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Union protest of budget cuts, layoffs

By Erika Owens on May 23, 2012 12:41 PM

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.

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 May 23, 2012 3:50 pm

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 May 23, 2012 4:00 pm

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 May 23, 2012 7:02 pm

An inconvenient truth

Submitted by Building Victim (not verified) on May 23, 2012 4:00 pm

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 May 23, 2012 4:57 pm

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 May 23, 2012 5:05 pm

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 May 24, 2012 8:16 am

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 May 25, 2012 11:50 pm

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

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 6, 2014 2:33 am

Many of our staff have been working in the Philadelphia school district for decades, they dutifully complete their work, protect your children, please be assured that your child is safe.

flcomp sys

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