endorsed Democratic nominee Jim Kenney for mayor of Philadelphia Thursday afternoon, just as the state budget impasse hit the 100-day mark.

The event took place at Spring Garden Academy. The Christian pre-K and elementary school is just around the corner from the headquarters of Local 98 (the city’s powerful electricians union that helped fund one of two super PACs backing Kenney’s primary campaign), which was the second stop on the governor’s visit.

But first, Wolf and Kenney visited a classroom, where kids wearing yellow scrubs and blue rubber gloves played doctor and performed emergency surgery on dolls. Per photographer Bastiaan Slabbers, Kenney asked one child with a stethoscope, “Can you check if I have a heart?”

In another classroom, Wolf said he looks forward to working with Kenney “to make sure we do for Philadelphia and the rest of the state all that we need to do to make sure that all children in every ZIP code and every community … get a good education.”

“So congratulations to you in advance,” he said, shaking Kenney’s hand and wishing him “good luck.”

They were joined by City Council President Darrell Clarke who didn’t want to act as if Kenney would need any luck.

“I’d say you’re the mayor,” Clarke said, to which Kenney replied, “Just call me Jim.”

Clarke has been visiting Wolf in Harrisburg often these last several months as the constipated budget debate drags on.

“I can tell you that the team, Gov. Wolf, Mayor Kenney, and the City Council of Philadelphia, we’re going to move the agenda,” he said.

Pennsylvania’s Republican-controlled House of Representatives Wednesday soundly defeated Wolf’s latest tax proposal. House Republicans have refused to raise sales or income taxes as the governor’s proposing. Instead, they want to find new revenue streams through expanding gambling or privatizing liquor sales.

Meanwhile, without a state budget, leaders of the already cash-strapped Philadelphia School District are getting even more antsy about cash flow.

As he headed down the street toward Local 98 HQ, I pulled Kenney aside to ask, if he were mayor now, would he be putting more pressure on Wolf?

“I’m not going to be telling any other elected official what he or she should be doing,” he said. “I would tell the governor, ‘Thanks for making an effort because you’re the only one who’s been making an effort on providing school funding from that office since Ed Rendell.’”

Kenney later added that he would never “browbeat or try to shame a public official into doing anything,” and would keep those conversations private.

Well, at least he didn’t give us the “there’s no superman from Harrisburg” line again from the primary.

If Republican candidate Melissa Murray Bailey was disappointed not to get the Democratic governor’s endorsement, she didn’t say as much in a press release.

But at 3:45 p.m. on the dot (the time the endorsement event was set to begin), Philadelphia’s Republican City Committee shot out a release condemning Wolf and Kenney’s support for various tax increases — or, as executive director Joseph DeFelice put it, “their love for taking our hard-earned dollars and spending on what they think we need.”

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PA. AFL-CIO Commends The Members Of The State Legislature Who Voted Yes For PA. – Schools That Teach; Jobs That Pay; And Gov. That Works


- Pennsylvania AFL-CIO President Rick Bloomingdale and Secretary-Treasurer Frank Snyder commended those members of the State House of Representatives who voted to move Pennsylvania forward today and expressed their disappointment with those legislators who voted to continue the failed budget policies of the previous administration.

“On behalf of over 800,000 members of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO I express my thanks and appreciation to those members of the State House of Representatives who voted today in support of the Governor’s compromise revenue package contained in the amendment by State Representative Joseph Markosek to House Bill 283. They stood up for a fair and responsible budget that will move our State forward, supporting Schools that Teach, Jobs that Pay, and Government that Works. It is unfortunate that the majority of members chose not to work on those principles by voting no. We urge the leaders of the legislature to get back to work in passing a budget that moves us forward not backward,” Bloomingdale said.

“Taken at face value this vote pertains to dollars and cents. At its core, however, today’s vote pertained to human values, namely investing in schools and our children, our caregivers and the families who depend upon them, and our communities. The leaders of the majority sided with continuing to give the oil and gas companies a free ride at our expense. Governor Wolf has compromised on every major part of his budget. It is time for the majority leadership in the State House and State Senate to wake up and do what is right for all Pennsylvanians not just the few. No more free rides.” Snyder said.

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Will the Supreme Court Cripple Unions This Fall?

By Diane Ravitch

- The U.S. will hear a case this fall that will determine the future of labor unions. Pro-business groups have fought the very idea of labor unions and collective bargaining for more than a century. Yet no institution in our society has done more to improve working conditions and to lift poor people into the middle class than labor unions.

Here is a straightforward explanation of the significance of this case by the BATS.

“If Friedrichs successfully overturns Abood and removes “agency shop” fees many surmise it will destroy labor unions in the country. Exposure of the real intent of the Friedrichs case is necessary because the political nature of this case is alarming; not just because of its ability to destroy labor unions but because of the nature of the deception.

“The Center for Individual Rights is the firm that is representing Friedrichs, the 9 other teachers and The Christian Educators Association International.

