Philly Socialist Alternative to Kenney and Council: #MakeAmazonPay

Socialist Alternative - Philadelphia

As soon as Amazon announced its intention to build a second corporate headquarters outside Seattle, elected officials from across the nation predictably responded to its ‘request for proposals’ by tripping over each other in a race to offer massive public subsidies and tax incentives to woo Amazon. Philadelphia’s elected officials from both the Democratic and Republican Parties have behaved no differently.

Last week, Mayor Jim Kenney slavishly tweeted, “We think Philadelphia would be a PRIME location for Amazon that would make people SMILE! Look forward to submitting a proposal!”

This week, the Kenney administration had taxpayers buy a plane ticket for a city envoy to visit Seattle and “help understand Amazon culture” and demonstrate our city is “serious about competing for the headquarters.”

 At-Large Republican Councilman David Oh introduced a bill to City Council on Thursday that “reduces the business net income tax to zero” of relocating…

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15 Now Philly Statement on HB 1520- $15 Minimum Wage Legislation

15 Now Philly stands with workers, their unions and other community and faith organizations pushing for the $15 minimum wage in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania Representative Kim’s bill is the result of the tireless and brave work of low wage workers who repeatedly took the risk to go on strike in fast food restaurants, airports, healthcare facilities, and retail stores across the country and across the state. In Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, hundreds of workers walked off the job to demand $15 and a union. Thousands of local activists and faith leaders in groups like POWER and the MLK Dare Coalition took the streets to support striking workers. In City Hall, 15 Now Philly members pushed City Council for a local minimum wage hike to at least $15 an hour, in defiance of state opposition to local wage hikes.

Together our organizing brought the $15 minimum wage in Philly from an inconceivable pipe dream to a mainstream demand. In 2015, Mayor Kenney campaigned on $15 an hour; and now Representative Kim and Senator Daylin Leach have both introduced statewide legislation to raise the wage in PA to $15. This is a victory for workers, and we are hopeful HB 1520 is signed into law as part of the 2017-2018 budget negotiations.

Despite these years of hard work, Philadelphia is in crisis. We have the lowest minimum wage in the nation–$7.25 for untipped workers and $2.83 for tipped workers. A full third of our neighbors live in poverty, and 12% live in deep poverty. Every day, working class people and our families are facing life or death choices between housing and medical attention, buying food or maintaining their phone service.

Every single surrounding state has taken action on raising the minimum wage; and in the face of income inequality crises like ours, cities across the nation are daring to fight for workers wages. New York city and state fast food workers are on a path to $15. Washington DC voters easily passed a referendum for $15 in 2016. West Coast workers have achieved $15 nearly universally.

In Minneapolis, workers won $15 just last week after a tough campaign that lasted several years. The victory was won by building a broad grassroots movement that grew out of an airport struggle for $15. The fight included unions and community organizations and was propelled forward by a third-party electoral challenge to City Council by Socialist Alternative candidate Ginger Jentzen, who is also the executive director of 15 Now Minnesota.

In Philadelphia, now is the time for serious action. Jim Kenney and many City Council members campaigned and were elected overwhelmingly on the demand for $15 an hour. In fact, polls show 87% of Philadelphians support a $15 minimum wage.

15 Now Philly is fully aware Harrisburg believes it holds the legal monopoly on passing minimum wage legislation. Republicans, corporate Democrats, and big business have intentionally constructed barriers to a minimum wage hike in Philadelphia with the 2009 preemption law. They intend to keep our city powerless to confront our own wage crisis.

It is Philadelphia’s extreme poverty, however, that places our whole city in a state of emergency. We cannot settle for politicians unwilling to take dramatic action to face this emergency.

If Harrisburg lawmakers do not pass this bill as part of the closed-door budget negotiations, we call on Pennsylvania Democrats to continue to push this stand-alone bill forward after the budget is settled. Pennsylvania workers demand a raise, and our State legislators must prioritize minimum wage legislation all year long, not just as leverage in the yearly budget negotiations.

Locally, we again call on our local Democratic elected officials in City Council and Mayor Jim Kenney to pass binding $15 minimum wage legislation immediately, in defiance of the Pennsylvania’s preemption law. We must confront this unjust law head on. 

Workers, unions and community organizations must build and maintain a mass movement in the streets to win any wage hike in Philadelphia. We know Trump and the GOP in Washington, DC and Harrisburg will continue to reduce our wages, assault our health care, deport our immigrant neighbors, and expand mass incarceration and police violence in our communities until we unite and expand our fight back.

