Author Archives: Joe Doc

Literally Giving Away The Store: PA Senate Votes 27-22 For Liquor Privatization Bill


- Vote will blow a huge hole in the budget, and eliminate 5,000 family-sustaining jobs.

- In what was an expected move today, the PA State Senate voted in favor of House Bill 466, which would shut down the entire system of publicly owned Wine and Spirits Stores in Pennsylvania, and massively expand alcohol sales.

The Wine & Spirits Stores are a valuable public asset, one which provides more than $550 million to the general fund annually in profits, taxes, and services. Alternative proposals to modernize, rather than give away, the system would have added an additional $185 million per year in revenue. Just two days ago, Senator Chuck McIlhinney, Chairman of the Senate Law and Justice Committee, acknowledged “the liquor system gives us money every year for our budget… so it is a positive revenue asset for us.” Today senator McIlhinney joined 26 of his Republican colleagues in voting for this destructive legislation.

This was a vote to give away the store, literally – it is unlikely that new permit fees will even cover the cost of shutting down the public stores, and every year moving forward, if this bill became law, the Commonwealth will have to make up hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue from new sources.

This was also a vote to destroy 5,000 good family-sustaining jobs all across Pennsylvania. Even the previous administration acknowledged that no jobs will be created by liquor sales in grocery stores and other new retail outlets, and the re-training funds made available by HB 466 will do nothing to help the families whose lives will be turned upside down by this bad legislation.

This is nothing but an ideological attack by small-government extremists, and it is one that the State Senate refused to even debate in the previous legislative session. HB466 now moves back to the State House for a concurrence vote. The Pennsylvania AFL-CIO, and our affiliated unions, have made it clear to ALL members of the State House and State Senate that we oppose this legislation, and that we consider it to be an unconscionable attack on working families.

Three Republicans joined all Democratic Senators in opposition of HB466 this afternoon. They were Senators Brooks, Greenleaf, and Scavello.

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Senate Bill 1 Passes House – Promises To Gut Pensions And Cost Taxpayers


- The push for so-called pension reform has been a red herring for conservative lawmakers for years. By deliberately sabotaging the system through under-funding, and then misrepresenting to the public the dire state of the resulting unfunded liabilities, the right wing has been able to convince many people that the problem is with pensions. In reality, the problem has been one of mismanagement and irresponsibility on the part of our legislature.

The amended version of SB1 does nothing to address the budget, provides for no new sources of revenue to help pay the unfunded liability, and the supposed savings are dwarfed in comparison to the $26 billion that Act 120 will save over the next 25 years.

Act 120, passed in 2010 to address the unfunded liability in the pension system, made real reforms, and was the result of careful negotiations and shared sacrifice. As a result of the changes – taxpayers are no longer on the hook if fund performance dips when there is a recession. Employee contributions were increased and benefits were reduced – all to pay for the shortfalls caused when the ultra-conservative legislature stopped making full payments into the system.

The State House vote on SB1 today was one driven by ideology, not facts. In a race to the bottom, there is pressure to strip hard-earned benefits from workers, instead of looking for ways to expand opportunity and retirement security to all workers. But we should not engage in a race to the bottom. The labor movement in Pennsylvania has always maintained that a rising tide lifts all boats. Through our unions, we will continue to fight for fair wages, good benefits, and dignity in retirement for ALL workers. We make no apologies for social and economic justice in the workplace.

After final passage in the House by a vote of 106 to 89, SB1 now heads back to the State Senate for a concurrence vote. It reflects poorly on the proud history of the Pennsylvania General Assembly that we are now at a time when the legislature takes action to restrict, rather than expand, workers’ rights – and to reduce, rather than improve, the standard of living for working families in Pennsylvania. We will urge Governor Wolf to veto this misguided attack on workers.

To Tell Your State Senator To VOTE NO When SB1 Comes Back To The Senate For Concurrence
Comments, Go To:

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State Senate Follows House Lead, Passes Budget That Severely Fails The People Of Pennsylvania


- With disregard for public opinion, with disregard for facts, and with disregard for the basic responsibilities of State Government outlined by our Constitution – the extreme conservative wing of the Republican Party has now passed a phony budget through both chambers of the legislature. This budget is not balanced, it relies on accounting gimmicks and one-time sources of revenue, and it forces workers and homeowners to continue subsidizing corporate welfare for multibillion-dollar out-of-state corporations.