“The largest donor to CIR are the Koch Brothers ($40,000) .”

Here is the latest from politico:

“COMING THIS FALL TO A SCOTUS NEAR YOU: The fall term’s most consequential case for organized labor, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, will give the high court an opportunity to free public employees from their legal obligation to pay bargaining fees to a union. That obligation was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1977’s Abood v. Detroit Board of Education . If the court overruled Abood, it would impose a right-to-work regime on the country’s still-robust public sector unions. Freeing non-members from having to pay fees would create a free-rider problem wherein workers could benefit from union contracts without having to compensate the people who negotiated them on their behalf. If too many workers chose that route, unions like AFSCME and SEIU would have to scale back dramatically their bargaining and other activities. Even if the court didn’t go that far, it could still impose heavy financial burdens on public sector unions. The petitioners in the case asked the court, as an alternative to overruling Abood , to require non-members to opt in to paying fees for union political activity, replacing the opt-out regime under current law. Associate Justice Samuel Alito, in particular, appears to be itching to overrule Abood. More from Pro Labor & Employment’s Brian Mahoney:

“- Jacob Rukeyser, staff counsel for the California Teachers Association, said no matter what happens with the case, the assault on teachers unions will continue. The education reform movement wants to “deprofessionalize” the education profession, he said. “Regardless of how the Supreme Court rules, there will be continuing attacks on teachers unions, public sector unions and the labor movement as a whole,” he said. “Our opponents are very well-funded and unrelenting … we’re prepared for that. We expect this assault on working men and women will continue … The end result is just one of marginalizing and silencing the professional voice of our teachers.”

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Janitors march through Center City for their jobs, benefits

By Jack Tomczuk, Philadelphia Inquirer

- Thousands of union janitors marched through Center City Wednesday, hoping to preserve their benefits and earn what they call fair wages.

The rally on Chestnut Street included brief speeches by mayoral candidate Jim Kenney, City Councilman Curtis Jones Jr., and City Council President Darrell L. Clarke.

Members of SEIU 32BJ gathered outside a high-rise apartment building at 2116 Chestnut about 11:45 a.m. After exciting the crowd with chants and encouraging words, union leaders led a march to John F. Kennedy Plaza. The demonstrators shut down Market Street.

The union said in a news release that Greystar, the company that manages the building, was “illegally displacing union workers.” The Inquirer reported in August that Greystar let go of 13 union janitors in favor of nonunion workers.

“One company decides to change the paradigm,” Kenney said after speaking to the crowd. “I don’t think that’s fair.”

Greystar could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

In Philadelphia, SEIU 32BJ membership numbers 2,800, with 1,400 more in the suburbs and 800 in Delaware. The union’s contract with Business Operators Labor Relations (BOLR) of the Building Owners and Managers Association of Philadelphia expires Oct. 15.

Bob Martin, president of BOLR, which represents managers, owners, and contractors who handle building maintenance – mostly in Center City – said he is looking to keep costs at the same levels.

“We are looking for containment in health and welfare costs, containment in pension costs and maintain fill-in worker flexibility,” Martin said.

Negotiations have begun, but “it’s early,” said William Hall, a shop steward involved in the process. The sides are to meet for a third session Thursday. Martin said the parties typically are able to reach an agreement before the contract expires.

Hall, who works as a janitor at Three Logan Square and has been a member of 32BJ for 20 years, said his job has helped his two sons.

“Without a union job, I would not be able to send them to college,” he said.

For others, the negotiations are more dire.

“I’m fighting for my job,” Robert Tucker said. “I’m fighting for my health care.”

Tucker, who has been in the union for 12 years, is a janitor in Center City. And he’s not that fond of the building owners and managers.

“They’re trying to get rid of the middle class,” he said. “We want a fair share of the American dream, because we deserve it.”

At JFK Plaza, Juanita Acree, a member of the union for 29 years, warned property owners not to cut the janitors’ wages, health care benefits or pension plans.

“I want them to know there’s an army rising,” she said.

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Governor Tom Wolf vetoes Republican stopgap budget

By The Associated Press

- Auditor general says school districts have borrowed $346 million so far during stalemate

- Pennsylvania is still without a plan to pay for government operations after Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed a Republican-crafted short-term spending measure.

Wolf vetoed the three-bill package Tuesday, saying it would sell out the people of Pennsylvania to oil and gas companies and special interests, increase the state government’s deficit and harm its credit rating.

Wolf wants a multibillion-dollar tax increase to close a long-term budget deficit and boost aid to schools and human services.

On June 30, the governor vetoed a $30.2 billion budget package passed June 30 by Republicans who control both chambers of the Legislature. No Democratic lawmakers voted for the GOP’s budget bill or short-term spending measure.

Meanwhile, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale says public school borrowing is in the hundreds of millions as officials search for ways to stay open through a three-month-old state government budget stalemate.

DePasquale said Tuesday that his office found that 17 school districts and two intermediate units have borrowed a total of about $346 million to make up for the stoppage in state payments. He says interest and fees on the loans could reach $11.2 million.