Philadelphia’s elected officials, however, can stand up to these attacks with us and make Philadelphia a true sanctuary city. Doing whatever it takes to win a $15 minimum wage is a critical piece of making our city a safe haven for working people.

Demand Sanctuary At Temple U

Dear President Englert and Temple University Board of Trustees                              

Temple University claims to pride itself on its dedication to diversity and access. But how can it value these things if its students live in fear of deportation, fear of violence from police, fear of sexual assault from fellow students, fear of not being able to afford classes, or fear of losing the community they grew up in? Temple’s responsibility as a institution of higher education should be to provide safety to its students so that they can get the best education possible. Temple has an obligation to declare itself a sanctuary, a safe-haven not only for immigrants, but for all.

A true sanctuary campus would guarantee a living wage of at least $15/hr, unobstructed union rights, and increased mental health services. A sanctuary university would be a university that prioritizes the safety of women, LGBTQI people, and people of color rather than breeding a culture of sexual and racial violence. A sanctuary university would respect and uplift the surrounding Black community rather than aggressively gentrifying the neighborhood and pushing people out of their homes.

The students and faculty have spoken, we support undocumented immigrants. If Temple wants to support its student body, and support vulnerable populations in this dangerous political climate, these are the steps your students are demanding. Temple has the opportunity to be a truly inclusive institution, showing in practice that you care about the humanity of each member of the diverse Temple community, and we are demanding that you take this opportunity to openly demonstrate your commitment to making Temple University an institution that values its student body and the people it employs.

Although Philadelphia is considered a sanctuary city, we call on Temple University to publicly declare itself a sanctuary campus. Students and workers on campus need to know that Temple will remain committed to their safety regardless of the city’s sanctuary status. But we do not think that Temple calling itself a sanctuary is enough; we encourage the Temple administration to take direct steps to make the university more accessible to undocumented people. Our university should function as a safe haven where undocumented people and all marginalized communities can turn for support and sanctuary.

We demand that Temple …

  1. Publicly declare Temple a Sanctuary Campus
  2. Cut ties with all law enforcement agencies that collaborate with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) and refuse law enforcement agencies who collaborate with ICE access to any Temple properties or information
  3. Institute a policy prohibiting campus police from inquiring about immigration status, enforcing immigration laws, participating with ICE/CBP in actions and refusing to cooperate with any ‘registration’ system that seeks to target or surveil Muslims.
  4. Revise the code of conduct to make sure anti-discrimination policy includes immigration status.
  5. Provide resources including legal services for undocumented students and their families.
  6. Grant in-state tuition to undocumented students who are Pennsylvania residents.

We would be happy to discuss this further with the administration so that collectively we can create the best possible plan to make Temple a sanctuary for all.

Asociación de Estudiantes Latinos

Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance

15 Now of Temple University

Philadelphia Socialist Alternative

Stadium Stompers

Temple Socialists

Black Law Students Association

Activate TU

Indivisible Temple

Organization of African American Studies Undergraduate Students

Temple Association of University Professionals

GenUN Temple

Babel Poetry Collective

Temple Refugee Outreach

Bye Bye Theobald!

15 Now and Stadium Stompers welcome the removal of Neil Theobald from the presidency of Temple University. Theobald ignored the voices of community, workers, students and faculty forcing us to protest in order to be heard. Throughout his tenure Theobald’s policies harmed North Philadelphia, a historic black community, by furthering gentrification and displacement and by refusing to pay workers at Temple a living wage of $15/hour. We hope that whoever the board chooses as his replacement will approach the community with dignity and respect. The board must now abandon President Theobald’s disastrous proposal to build a stadium in North Philadelphia.

15 Now Temple Statement on Today’s Closed Stadium Meeting

Temple Student Government announced they would be holding an informational session concerning Temple’s plan to build a 40,000 seat stadium in the heart of residential North Philadelphia. The meeting is “for students only,” meaning community residents, alumni, faculty, and service workers are banned from the event where Temple President Neil Theobald and the Athletic Director Pat Kraft will answer pre-screened questions about the stadium construction and funding.

This closed meeting is a shameful attempt to silence the community that stands united in their opposition to Temple’s continued gentrification and expansion in North Philadelphia. Temple University does not see a Black community in North Philadelphia, they see opportunities for naked land-grabbing to fuel for-profit expansion.

