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Union protest of budget cuts, layoffs

by Erika Owens on May 23 2012 Posted in Latest news

This afternoon a union representing blue-collar workers in the School District of Philadelphia held a rally and march to District headquarters. SEIU 32BJ organized the event to protest budget cuts and layoff notices that were sent to 2,700 union members.

According to Kristen Graham of the Inquirer, thousands of people have gathered downtown for the rally. A police report puts the number of people gathered at 1,500, according to Daniel Symonds.

Below is a summary of tweets from the event in the form of a slideshow. It will be updated as the event continues.

Union protest of Philly education budget

The union representing thousands of blue-collar workers in the Philadelphia public schools, SEIU 32BJ, organized a large rally and march in protest of budget cuts and proposed layoffs. The event is part of a number of actions statewide organized by the union.

Storified by · Wed, May 23 2012 16:12:10

The plans for the rally were reported by the City Paper and Daily News earlier in the week.
Thousands to rally Wednesday against Philly school cuts http://bit.ly/KdrD15Daniel Denvir
The crowd gathered near City Hall at 11:30 a.m. in preparation to march up Broad Street towards School District headquarters several blocks away.
http://twitpic.com/9oea6w - #saveourschools! #phillyeducation #99powerFight for Philly
Huge crowd across from City Hall protesting #phillyeducation cuts. http://pic.twitter.com/pZtOP1shKristen Graham
opposition to the privatization of Philly's schools RT @jeff_deeney Save Our Schools march seen from above http://pic.twitter.com/e8E5d7luJake Blumgart
Civil unrest. Save public education http://instagr.am/p/K-b6j7zDgO/Derek Krzywicki
The organizers estimated thousands would attend.
Thousands protesting #phillyeducation cuts. Loud, raucous crowd in purple shirts. Blasting governor. Arrests in Puttsburgh.Kristen Graham
#phillyeducation 32BJ police put crowd estimate at 1500!Daniel
About 1200 in Harrisburg today. RT: @Dan_Symonds: #phillyeducation 32BJ police put crowd estimate at 1500! #pabudget #saveourschoolsRick Smith
At District headquarters the motto "Save Our Schools" lines the streets.
multiple city, district unions here, multiple council people. huge protest of #phillyeducation changes. http://pic.twitter.com/kpTmKEekKristen Graham
#phillyeducation Take Note: lot of unions here: AFSCME, UNITE HERE, PFT, SEIU, y más http://pic.twitter.com/fdpiw208Daniel
Crowd includes students, parents, union members, and other public education supporters

#saveourschools Leo marching with @_burgan and @Annethensome191 "If we don't get it? Shut it down!" #pabudget http://pic.twitter.com/yva3RLm4West Philly Mama
9 mos pregnant with toddler in tow in the beating sun. I REALLY care about public education. #saveourschools #pabudget http://pic.twitter.com/wHeZHPgNWest Philly Mama
Massive protest against education cuts in Philly and all across Pennsylvania. #schools http://pic.twitter.com/ze84YbGLKathy Matheson
At School District headquarters, the rally continued.
crowd turns to #phillyeducation hq and shouts, "shame on you! shame on you!"Kristen Graham
PFT prez Jordan: "these r our schools, these r our kids, we live here, we work here, we will fight for what's right" #phillyeducationValerie Braman
looks like union protestors about to get arrested in #phillyeducation protest. #phlinq http://pic.twitter.com/mU4ehD0wKristen Graham
Union n community leaders facing arrests after marching to protest dismantling of #PublicEducation #phillyeducation http://pic.twitter.com/HXISLvTPPedro Rodriguez
Four blocks of Broad shut down, full of people sitting down for #phillyeducation. #saveourschoolsFight for Philly
Police arresting protesters on Broad Street in Philly. #education http://pic.twitter.com/lPbwyhu9Kathy Matheson
Notebook blogger Ron Whitehorne among those arrested.
among those arrested in #phillyeducation protest today: retired teachers/activists lisa haver, ron whitehorne. also, 32BJ pres g. ricchezzaKristen Graham
Reporters summarize the events from the rally.
Several thousand protest Philly school cuts, 14 arrested http://ow.ly/b6A9e #phillyeducationPhilly.com News
Thousands protest school privatization plan, cuts, layoffs. 14 arrested http://www.citypaper.net/blogs/nakedcity/Thousands-protest-school-privat... via @citypaperDaniel Denvir

The protest in Philadelphia is part of a statewide series of actions organized by SEIU. Several other unions are also represented at the rally in Philadelphia.

Rally attender and 32BJ member Ernie Bennett, 55, said he has worked for the School District for 26 years, starting out as a cleaning supervisor. Now he is a building engineer at Tanner Duckrey Elementary, 15th and Diamond Streets, and a union rep.

"I never thought I would see anything like this," said Bennett, whose base salary is $46,000.

If the blue-collar jobs are outsourced to private companies, even if these companies hire some of the same workers, he said, "they won't pay the same...I'll be working for $20,000 less and not making the benefits I'm making now."

Bennett, a homeowner in Tioga, said he graduated from Ben Franklin High. His five adult children, and now two grandchildren, went to city public schools.

"I was hoping to retire and go into working with kids, which is my passion," Bennett said.

Andrea Lawrence, 46, said the five members of her household in Germantown, including two adult children and two nieces, are all members of 32BJ. She is a custodial assistant with 17 years of experience making $32,000 a year.

"If I get laid off, it will affect me emotionally and financially," she said.

"I have young adults who will have to start over. I'll have to find them jobs so they don't turn to the streets. Young folks sometimes go astray, and I'll have to keep them on point."

Philadelphia Federation of Teachers president Jerry Jordan spoke at the rally, telling the crowd "we will fight for what's right." Jordan appeared on Radio Times on WHYY-FM earlier in the day as part of a segment on the District's transformation plan.

