"We're On the Move!"
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – JUNE 20, 2012
CONTACT: Rev. Dwayne Royster, 215-237-4503
Congregations Gather at St. Raymond’s Catholic Church to Lift Up Need for New Jobs Policies
On Tuesday, June 18th, more than 325 members and allies of congregations in Northwest Philadelphia affiliated with POWER: An Interfaith Movement, gathered at St. Raymond's Catholic Church on Vernon Road for the organization's third Economic Justice Forum. Click here to read media coverage.
Msgr. David Benz, pastor of St. Therese of the Child Jesus Catholic Church in East Mt. Airy, opened up the meeting with a declaration that “our faith calls us to act for justice, to give voice to the suffering, the jobless, those in need – that’s what we’re here for tonight.”
The Forum highlighted the efforts of these Germantown, Roxborough, Mt. Airy, West Oak Lane and Chestnut Hill congregations to promote new policies for increasing access to living wage jobs among unemployed city residents. POWER leaders gave voice to individuals suffering long-term joblessness and presented a well-researched proposal for attacking unemployment in Philadelphia. Click here to watch video of the event.
Edward, a member of St. Martin in the Field Episcopal Church, spoke about the pain of being laid off from Borders Books and the psychological struggle of searching and applying daily for jobs for over a year, to no avail. "I am in a prison not of my own making" said Robert to the large and racially and religiously diverse crowd.
Jerome, a member of St. Raymond's Catholic Church in Cedarbrook spoke about the barriers he continues to face in finding employment due a brush with the law many years ago in his youth. "I made a mistake as a young person, paid my debt, have rehabilitated and am ready to work. I apply for jobs every day, I am smart and work hard, but employers are afraid to take a chance. What will happen to people like me, our families and our communities if we are not put to work?" Click here to view photos of the event.
Following testimonies, POWER leaders presented five Economic Justice Principles the organization wants to see incorporated into legislation - first covering Airport jobs, but eventually covering all jobs created with city subsidy or support. The Principles include "first source hiring" - a system of giving added weight to applicants from high poverty city zip codes and/or who have suffering long-term unemployment and which has been implemented in several other cities. Other POWER Principles include universal application of the city's existing, though limited, living wage standards, protections of workers' right to organize, greater minority participation in building trade apprenticeship programs, resources for a neighborhood-based training and recruitment system for Airport and other public-supported jobs and a more robust monitoring and enforcement system to ensure adherence to these goals.
POWER developed these Principles after nearly a year of research including meetings with Federal Aviation Administration officials, the Mayor's Office and the Philadelphia International Airport Director, meetings with multiple labor unions which will represent many Airport workers and conversations with leaders from other cities which have implemented such "Community Benefits Agreements" resulting in greater access to jobs for inner city and long-term unemployed residents. Click here to read about a success story in Los Angeles that is a model for POWER's campaign here in Philadelphia.
Councilman at-Large James Kenney addressed the group by committing to co-sponsor legislation that would incorporate POWER's Economic Justice Principles and first apply to jobs to be created by the $6 Billion expansion of the Philadelphia International Airport, and committed to meet with POWER leaders over the summer to work out the details and to rally more of his peers on City Council to support this bill.
“The reason we have to spend so much of the City budget trying to fix society’s ills – on police and prisons – is because people don’t have jobs!” said the Councilman at-Large to a cheering crowd. The Councilman also challenged some of his colleagues not present at the Forum: "Mayor Nutter, he is a friend and I love him dearly, but he needs to be with you, working with you, committing to you on this effort.”
Councilman Kenney joined four other City Councilmembers who have, to date, committed to work with POWER on such legislation. The first two Economic Justice Forums conducted by POWER in June resulted in public commitments from Councilmember Johnson, Jones, Green and Squilla. Click here to read more.
Also at the gathering, Stu Bass of the Keystone Transit Career Ladder Partnership - a joint effort between transit workers' unions and public transit systems - committed to working with POWER to increase preparedness for and access to SEPTA
jobs among unemployed community residents. "We don't just need jobs, we need family-sustaining jobs. And we need family-sustaining jobs for those in our community who don't or can't go to college" said Bass.
POWER will continue its push to build public support for legislation incorporating its Economic Justice Principles, starting this Wednesday, June 20th, at the fourth and final Economic Justice Forum to be held in June.
As Mary Laver, of St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church in Germantown, declared at the close of the gathering: "POWER is on the move, we are going somewhere!"