Thousands of members of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT), other local labor union members, parents, students, community groups and elected leaders are taking to the streets today to fight back against actions taken by Gov. Tom Corbett’s cronies to further dismantle and defund the Philadelphia public school system. In a shocking example of what happens when anti-worker politicians get elected, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers lost their contract last week through a unilateral decision by Gov. Corbett’s appointees.
This move not only impacts 12,000 teachers and paraprofessional staff in the Philadelphia School District. It has serious repercussions for the city’s children and families and is a stark reminder of what’s at stake this Election Day.
In 2013, the School Reform Commission (SRC), a statewide committee whose members are appointed by Corbett, unilaterally laid off 3,800 employees, including teachers, counselors and other support staff. In the aftermath, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers offered additional concessions up to $100 million. The district refused and pushed for additional “work rule” changes.
PFT President Jerry Jordan objected to the new changes, arguing that “we can’t agree to that, because that’s not good for kids.” The contract protects children’s needs with limits on class sizes and staffing requirements, including that every school have a counselor, nurse and librarian.
“The school district needs the collective dedication, wisdom and input of all of its employees to solve the problems caused by Gov. Corbett and SRC,” said Pat Eiding, president of the Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO, after the SRC announced its cancellation of the contract. “Yet instead of working with the PFT through the collective bargaining process, the SRC has simply said, ‘Take it or leave it’.”
AFT President Randi Weingarten, who flew in to Philadelphia to support the Philadelphia teachers during the SRC’s surprise meeting last week, told the teachers and other union members afterward that “the path forward is to elect a new governor who believes in education and is willing to take responsibility” for the district instead of “ideologically blaming” teachers for its fiscal troubles.
This is what happens when we don’t vote—when we don’t ask our parents, children and neighbors to vote or don’t knock doors for candidates who will stand up for our values. Whether you live in Kentucky, Alaska, New Hampshire, your commitment to the Labor 2014 program means that anti-worker politicians like Corbett won’t get a chance to tear down our schools and our communities in 2015.
Need more persuading? Watch this video on why none of us can afford to stay home this November.
The Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools launched a “solidarity selfie” campaign asking supporters to stand with the city’s teachers after the state’s SRC launched a sneak attack last week. Supporters are asked to take a selfie photo while holding a sign that explains why you support Philadelphia teachers and include the hashtag #solidaritywithteachers when the solidarity selfie is published to the group’s Facebook page.
The rally is today at 4:15 p.m. outside the district school headquarters. The rally and related actions can be followed on Twitter using the #phled hashtag.
About the Author: Kenneth Quinnell is a long-time blogger, campaign staffer and political activist. Before joining the AFL-CIO in 2012, he worked as labor reporter for the blog Crooks and Liars. Previous experience includes Communications Director for the Darcy Burner for Congress Campaign and New Media Director for the Kendrick Meek for Senate Campaign, founding and serving as the primary author for the influential state blog Florida Progressive Coalition and more than 10 years as a college instructor teaching political science and American History. His writings have also appeared on Daily Kos, Alternet, the Guardian Online, Media Matters for America, Think Progress, Campaign for America’s Future and elsewhere.