Also today, the Education Voters of Pennsylvania are holding a statewide call to action.

Check the #phillyeducation hashtag for tweets and photos from the rally.

Contributing editor Dale Mezzacappa contributed reporting to this piece.

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Comments (9)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 05/23/2012 - 15:55.

It was really low and dirty how the district posted on the website that afternoon transportation would be late because of a demonstration by the bus drivers' union.

They aren't even pretending to play fair.

Submitted by Erika Owens on Wed, 05/23/2012 - 16:28.

I knew I saw that somewhere, but I couldn't remember where! Thanks for helping me remember. I think they posted it a few days ago. Here's the text of the alert:

"Wednesday, May 23rd - Chance of Delayed Afternoon Transportation

The District has been notified that there will be a demonstration this Wednesday, May 23rd at 11:30am being sponsored by the union that represents the District's school bus drivers and bus attendants. Union officials have stated that the march is not intended to affect bus transportation, however there is a possibility that routes in the afternoon may be delayed due to this demonstration. If you have questions or concerns please call the Transportation hotline: 215-400-4350. Thank you for your understanding."

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 05/23/2012 - 19:33.

An inconvenient truth

Submitted by Building Victim (not verified) on Wed, 05/23/2012 - 16:32.

This Rally was for the Facilities Union Members. I have to make this clear: School Bus Drivers. Plumbers. Painters. Electricians. Engineers. Cleaners. Custodial Assistants. Will ALL BE OUT OF WORK by December 31, 2012.

575 Union Facilities Members will be shown the Door on June 29th, 2012

848 Union Facilities Members will be shown the Door on September 16th, 2012

1277 Union Facilities Member will be forced out into the cold on December 31st, 2012

To state that we need to look for another job or that we need to teach your children only shows how mis-informed the public is about what is being broadcast in the Media.

The Facilities Departments are not TEACHERS. We are the one responsible for transporting your kids (Bus Drivers). We are the one responsible for maintaining the Building Safety (Custodial Assistants and Building Engineers). We are the ones responsible for waste removals and vomits (General Cleaners). We are the ones responsible for the upkeep of school property (Grounds Keeper) and we are the ones responsible for Building repairs (Plumbers, Painters, Electricians, Carpenters, Glazers, Exterminators, Fire Code Inspectors and Locksmiths)

Many of our workers put in decades of years perfecting their trades working for the Philadelphia School District. Protecting your kids. Insuring that your children are safe!

Each 2700 members of SEIU 32BJ or Union 1201 go under strict criminal Background Checks and Drug Tests. Every precaution was made to insure that the right worker was placed in the right area for work. Our union fought for us to the BEST of their ability.

NOW IT'S UP TO YOU!

You can ignore this RALLY. Another nuisance from a bunch of Lazy Union Employees who ruined your commute into Center City today by protesting.

Or you can look at the facts. 2700 people who protect your children are going to lose their jobs and quite frankly their purpose. 2700 People will be replaced by individuals who most likely will not have a Criminal Background Check or undergo a Drug Test. Individuals who are accustomed to "Cutting Corners" on safety!

For what? For Money?

2700 Union 32BJ will be unemployed because we are in the hole for $650 million Dollars.

Well as a Building Engineer and (thank God---Temple University Graduate {B.Sci Engineering 97'})...I didn't get the money. My base salary was less than $35,000...I drove my own car to work sites...I brought my own tools and uniform and Steel Toe Boots. I do not live in a Mansion. I do not have servants. I do not own a Boat. When I'm STRESS I ask God for Strength, then I go to the Gym (for 3 hours)

If you are concerned about the FUTURE of the Philadelphia Public School System, contact the Mayor of Philadelphia or better yet CONTACT THE GOVERNOR of Pennsylvania DIRECTLY and ask for answers to pressing concerns regarding the Financial Crisis of the Philadelphia School District.

Blaming the Mayor does nothing...ok he raised Taxes, it was his only response since the GOVERNOR decided to ignore the School District Request for assistance.

The Governor is still ignoring us NOW. But I can tell you this.

I'm not voting for his PARTY come the next Presidential Election. Taxes went up. People are losing their jobs. Crime is up due to unemployment. Your children are in danger. I'm not voting for his PARTY. His PARTY is anti-Union and anti-Middle/Lower Class.

P.Martinez 3rd
Facilities Building Engineer (relief)
School District of Philadelphia

Submitted by Meg (not verified) on Wed, 05/23/2012 - 16:38.

Very well said. Our buildings would not be safe or healthy without the constant support of the rest of the team.

Submitted by anon (not verified) on Wed, 05/23/2012 - 17:36.

well said!
for all those people who have bought into this blame game - hook, line and sinker.
for all those people out there who don't have squat and so think no one else should either.
for all those people out there wanting to make this a race to the bottom.
unions. the people who brought you "the weekend".
it's a bumper sticker but it is the truth.

Submitted by Mother of 4 being laid off Dec. 31st (not verified) on Thu, 05/24/2012 - 08:04.

They say unemployment is down so they are now lowering the amount of weeks you can collect. What they fail to tell you, the reason the claims are down is because people have run their time out not that they have gotten jobs, they are just no longer eligible to collect funds. So, there is currently the same amount of people out of work but now they are forced to go to drastic measures to feed their families. I have worked for the School District since I was 19yrs old, and I am now 40yrs old with four children ages 9,7,5,and 3. We don't make a great deal of money working for the district but I relied on the stability and the benefits when deciding to start a family at 30yrs old. I thought I'd retire from here, guess not!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 05/25/2012 - 23:58.

stand together and I, a teacher, stand right beside you - fighting right along with you!!!!!!!

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