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! Pennsylvanians have demanded a budget that restores education funding. Pennsylvanians have demanded a budget that includes property tax relief for working families and especially for senior citizens. Pennsylvanians have demanded a budget that finally starts taxing gas drillers, instead of inviting companies to come into our Commonwealth and strip our resources for free. Pennsylvanians have demanded a budget that makes the minimum wage in Pennsylvania a living wage for all workers. Pennsylvanians have demanded a budget that invests in our future, with a vision towards what our great State can achieve: Schools that teach; Jobs that pay; Government that works.

What we have witnessed over these past several days is far from ‘Government that works.’

Instead of delivering on the priorities of Pennsylvania’s families, the leadership in both chambers have ushered through a series of ideological attacks on wages, on workers’ rights, and on retirement security. The legislature has passed bills to give away valuable public assets and to eliminate jobs. None of these priorities are shared by the people of Pennsylvania.

This budget severely fails the people of Pennsylvania, and clearly deserves the veto that Governor Wolf has promised. It’s time for the legislature to stop playing games, and do the work they were elected to do on behalf of all Pennsylvanians.

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Urgent Action! State Legislature Spends Final Days Of June Playing Politics And Attacking Workers


- With Pennsylvania’s State Budget deadline looming, the Legislature has opted to spend these final days playing politics and reviving old discredited attacks on workers instead of working to pass a real budget plan.

The GOP budget, passed by the State House on Saturday, is a mirror image of failed budgets passed under Governor Corbett. It creates a $3 billion deficit, it relies on gimmicks like fund transfers to provide one-time savings, and it fails to invest in education or provide property tax relief to homeowners. What’s more, the legislature passed this budget knowing that it was all just political theater. Governor Wolf made it clear from day one that he would veto any budget that punishes, not protects working families. Still, the ultra-conservative GOP leadership in the House continued to push their inadequate and flawed budget rather than negotiating in good faith with the Governor or Democratic lawmakers.

Playing politics with the state Budget was just the start, however. Over the weekend and into the beginning of this week we have seen both chambers of the legislature take action on ideological attacks targeting workers’ rights and middle class jobs.

House Bill 466, the liquor privatization bill that was passed by the House in February was referred from the Senate Law & Justice Committee last night, and will likely see a full Senate vote by tomorrow.

Senate Bill 1, which would eliminate defined benefit pension plans for teachers and state employees, and which passed the Senate in May is now on second consideration in the State House, with a vote on final passage possible as soon as tomorrow.

There is also talk of new votes on other anti-union bills including paycheck protection, stalking & harassment (the bill that would criminalize constitutionally-protected activities during labor disputes and organizing campaigns), and several attacks on teachers and education.

These ideological attacks are ones which the GOP-controlled legislature would not vote on when they had an enthusiastic accomplice in Governor Corbett, but they seem happy to pass these bills now that they face near-certain veto on the desk of Governor Wolf. This is the kind of political theater that explains why the legislature currently has only a 28% approval rating, while 53% of voters disapprove of the job they are doing.

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! To tell The legislature to DO THEIR JOB and Pass a responsible budget that funds our schools, and protects the middle class and working families, go to –

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No Strike: Newspaper Guild, PMN Reach Tentative Agreement

By Joel Mathis

- There will be no Philadelphia newspaper strike after all.

On Friday night — after an exhausting 11-hour negotiating session with a federal mediator, and 25 hours before their contract was set to expire — the Newspaper Guild and Philadelphia Media Network announced they had reached a “tentative agreement” on a two-year contract.

The Guild represents journalists, ad sales people, and other support staffers at Philadelphia Media Network, which owns the Inquirer, Daily News, and

Neither side would comment after they emerged from the mediator’s office. Guild officials said details of the agreement will be presented to members on Monday. The two sides had previously been at an impasse on two remaining issues: seniority and healthcare. They had previously come to agreement on the status of employees, who until now have been governed under a separate contract from their print bretheren.

There were signs as the evening wore on that perhaps the mood was lightening up — members from each negotiating team emerged into the lobby to present a lurking Philly Mag reporter with small snacks.

But the agreement followed months of increasingly angry rhetoric and dire predictions. The original contract expired in February, and after months of impasse, Guild members voted earlier this month to begin strike preparations. The Guild held a rally on Thursday in front of the company’s newsrooms at 801 Market Street, which came just hours after senior company officials sent out a memo telling workers how they could cross picket lines.

Although workers this year received profit-sharing checks based on the company’s 2014 performance, that profit followed a long decline, and it was widely believed that a work stoppage could well wreck the newspapers permanently — and perhaps dramatically reshape the Philadelphia media landscape in unprecedented fashion.

“A work stoppage would cripple this company,” Howard Gensler, the Guild’s president, said during Thursday’s rally. “They know it. We know it.”

