As you may have heard, School District of Philadelphia employees represented by the union SEIU 32BJ have voted to strike if they don't reach a new contract agreement by August 31st, when their current contract will expire.
The SDP employees represented by 32BJ are some of the most essential workers who keep our students safe and our schools running: about 2,000 building cleaners and building engineers, bus drivers and bus attendants, mechanics, maintenance workers, and other trades workers.
The big issues at stake are pay and training:
“You have cleaners working for $14.31 an hour, poverty wages,” Bynum [a union official] said in an interview. “You have members that drive buses for $19 an hour, and everybody else is paying $25 an hour. All we are asking for is a wage comparable to the people who do the same work we do in the city.” ...32BJ is also asking for more continuing education for some members — from active-shooter and de-escalation training to training on how to identify asbestos for workers who may encounter it.
As fellow union members working together in our schools, our 32BJ siblings deserve the support of PFT members to win a contract that's good for them, their families, AND all of our school communities!
So what can PFT members (and other allies) do to support 32BJ's fight for a just contract?The most important thing is to talk to the 32BJ members in our buildings, find out what they need, and show our support as PFT members for a strong 32BJ contract!
Here are some ideas to get started:
Talk to the 32BJ members in your building. Let them know we're behind them!
If you are a Building Reps or on the Building Committee, discuss 32BJ's contract fight at your chapter meeting this week. Invite 32BJ members to the meeting to share their concerns, demands, and ideas.
Take a solidarity photo with PFT members in your school in support of 32BJ. Or maybe a statement or video on why you appreciate the 32BJ workers in your building! Share any photos or other solidarity statements on social media to show SDP that we are united as union members.
- Follow SEIU 32BJ on facebook, instagram, and twitter! Share and support their posts about the contract fight in Philly, and be ready to follow any action steps they release as negotiations continue.
Share your solidarity ideas! Send us a message on social media with any other suggestions or ideas for solidarity that you or your building come up with and want to share (or email us at [email protected]).
This is an ongoing story, and this post will be updated as new information and action steps emerge. Please reach out with any suggestions or updates.
Pictured above: 32BJ Philadelphia members rally outside of Ben Franklin High School on August 20th, following their strike authorization vote.
"Registering to vote is extreme, urgent, ultimate, high-stakes - It is grown-ass learning." -Lorene Cary, writer/educator, Vote That Jawn! to the Philadelphia Board of Education May 30, 2019
On November 3rd, we cast ballots for President, Vice President, Congresspeople, and statewide offices that have a huge impact on our students' lives. And did you know there are ballot questions about stop & frisk, victims advocacy, and a citizen's police oversight committee? Yes there is! So we're organizing with teachers, students, and non-partisan community groups in almost every high school to make sure every eligible senior registers to vote AND shows up to the polls.
This grassroots campaign has taken off and we saw a 157% increase in voter turnout by 18-year-olds in Philly! Now we're asking for support from the top as well. Please sign our Letter to the Philadelphia Board of Education for a Student Voter Education and Engagement Policy.
We've been testifying at board meetings since April with positive results. The Office of Curriculum and Instruction, Committee of Seventy, and Philly Youth Vote organized a professional development that brought together 53 teachers, 33 schools, and 17 organizations at the end of August to plan their schools' voter registration and GOTV drives. See the Virtual Lesson Plans:
The Elections & Voting Virtual Lesson Plan Series
Start a registration and get-out-the-vote drive at your high school!
We'll send you suggestions and voter registration forms to GET EVERY SENIOR TO VOTE!
We'll also connect you with organizations to facilitate a student leader training with voting pledge cards, stickers, get-out-the-vote (GOTV) mobilizing, and the opportunity for your school to win the Governor's Award for Civic Engagement (Silver for schools that register over 65%, and Gold for over 85% of eligible seniors). Register here.
Recruit a team of student leaders. Inspire them with the Vote That Jawn! Philly-centric videos and social media campaigns. They are planning activities and campaigns for teens throughout the school year.
Download a student spreadsheet from SchoolNet and sort your students by birth date and the elections they are eligible to vote in. See download instructions here.
If students will be 18 by Election Day, get them to register now on a touchscreen phone or tablet
If students don't have a driver's license they can use the last 4 digits of their Social Security Number.
Discuss the political parties that students can choose to join. A good classroom conversation starter is the I Side With quiz. Make sure students understand how their choice will affect whether they can vote in Pennsylvania's closed primary elections or not.
- Registered Republicans and Democrats can vote for their party's candidates in the primary.
- "No affiliation" or "Other" (minor party) registrants cannot vote for candidates in the primary, only ballot questions.
See if Parents and Families Need to Register too. Here are downloadable forms in 16 languages you can send home with students:
- Chinese (simplified)
- Chinese (traditional)
- Haitian Creole
Deadline Alert: Registration forms must be received by the Voter Registration Office by October 19th, so allow plenty of time to get there.
