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 Corbettâs 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. Corbettâs appointees.
This move not only impacts 12,000 teachers and paraprofessional staff in the Philadelphia School District. It has serious repercussions for the cityâs children and families and is a stark reminder of whatâs 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 âwork ruleâ changes.
PFT President Jerry Jordan objected to the new changes, arguing that âwe canât agree to that, because thatâs not good for kids.â The contract protects childrenâs needs with limits on class sizes and staffing requirements, including that every school have a counselor, nurse and librarian.
âThe school district needs the collective dedication, wisdom and input of all of its employees to solve the problems caused by Gov. Corbett and SRC,â said Pat Eiding, president of the Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO, after the SRC announced its cancellation of the contract. âYet instead of working with the PFT through the collective bargaining process, the SRC has simply said, âTake it or leave itâ.â
AFT President Randi Weingarten, who flew in to Philadelphia to support the Philadelphia teachers during the SRCâs surprise meeting last week, told the teachers and other union members afterward that âthe path forward is to elect a new governor who believes in education and is willing to take responsibilityâ for the district instead of âideologically blamingâ teachers for its fiscal troubles.
This is what happens when we donât voteâwhen we donât ask our parents, children and neighbors to vote or donât 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 wonât 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 QuinnellÂ isÂ a long-time blogger, campaign staffer and political activist.Â Before joining the AFL-CIO in 2012, he worked as labor reporter for the blog Crooks and Liars.Â 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.Â Â His writings have also appeared on Daily Kos, Alternet, the Guardian Online, Media Matters for America, Think Progress, Campaign for Americaâs Future and elsewhere.