Assuming the agreement is ratified, though, the theory won’t be tested.

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Why Marriage Equality And The Supreme Court Decision Is Important To Workers


- The Pennsylvania AFL-CIO’s history, and that of the entire labor movement, has been about fighting for workers’ rights. This includes rights relating to dignity and fairness in the workplace. A union contract, and the benefits it provides, does not discriminate. It ensures equal protection and equal treatment regardless of race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation. The labor movement also maintains that these rights, such as equal pay and non-discrimination, are fundamental, and should be enshrined in the law for all workers.

Today’s landmark decision by the US Supreme Court reaffirmed that the US Constitution grants equal dignity in the eyes of the law to all people. It was just over a year ago that Pennsylvania became the 19th State to recognize marriage equality when a federal judge struck down the Commonwealth’s ban. Since that time, the march towards nationwide marriage equality has only gained momentum; prior to this morning’s ruling, thirty-seven states plus the District of Columbia already recognized marriage equality.

This has been one of the defining civil rights issues of our time, with clear implications on the rights of workers and on the economic freedom of millions of Americans. Prior to the full recognition of marriage, employers could choose not to extend benefits to the families of certain workers, including health insurance, family leave, death benefits, and more. The Pennsylvania AFL-CIO recognizes that such divisions solely benefit employers and politicians who seek to weaken us in the struggle for workers’ rights.

Union membership has always been the best protection against such discrimination in the workplace, and it is STILL the only protection against sexual-orientation based employment discrimination in many parts of Pennsylvania. That means that without an employment contract that says otherwise, a couple that gets married on Saturday, can be fired from their jobs on Monday morning if their boss learns that they are in a same sex relationship. This runs counter to the entire notion of equal protection and equal dignity under the law. It is why the National AFL-CIO has come out strongly in support of federal legislation in the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and it is why the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO strongly supports the passage of laws in the Commonwealth which prevent discrimination in employment and housing based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

The Pennsylvania AFL-CIO has a long and proud history of uniting workers across the lines that divide us. Let us all resolve that today’s victory for equality and dignity shall add urgency to the fight for full employment equality in Pennsylvania.

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PFT files unfair labor practice charge about substitute outsourcing

By Dale Mezzacappa

- As it had vowed to do, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers filed charges of unfair labor practice Wednesday against the School District for its decision to outsource substitute teaching.

The PFT, which is seeking an expedited hearing before the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board, claims that, in two years of stalled contract negotiations, the District never brought up the issue.

“The decision to outsource these services without negotiating with the PFT is a blatant violation of our contract,” said PFT president Jerry Jordan.

On June 18, the School Reform Commission approved a $34 million, two-year contract, effective July 1, with Cherry Hill-based Source4Teachers to provide substitute service starting in September.

The company has promised to fill 90 percent of classrooms by January; the current fill rate is between 55 and 65 percent.

In explaining the reason for the outsourcing, District officials said that on any given day more than 400 classrooms — an average of nearly two per school — don’t have teachers. That means other teachers must give up preparation periods to cover them or administrators must forgo other duties.

More than 1,300 substitutes, including many retired teachers, are PFT members. A separate section of the contract governs their terms of employment and sets daily pay rates as well as rates for extended positions.

Substitutes work both by the day and as “long-term” subs filling in for teachers who are on medical leave or temporarily away from the classroom for other reasons.

In the complaint, the PFT says that it has been “deprived of an opportunity to negotiate with the District over the alleged savings that the District purports will be gained through the privatization of per diem and substitute teaching services.”

UPDATE: Late in the day the District issued the following statement:

“The School District of Philadelphia will continue to put the needs of students first which is exactly what the contract for substitute services accomplishes. It will allow the placement of teachers in over 400 classrooms that currently are left unattended daily due to the lack of substitute teachers. We will continue to vigorously defend the rights of our students to a thorough and effective education.”

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Take Action! Wagner’s Liquor Privatization Bill To Be Introduced In PA Senate


- Defending our State Wine and Spirits Stores from the privateers has been an ongoing fight for such a long time that it almost risks fading into the background noise of a dysfunctional State Legislature, but what’s happening now is different.

In 2013, the State House passed a liquor privatization bill that would have sold off this valuable public asset for next to nothing – blowing a huge hole in the State budget and destroying 5,000 good family-sustaining jobs. To their credit, the State Senate refused to take action on this bad idea, in spite of heavy pressure from then-Governor Corbett.

But now, with newcomers like York County’s Scott Wagner and the ouster of Senator Pileggi from leadership, the State Senate seems determined to shed its reputation as the pragmatic and responsible chamber, and is set for the first time to introduce their own bill to dismantle the Wine and Spirits Stores.

