POWER Congregations in Center City Secure More City Council Support on Jobs Bill
At Second of Four Economic Justice Forums, POWER secures commitments from Councilman Bill Green and Councilman Mark Squilla to fight for Airport Jobs.
Tuesday night, two hundred representatives from synagogues, churches, and mosques from across the city gathered under the banner of POWER: An Interfaith Movement at Congregation Rodeph Shalom in lower North Philadelphia to lift up the urgent need for new jobs policy in Philadelphia. Click here for photos of event.
POWER faith leaders – in the second in a series of four Economic Justice Forums being held across the city in June – presented data on rising poverty and persistent unemployment in Philadelphia communities; examples of large, subsidized projects hiring few if any local residents and painful stories of employment barriers and discrimination, in front of the spirited and racially diverse crowd.
Rev. Robin Hynicka, pastor of Arch Street United Methodist Church and POWER member, pointed out the numerous construction projects within view of his Center City church that received millions in tax payer support but which did little to increase employment of jobless neighborhood residents. “We must change this”, Rev. Hynicka declared to a cheering crowd, “as people of faith, as a city, we can no longer subsidize projects that don’t put our neighbors back to work.”
POWER members also lifted up research from successful policy change campaigns in other cities that increased access to living wage jobs among the marginalized, including the widely celebrated Community Benefits Agreement reached between a faith-labor-community coalition in Los Angeles and that city’s Airport and municipal leadership. Rev. Mark Tyler, pastor of Mother Bethel AME Church in Center City and POWER leader, commented “the win-win of public support for the Los Angeles Airport expansion in exchange for meaningful local hiring and training systems, and living wage provisions, is a model for Philadelphia.” Click here to read more about that campaign the results of which are fueling POWER’s determination to enact similar policy changes here in Philadelphia.
At Tuesday night’s Forum, POWER leaders laid out a set of “Economic Justice Principles” that the interfaith organization is calling on City Council and the Mayor to embrace and incorporate into all large, publicly subsidized projects and contracts, starting with the $6 Billion Philadelphia International Airport expansion that is set to begin later this year. The Principles include: “first source hiring” (preference for city residents on city-supported projects), resources for an improved training and recruitment system (so that unemployed Philadelphians can fairly compete for new jobs) and increased minority and local participation in building trade apprenticeship programs.
To realize these goals, POWER is working to secure commitments from City Council members, at each of these four June Forums, to co-sponsor legislation incorporating these Principles into legislation that would cover Philadelphia Airport jobs. “The Philadelphia Airport is our biggest economic engine”, said Rabbi Julie Greenberg of Congregation Leyv Ha-Ir/Heart of the City and POWER leader, “using that engine to address city poverty and unemployment only makes sense. Local hiring requirements at the Airport can serve as a model for other large, subsidized projects in our city.”
At Tuesday night’s Forum, Councilman At-Large William Green and 1st District City Councilman Mark Squilla, were asked whether they would commit publicly to working with POWER to co-sponsor legislation incorporating POWER’s Principles into legislation related Airport jobs by November 1st. Both Green and Squilla gave a resounding “yes” to that question, posed by Mike Wass, member of Old First United Church of Christ and POWER leader. These commitments were recorded on an oversized scorecard, by Ann Saunders of Mother Bethel AME Church, which POWER leaders are using at each of the four Forums to tally the public commitments City Councilmembers are making to the organization.
Next week, POWER will conduct two additional forums in the Northwest and Northeast sections of the city, where they will seek commitments from Councilmembers representing those parts of those Districts, as well as additional at-large City Council members:
Monday, June 18th, 6:45pm - Click Here to Register
St. Raymond’s Catholic Church
1350 E. Vernon Road, Philadelphia, PA 19150
Wednesday, June 20th, 6:45 - Click Here to Register
Prince of Peace Lutheran Church
6001 Colgate Street, Philadelphia, PA 19111
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Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower & Rebuild (POWER)