PHILADELPHIA (Oct. 21, 2014) — In 2013, the Philadelphia School Reform Commission (SRC), a statewide committee whose members are appointed by Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, unilaterally laid off 3,800 employees, including teachers, counselors and other support staff to deal with the school district’s budget crisis. This year, with more cuts looming, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT) offered concessions worth up to $100 million.
But instead of negotiating, the SRC dropped a bombshell earlier this month, announcing it would simply cancel the union contract and impose new health care costs and other takeaways on the district’s employees. 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.
Thousands of PFT members, other local labor union members, parents, students, community groups and elected leaders are fighting back against actions taken by the cronies of Gov. Corbett and Mayor Michael Nutter to further dismantle and defund the Philadelphia public school system. Here’s what you can do to support them:
1) TAKE A STAND! Please sign this petition to Philadelphia officials urging them to negotiate in good faith with city’s teachers.
2) TAKE A SELFIE! 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 its sneak attack. Supporters are asked to take a selfie photo while holding a sign that explains why you support Philadelphia teachers and include the hashtag #solidaritywithteachers.
Yesterday, a Philadelphia judge granted a preliminary injunction sought by the PFT to block the SRC’s plan to cancel the union contract. Said PFT attorney Ralph Teti, “If a public employer has a right to do whatever it wants to do, whenever it wants to do it, it essentially emasculates the whole idea of having collective bargaining.”
But that injunction is only temporary. What really needs to happen is for the SRC to return to the bargaining table and work with the teachers — instead of blaming them — to resolve the district’s budget problems.
“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. “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 rally with the teachers last week, told the teachers and other union members 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. Here’s is AFT video coverage of that rally:
“Gov. Corbett has made it his mission to break Philadelphia’s union and hand the schools over to privateers,” Weingarten said “This move is a last-ditch attempt to accomplish that goal before Pennsylvania voters send him packing. Don’t let the SRC get away with it!”
AFL-CIO Now contributed to this report.