Union-busting millionaire Senator Scott Wagner circulated a co-sponsorship memo earlier this year, and we expect his legislation to be introduced in the Senate next week. For the first time, this scheme to destroy jobs will be originating in the Senate.

To E-Mail Your Senator and Representative now, go to – – Tell them to focus on investment to create good jobs, and reject these ideology-driven attacks that would destroy thousands of good middle class jobs.

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PFT President Jerry Jordan releases statement on the SRC’s vote to outsource substitutes

- From PFT President Jerry Jordan:

“Once again, the School Reform Commission is using the budget crisis as an excuse to privatize public education, one position at a time.

“Voting to give the management of substitutes to Source4Teachers is not only disrespectful to Philly’s educators, but unnecessary. Our District has access to a wealth of retirees who are certified, familiar with our schools, and willing to work as substitutes. Instead of using this resource, Dr. Hite and his administration have instead allowed vacancies to go unfilled in order to save money. They, then, used the shortage of substitutes as an excuse to abdicate their responsibilities to provide services to students.

“The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers is deeply disturbed by Dr. Hite’s willingness to pay private companies to deliver critical services to our schoolchildren. We are committed to fighting the privatization of substitutes and nurses, and are considering several legal actions, including the filing of an Unfair Labor Practice against the School District.”

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Nine black lives taken, nine families broken, our endurance shaken

By James Peterson

- This is not a think piece. It’s a feel piece.

Today in #BlackLivesMatter news, we are presented with an untenable conundrum: to continue discussing the real consequences of the socially constructed nature of race — the bizarre case of Rachel Dolezal, a woman whose sanity some folks continue to question — or to feel the anguish and terror of the black folks praying in a church in the last seconds before a white supremacist monster massacred almost everyone present.

This is a false choice if there ever was one — but the false choice has become the persistent reality for some of us.

The #AMEMassacre or the #CharlestonShooting, as it’s become known on social media, was a bloodletting that took place in the hallowed halls of the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina — one of the most sacred spaces in the historic struggle for black liberation in this decrepitly racist nation.

Are we supposed to just continue on in our daily BLACK lives, as if this heinous mass shooting isn’t indicative of our nation’ s disgraceful systems of discrimination? I can’t.

Does any white person need me to explain our outrage? I won’t.

The steady stream of police brutality and our criminal justice system’s disregard for black life translates into endorsements for the sick vestiges of white supremacy, racial hatred, and racialized violence that was reflected in last night’s carnage. The reality of black existence is to be intermittently but persistently susceptible to the complete shattering of your life, your identity and your community into a thousand fragments.

A thousand fragments. I can’t. Even. Write. This. Piece. I can’t talk to my family. I can’t breathe. I am paralyzed by the racist realities of the world. Anti-black hatred is fracturing my reality.

I can’t take the lies anymore, the veiled racism masquerading as conservatism, religion, or “battle flag” pride. I can’t stomach the constant moves by politicos and pundits to circumvent issue of racism in America; the petty in-fighting amongst progressive “leaders,” the self-hate of people of color who are more outraged at the president’s comments on the slaughter of black human beings in Charleston than the actual massacre itself. I can’t take the fact that we have come this far but we have so much further to go.


Each time a human life is taken from this world as a result of unchecked evil, that person’s life — her family, her community, her everything — shatters into a thousand fragments. For so long, black folks have been working hard to pick up the pieces of our collective humanity — the existence of which continues to be vulnerable given black humanity’s tentative status in this nation.

The political leaders of this nation — especially South Carolina’s leadership in the aftermath of this tragedy — must come to terms with the semiotics of racism and white supremacy.

The Confederate flag is a symbol of hatred representing the treasonous terrorists of our nation’s not-too-distant past who were willing to fight and die for their “right” to own human beings, rape black women, and conscript children born of those rapes to lives of enslavement. To separate and deliberately destroy black families. That is the history that the Confederate flag represents.

I call on all the leaders of the Confederate/Battle Flag movement to defend the fact that South Carolina did not lower said flag, which flies on the grounds of the state capitol in Columbia.

I call on all leaders of the Tea Party to denounce this murderer and explain to our nation how the Tea Party rhetoric about “taking back this country” can be disentangled from what fueled Dylann Roof Storm into doing what he is accused of doing to the Emanuel AME prayer group.

We live in a world that hates black people. I get it. But today might be the first day where my belief in the capacity of our community’s extraordinary patience, endurance, and love to overcome that hate has been shaken.

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