DePasquale’s office surveyed officials at nearly 300 of Pennsylvania’s 500 school districts to reach those figures. DePasquale also notes that many districts are losing investment income because they are spending down their reserves. The biggest borrower is the Philadelphia School District at $275 million. The others each borrowed $10 million or less.

DePasquale says public school borrowing will surpass $500 million by Nov. 1 and $1 billion by Dec. 1, if the stalemate continues that long.

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Pennsylvanians have week to register to vote Nov. 3

By Associated Press

- The deadline for registering to vote in Pennsylvania’s Nov. 3 election is one week away.

Secretary of State Pedro Cortes reminded residents Monday that they can register online for the first time. But those who do not have a PennDOT driver’s license or PennDOT identification card should apply before the Oct. 5 deadline if they use the new electronic system, Cortes said.

In addition to thousands of local school board, municipal and judicial races, voters will fill three open seats on the seven-member Pennsylvania Supreme Court. There also are two other state appellate court openings — one each in the Superior and Commonwealth courts.

Pennsylvanians also can still register by mail or in-person at many state and county offices.

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Pa. legislative leaders meet with Wolf on stalled state budget


- Gov. Tom Wolf and legislative leaders are meeting again on the Pennsylvania budget impasse, but the participants report no breakthroughs.

Leaders from both parties were tight-lipped Monday as they filed out of Wolf’s office after a one-hour meeting but said they’d meet again in late afternoon.

The Democratic governor wants a multibillion-dollar tax increase that would provide a significant funding increase for public schools and eliminate a budget deficit. Republicans want to privatize the sale of wine and liquor and revamp the state’s public pensions to reduce future costs.

Wolf is expected to veto a stopgap budget approved earlier this month by Republican majorities in the House and Senate. The $11 billion proposal would cover costs incurred between July and September by school districts and county-run social services.

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Labor 2015 Fall Campaign Launches – Join Canvass To Elect The Labor Slate!

By The Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO

- The election on November 3rd presents an amazing opportunity for working people in our city and our commonwealth. In Philadelphia, we have a chance to elect Jim Kenney as mayor, and to elevate an entire slate of tremendous, pro-worker candidates to City Council and a number of other citywide offices. At the state level, the makeup of our Supreme Court is at stake. Will the Pennsylvania Supreme Court understand the needs of Pennsylvania’s working people? Will the Justices be of the highest quality?

The outcome of the election will come down to voter turnout. When enough voters, especially union voters, turn out in Philadelphia, working people win. And it’s our job to give voters the information and motivation they need to make sure that they vote on November 3rd.

Here’s the Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO’s Labor 2015 fall door-to-door canvass schedule. Saturday canvasses will start at 9:30 AM. Sunday canvasses will start at 1:00 PM. Our confirmed location is Sprinkler Fitters Local 692, 14002 McNulty Rd, Philadelphia. We will add more locations as we recruit more volunteers to join us at the doors.

Contact Philadelphia AFL-CIO Campaign Manager Danny Bauder at 215-665-9800 or dbauder(at) to volunteer or to find out more about the program.

Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO fall 2015 canvass schedule

Saturday 10/3/2015
Saturday 10/10/2015
Monday 10/12/2015 (Columbus Day)
Saturday 10/17/2015
Sunday 10/18/2015

GOTV begins Saturday 10/24/2015
Sunday 10/25/2015
Saturday 10/31/2015
Sunday 11/1/2015
ELECTION DAY 11/3/2015

Saturday canvasses begin at 9:30am
Sunday canvasses begin at 1:00pm

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Millions Are Celebrating Abrupt Departure Of Scott Walker From Presidential Campaign


- Harrisburg, PA – Pennsylvania AFL-CIO President Rick Bloomingdale and Secretary-Treasurer Frank Snyder both join with millions of working families across the United States and here in Pennsylvania in celebrating the abrupt departure of the union-busting Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker from the Republican Presidential race.

“Fortunately for our nation and for millions of working families, Scott Walker will not be pushing his anti-working family economic agenda from the Oval Office. His sudden and abrupt drop in popularity happened as he decided to double down on attacking workers and their unions, calling for the elimination of the National Labor Relations Board and further tilting the playing field to billionaires. People want to hear about growing the economy and creating good paying jobs. This anti-worker, anti-union agenda wasn’t good for Wisconsin, isn’t good for Pennsylvania, and wouldn’t do anything for Americans except drive down wages,” Bloomingdale said.

“He couldn’t run away from his own divisive politics of attacking good jobs and waging war on the working people of Wisconsin. Here is a politician that displayed the audacity to compare his union-busting crusade in Wisconsin to fighting terrorists on a national stage. His brief foray into national politics and his humiliating departure should serve as a lesson to politicians of both parties that working people want good jobs and good wages not someone who blames them – a lesson that politicians in Pennsylvania, who share this misguided agenda, better be aware of,” Snyder said.

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