1,000 Gather for POWER's Economic Justice Forums in June
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE -
JUNE 21, 2012
Capping off a month of action – with more than 1,000 Philadelphians attending one of four Economic Justice Forums held across the city in June – POWER convened its members from North and Northeast congregations Wednesday night and solidified commitments from three additional City Council members to work on its jobs bill proposal.
More than 250 faith leaders gathered at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Lawncrest, under the banner of POWER, to lift up painful stories of lay-offs and unemployment, to offer an analysis of Philadelphia’s economic problems, to present a set of Economic Justice Principles to guide local jobs policy, and to secure commitments from City Council members to co-sponsor legislation that would preference city residents for jobs at the Airport (one of the city’s largest economic engines) and ensure living wages for those jobs. Click here for photos of the event.
The Forum brings to eight the number of City Council members who have formally committed to working with POWER to co-sponsor legislation that would incorporate the organization’s Economic Justice Principles to ensure greater access to jobs at the Airport and on other large, publicly-subsidized projects in the city.
At POWER’s first Forum on June 5th, more than 225 POWER members gathered at Grace Christian Fellowship in Southwest Philadelphia, to hear 2nd District Councilman Kenyatta Johnson and 4th District Councilman Curtis Jones formally commit to working with POWER on this goal. Click here to read media coverage.
At POWER’s second Forum on June 12th, at Congregation Rodeph Shalom in Center City, 1st District Councilman Mark Squilla and Councilman At-Large Bill Green told the crowd of nearly 200 POWER members that they were committed to working with POWER and would co-sponsor such legislation. Click here to read media coverage.
On Monday June 18th, nearly 400 POWER members and allies gathered at St. Raymond’s Catholic Church in the Cedarbrook neighborhood for the third of four Forums, where Councilman At-Large James Kenney also committed to co-sponsor legislation aimed at incorporating POWER’s Economic Justice Principles. Click here to read media coverage.
More than 250 members and allies of POWER congregations gathered Wednesday night at Prince of Peace Lutheran where 8th District Councilwoman Cindy Bass communicated through a letter that she supports “POWER’s Economic Justice Principles and would co-sponsor any legislation that focuses on providing ALL Philadelphians with an opportunity to a fair wage.”
7th District Councilwoman Maria Quinonez-Sanchez communicated through her Legislative Aide Justin DiBerardinis Wednesday night that she “fully supports the POWER Economic Justice Principles and will work with POWER over the summer on legislation incorporating those Principles to cover all Airport jobs.”
Also at Wednesday night’s Economic Justice Forum, 6th District Councilman Bobby Henon communicated to POWER that, while he couldn’t be physically present, he “agrees with POWER’s concepts and vision and would be happy to work with you and meet over the summer to make these concepts and vision a reality.”
In addition, 3rd District Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell has given a verbal assent to the POWER principles and has expressed a willingness to meet regarding specific legislation.
Mark, of Living Water United Church of Christ in Oxford Circle, shared his story of long-term unemployment despite an education and persistent job searching. His unemployment benefits have expired due to Congressional action decreasing the time allowed on benefits by six months. “This has not helped me get a job. I am very frustrated. I am looking every day. I have even started a small business. But this is not enough, we need new policies that will help put us back to work!”
Tina, of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Lawncrest, told of being laid off by WalMart, having to move into a friend’s basement and finding only a $7.85, 10-hour per week job after months and months of searching. “It has now become a question of do I pay rent or do I eat?” said Tina to the racially and religiously diverse crowd that filled the sanctuary to standing room only.
Bishop Kermit Newkirk, pastor of Harold O. Davis Baptist Church in Logan, called for a new vision in municipal jobs policy: “We need policy that ensures that the least, the last and the left out share in the prosperity and get fair access to wealth being created by economic development.” Bishop Newkirk, also challenged city political leaders to address this head on: “We have elected officials who call themselves public servants but who do not serve the people – we are here tonight to change that!”
These comments led to a “calling out” of those City Council members who had been contacted and invited by POWER to attend one of the four Forums held in June but who declined to meet with the community on this issue. Bishop Dwayne Royster, POWER executive director and pastor of Living Water UCC, drew the crowd’s attention to five empty chairs, up on the altar, that bore the names of the City Council members who would not meet publicly with POWER at one of these Forums, nor send a representative nor a formal written statement in response to POWER's written questions about their willingness to co-sponsor the sought-after legislation: Councilman Darrell Clarke, Councilman O’Brien, Councilman Goode, Jr., Councilwoman Reynolds-Brown, and Councilwoman Tasco.
Several of these missing Councilmembers cited ongoing budget negotiations with the Administration as the reason for their absence at the POWER Forums which collectively drew more than 1,000 people. But as Bishop Dwayne Royster commented: “What else could be more important than a community conversation about jobs – in fact, if we put only one-third of unemployed Philadelphians back to work, we wouldn’t have such municipal budget problems.”
POWER’s push to build public support for a specific policy that would incorporate its Economic Justice Principles is based on successful strategies other cities have used to ensure that their poor and long-term unemployed get access to new jobs created by public subsidy. Click here to learn more.
Specifically, POWER is calling on City Council to enact legislation that would mandate “first source hiring” on such large projects. Such sourcing would involve giving extra weight to Philadelphia applicants, especially those from high-poverty/high-unemployment neighborhoods, on these jobs. Click here to read the first source hiring policy in place at the Los Angeles Airport. POWER is calling for a funded system of neighborhood-based training and recruitment so that community residents can learn about the jobs available and receive the skills needed. In addition, POWER is calling for greater minority participation in building trades apprenticeship programs and a fully funded monitoring system to ensure these goals are truly met.
10,000 Jobs Campaign
This work is POWER’s first major step in its “10,000 Jobs Campaign” launched at the organization’s Founding Convention held in September 2012 with more than 2,000 members and allies. Click here to watch short video of that historic event. In addition to securing additional City Council support for its jobs bill proposal, POWER congregations lifted up two other aspects of its Jobs Campaign at the meeting Wednesday night. POWER leaders from Prince of Peace Lutheran announced a partnership with Mrs. Ressler’s Food Company, which recently moved into the Lawncrest neighborhood and which agreed to prioritize local residents in hiring - a form a “first source hiring”. The chief of human resources for Mrs. Resslers commented: “Hiring local is good business.” Also, several POWER congregations from North and Northeast Philadelphia have been working with Commissioner Clarena Tolson of the Philadelphia Streets Department to design and implement a pilot job readiness program for out-of-work young adults. Pastor Melanie DuBouse, of Evangel Chapel in North Philadelphia, lifted up the work POWER leaders have done to help get that pilot program off the ground and implored the crowd to urge City Council to pass a budget that includes the line item for that program.
POWER congregations will be convening over the summer to strategize and to plan for meetings with those City Council members who have agreed to co-sponsor legislation aimed at incorporating POWER’s Economic Justice Principles. POWER is aiming for introduction of such legislation in the Fall.