15 Now Temple and 15 Now Philadelphia and the Stadium Stompers, the newly-formed community organization against the stadium, stand united against the stadium construction. We condemn Temple Student Government President Ryan Rinaldi, Temple President Neil Theobald, and Temple Athletic Director Pat Kraft for attempting to keep information from the community, keep them out of informational sessions, and make them invisible to the student body.

We will not be silent, we will stand together. Up with the community, down with the stadium.

Temple students and community members denied access to Board of Trustees meeting.

On Tuesday December 8th the Temple Board of Trustees held a public meeting. The Board of Trustees have four meetings during the school year where students and community members are invited to participate and voice their concerns. In this meeting the board intended to vote on the plan to build a new 40,000 seat stadium in the heart of North Philadelphia.

This meeting was a PUBLIC meeting. But anyone who was there yesterday knows that it was not public. Students, members of the community, alumni, and faculty were not allowed into the meeting.

Members of the North Philadelphia community, Temple students, faculty, and alumni gathered outside of Sullivan Hall before the meeting to rally against the stadium. At 3:30 pm, the official start time of the public meeting, the students and community members attempted to enter the building. We were met with rows of police with nightsticks blocking all of the entrances into Sullivan Hall. When we attempted to walk in, we were shoved back, and told we were not allowed into the meeting.

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Students and Community kept out of meeting by police

We explained  that we were members of the North Philadelphia community, tuition paying students, alumni, and faculty and we had a right to go into the public meeting where choices were being made that greatly affect our futures. While we watched white men in business suits and student government being escorted into the building, students, members of the community, faculty, and alumni who are opposed to the stadium were met with violence.

 

This is a moral outrage. Temple University plans to build a 40,000 seat stadium in the heart of historically Black North Philadelphia, and they refuse to hear the voices of community members or students. They allow corrupt student government, white businessmen, and wealthy donors a seat at the table while they attempt to keep students in the dark and displace an entire community.

Inside the meeting, President Theobald spoke about Temple’s commitment to North Philadelphia. However, during pauses in his speech you could hear students and community members outside chanting, “up with community, down with the stadium.” Student government president Ryan Rinaldi said that the students are proud of their football team and university, all while students and community members were stuck outside chanting, “let us in!”

Temple University showed its true colors yesterday. The Board of Trustees is a corrupt body governed by Patrick O’Connor, the same lawyer who defended Bill Cosby in the case of sexual assault against a Temple employee. President Theobald has refused to meet with students and community members, and has no respect for the Black community he has entered. Temple Student Government President Ryan Rinaldi has shown he does not represent the students, will not defend students when treated unfairly, and certainly has no respect for the North Philadelphia community.

These shameful leaders are not interested in serving the students or faculty and are responsible for terrorizing and disrespecting surrounding North Philadelphia communities. They do not represent the needs of community members, and they do not seek to educate students. They seek to build a stadium despite disagreement from students, employees, and community members. They seek to maintain a Board of Trustees made up almost exclusively of white men speaking for corporations and keep the voices of students and community members silent.

Yesterday was a shameful display of what Temple University has become. A university that values the voices of rich white men over the voices of students and community members. A university that chooses football and profit over education and living wages. A university that will use its police force to attack students who try to enter public buildings and public meetings. The only way to describe Temple University today is shameful, corrupt, immoral, and an embodiment of the white-supremacist terror that has harmed students and residents for decades.

As students, faculty, and alumni it is our responsibility to uphold Temple’s founding principle: to serve the people of North Philadelphia. It is our responsibility to hold ‘rape defender’ Patrick O’Connor accountable. We must hold gentrifier Neil Theobald accountable. It is our responsibility to listen to the community in North Philadelphia and stand with them to say NO to the stadium, NO to gentrification, and NO to poverty.

Here is our pledge to the community of North Philadelphia, students, workers, and faculty at Temple University:

We will not let our voices be silenced, we will fight this university until they have no choice but to hear the community and the students.

We demand that Patrick O’Connor and Neil Theobald respect students and community members and act in the interest of the people and not in the interest of profits. If they fail to do this, they must resign.

We will continue organizing on campus and in North Philadelphia to build student, worker, and community power. We will stand with the community always. We will continue to fight against gentrification, against the stadium, and against poverty. We will continue to push for a $15/hr minimum wage for all Temple workers including students and subcontracted workers.