Forms can be hand delivered from 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM, Monday to Friday:
The Philadelphia Voter Registration Office, 520 N. Columbus Blvd, 5th Floor, Philadelphia, PA 19123
The Philadelphia County Board of Elections, Room 142 City Hall, Philadelphia, PA 19107
and any Satellite Election Office:
However you deliver your forms, be sure to keep a record! It takes about 2 weeks for the City Commissioners office to process the forms. Have students confirm their voter application status to make sure their registration is complete and correct.
Research the ballot and candidates with your students.
Start with these nonpartisan resources:
- Committee of Seventy - Bring Your Own Ballot Tool
- Philadelphia Citizen 2020 Voter Guide
- Philadelphia City Commissioners
Then research media coverage and endorsements from a range of organizations.
Invite the candidates to your classroom for your students to interview and stream live by the Committee of Seventy. This has been approved by the School District as long as the questions are nonpartisan and students complete a release form. Here's how:
- Candidate Interview Stepper for teachers
- Find your school's political districts and candidates
- Media release form
There are 3 ways to vote!
Vote by mail: Apply for your mail-in ballot at VotesPA.com ASAP! It must be dropped in the mail soon so it gets counted.
Vote Early at a Satellite Election Office: You can apply for a mail ballot, vote, and drop it in the ballot box all in one-stop until October 27th!
Vote at the Polls on November 3rd: Have Students Find Their Polling Places and make a plan to vote.
Making a plan in advance, knowing when, and how to get to your polling place increases turnout by a whopping 30%!
November 3rd: Election Day - Get Out The Vote!
Remind students to get to the polls and to go as a family! One proven way to improve voter turnout is to send students a text message on election day.
Contact SEAMAAC to help with GOTV phone and text-banking to
First-time voters must show a photo or non-photo ID at the polling place. Acceptable forms of ID.
Watch the election returns with your students!
I bet we made a difference!
Connect with Philly Youth VOTE!
Email: [email protected]
Organizations helping with non-partisan civic engagement curricula and voter registration in schools:
The League or Women Voters of Philadelphia is training volunteers and getting clearances to help with voter registration and GOTV in Schools. See their High School Voter Registration Training Manual. Contact Bev Keith.
National Voter Registration Day - Register your school as a partner to receive posters, stickers, information, and access to voter registration webinars.
Philadelphia City Commissioners Lisa Deeley and Al Schmidt will both come to schools with voting booths for nonpartisan assemblies about elections and voting. They'll even run your student council elections! Call and ask them to pick up your registration forms. 215-686-3460
Teaching Tolerance - Voting and Voices classroom resources.
Vote That Jawn! - A very Philly teen voter registration campaign. Watch their videos and hear the Vote That Jawn! rap! Contact Lorene Cary.
When We All Vote - Voter education and registration programming, support, and resources
WHYY Youth Media Labs - Hands-on media arts training in schools and at WHYY studios. Watch Can’t Be Silenced: Philadelphia Youth Hit the Polls. Contact Lisa Wilk.
Youth United for Change VOTA! We train people to register voters, can do on site registrations, workshops on the importance of voting, get out the vote! calls/texts/door conversations as well as Voting 101 (where do you vote, how do the machines work, what's on the ballot, etc). Contact Kat Engleman.
The Caucus of Working Educators (WE), part of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, stands in solidarity with the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) and SEIU Local 73, who have set a strike date of October 17. More than ninety-four percent of each union’s members voted to authorize the joint strike, showing that City workers stand unified in the struggle for fully staffed schools, smaller class sizes, along with better pay and benefits.
At the bargaining table, Chicago educators have asked for:
- hard class size limits
- hiring social workers, counselors, nurses, and other clinicians to meet nationally-recommended ratios
- hiring a librarian and restorative justice coordinator for every school
- hiring 1,000 needed teaching assistants
- measures to achieve equity and fairness for paraprofessionals.
During last week's citywide professional development day, many PFT members were directed to supersites away from their usual work locations.
According to the PFT Collective Bargaining Agreement (Article XII Section B #18), all PFT members are entitled to travel reimbursements each and every time they are directed to go to a location other than that to which they are regularly assigned.
Here's a simple step-by-step guide on how to claim your travel reimbursement from the district:
STEP 1: Use Google Maps to figure out your normal commute distance from home to your school work location (6.1 miles in the example). Print this page and circle the amount.
Are you sick of our toxic school building conditions?
Earlier this month, a School District of Philadelphia educator was diagnosed with mesothelioma, the aggressive cancer caused by asbestos exposure. In Philadelphia 175 of our schools have asbestos, as well as other harmful building materials and contaminants, and educators refuse to continue to stand by while the health of our students, colleagues, and community are affected.
At this week's September School Board meeting, colleagues, parents, and students of the affected educator took the brave step of testifying on the need for lead and asbestos remediation for ALL Philly schools.
To show our solidarity with all our colleagues and students who have had their health affected by unsafe school conditions, as well as those taking the brave step to speak out at the school board, WE members helped to organize solidarity photos wearing respirator masks at schools across the city. Check out some of the powerful photos below:Read more
In 2018, the call for the hiring and retention of Black educators was adopted as one of the demands of the National and Local Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action. While not a new issue facing our nation's schools, this demand came in response to the recent attention given to the lack of Black educators across the nation, especially in schools serving predominantly Black and Brown students. After years of ongoing asks and pressure, the School District took the first step in meeting the demand for more Black teachers by making current teacher demographic information available to the public.
Philadelphia educators, parents, and other allies have been pushing the district for the past couple of years to collect and release the racial demographic information of the city’s teaching force. Working in collaboration, the Racial Justice Committee of WE and the Melanated Educators Collective (MEC) have been involved in ongoing conversations with the Board of Education and SDP to release this data as a first step in the campaign to hire and retain more Black teachers in our city. Most recently, in August, parents spoke at the Board of Education meeting demanding from Superintendent Hite that this information be publically accessible, which Dr. Hite promised would happen, adding a thank you for MEC’s work around this issue.Read more
As shared yesterday by PFT leadership, one of our fellow union members has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, a rare form of lung cancer directly linked to asbestos exposure. There is a very real possibility that this exposure came from the teacher’s time in district schools.
How At-Risk Is My School?
As a part of their “Toxic Schools” special report, The Philadelphia Inquirer tabulated incidents of damaged asbestos and other health threats in all district buildings. 175 schools have some asbestos present in their building, and there are 46 schools that had 20 or more incidents of damaged asbestos in their building -- which increases the chance of exposure.
Is your school on the 20+list? Check this spreadsheet to find out.Read more
On Wednesday, City Council called a special hearing regarding the increased gun violence and death in Philadelphia. Panelists ranging from D.A. Krasner to Police Commissioner Ross to the Department of Health were tasked with providing solutions to address the increasing gun violence in the city. While this hearing was billed as an opportunity for Philadelphia City Council and the community to come together, that did not happen; after three hours, despite the large showing, no citizen had been given the opportunity to speak.
The options offered by the various city departments largely revolved around increased policing and surveillance and aesthetic changes such as cleaning and securing vacant lots and buildings. While some attention was paid to the idea that job creation and increased open public facilities in the summer for teens and young adults would help, there were very few practical approaches. In fact, there didn’t even seem to be an available map of community centers with extended hours.
This hearing greatly lacked the insight of educators, community members, and others who are most impacted by poverty and the other root issues of the increased gun violence in Philadelphia. While there was passing mention of Dr. Hite, this was not attached to any actual proposal or plan to address gun violence and trauma through our city’s schools, a public institution that allows for the greatest opportunity to reach communities most impacted by these issues.
It is clear that the city does not have a plan for improved funding around education and poverty. Starting in elementary schools, students need to be receiving social and emotional education and exposure to genuine restorative justice. Schools, as stated by Councilwoman Helen Gym, need more funding to provide for counselors and social workers for all of the students who are experiencing trauma right now, this summer, because of the increased violence and death.
Educators and parents in this city have had enough. Over the next few weeks, we will continue meeting with representatives from city council and are in the process of planning a Town Hall that will bring youth, parents, community members, and educators together to discuss actual solutions to this onslaught of violence stemming from decades of poverty, racism, and disinvestment of Philadelphia’s Black and Brown communities.
If you haven’t already signed on to our statement about gun violence, it’s not too late. And you can share the statement using this link: http://bit.ly/phlgunviolence
While the response time is unclear, you can provide information if you notice increased activity in your area via telephone 215.686.TIPS (8477).
HELP US WIN $30 MILLION MORE FOR HEALTHY SCHOOLS THIS FALL!
The School District has an unplanned balance of $46 million, and alongside Councilperson Helen Gym and allies we are calling the Board of Education to demand that extra money is invested in healing our toxic school building conditions.
After demonstrating our growing people power all year —through community meetings, packing the school board and city council, and presenting our #HealOurSchools petition with over 3,300 PFT and community signatures— political leaders are taking notice that our students need safe and healthy buildings NOW. This year alone we have won more state funding for lead abatement, more money for air conditioners, and now we have the opportunity to win an additional $30 million for building conditions. Thank you Councilperson Gym for lifting up this opportunity- now let’s call the Board of Education and make it happen! #WhenWeFightWeWin
We are asking ALL educators, parents, community members, and allies in the fight for public education to call the Board of Education at 215-400-4010! Call this week, and tweet @PHLschoolboard to put the pressure on district leadership to continue the work of ending the toxic school conditions in our buildings. #HealOurSchools #FundOurSchools #EndTheLead