Board of Trustees, President Theobald, we will be back. And next time, we will do whatever it takes.
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Up with Community Down with the Stadium

Up with Workers Down with the Stadium

Up with Students Down with the Stadium

Signed,

15 Now of Temple University

Penn #MillionStudentMarch Coalition Releases Demands before March: $15, Free College, and PILOT payments

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Dear Penn administrators, trustees and policymakers

We, students and alumni of your university, have assembled today as the #MillionStudentMarch to call upon you to address a moral crisis. American higher education is being commodified on an intolerable scale. Soaring tuition and student debt levels (over $1 trillion nationwide) are reinforcing financial inequalities of access to higher learning. Unlivable wages offered to student workers and adjunct professors are driving poor and working class students out of academia while campus workers struggle to afford to send their children to the universities their labor sustains. Urban private universities are becoming “mega-nonprofits” while the cities they reside in see their budgets starved and public education subject to a crippling austerity, and predominantly working-class and non-white community residents are displaced by the gentrification wrought by expansion, construction and an influx of affluent, transient student-residents. We believe that these issues are as relevant and serious at Penn as at other universities rallying today across the country, and this is why we are making the following 3 demands: for the Board of Trustees to form a committee to immediately and transparently work to reduce our university’s exorbitant tuition rates, reduce debt burdens and extend financial aid to your students, especially poor students and students of color; to enact a truly livable $15 minimum wage across campus; and to pay PILOTs to the City of Philadelphia to fund our city’s ailing K-12 public schools.

Form a committee to investigate and address tuition and student debt

It is no secret that tuition and fees at the University of Pennsylvania are sky-high. This year, Penn raised tuition from $42,176 to $43,838; room and board increased from $13,464 to $13,990; and fees increased from $5,492 to $5,698. The cost of attending Penn for one year is greater the median annual income in the United States. Penn defends its astronomical tuition and fees rates by saying that only affluent students who can afford to pay will pay full tuition; most students are on some form of financial aid. Penn proudly touts its “no-loan policy”, promising to meets its students’ financial needs so that they do not need to take out loans.

If Penn were truly a “no-loan” school, this would indeed be something to be proud of. It would be true civic leadership. But we know that this is not the case. We know because many among us are taking out tens of thousands in student loans in order to graduate, including many of us who receive financial aid. At the beginning of this year, the federal Department of Education published its “College Scorecard” which assesses affordability and other factors at colleges around the country. According to this report, the average Penn student has $20,407 in debt at the time they begin making repayments on loans: the highest of any Ivy League school. Furthermore, according to the Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS), Penn students take out loans at a rate of 36%, the third-highest in the Ivy League. Even the statistics SFS prefers to cite from TICAS put Penn students’ average debt at $19,788, near the top of the Ivy League. Much of this debt is held my students who are receiving at least partial financial aid, and it includes many working-class students, students of color and undocumented students. These realities suggest a hollowness to Penn’s claims to be doing enough to ensure equity and access for its financially disadvantaged students. This is why we call for fiscal redistribution to reduce the financial burdens of the student body and especially its most disadvantaged members.

Enact a $15 minimum wage across campus

Furthermore, although Penn touts its status as the city’s largest private employer as an example of its “civic leadership”, the reality is that many of these campus workers—dining hall staff, adjunct professors, janitorial staff—are paid wages that do not hold up against the rising cost of living in the area. For many of these workers, Penn’s economic “boom” means higher rents and neighborhood displacement due to gentrification. It is the many of the same workers who make Penn run whose children must attend Philadelphia’s understaffed and precarious public schools. Meanwhile, economically disadvantaged or precarious student workers do not earn enough from their on-campus jobs to realistically support themselves, and many take strenuous off-campus jobs that inhibit their freedom to participate on campus. This is why we call for Penn to enact a campus-wide $15 minimum wage.

We as students stand in solidarity with campus workers and with all residents of the West Philadelphia community. Many of us assembled here today are only transient residents of the Philadelphia community. We wish to make clear that we do not call for reduction in tuition fees so that affluent, predominantly white families can send their children to Penn for free while the community residents are displaced by gentrification. We call for a reduction in tuition fees, student debt, and livable wages for campus and student workers so that members of the Philadelphia community, those whose labor makes Penn possible, can afford to send their children here. We call for greater affordability because it is above all working-class and students of color who are being driven out of education by financial inaccessibility today.

PILOTs

For the same reason, we also stand in solidarity with the Student Labor Action Project at Penn and students at Philadelphia’s K-12 public schools who are seeing their schools closed in the dozens under fiscal austerity, by calling for Penn to pay PILOTs in the amount of $6 million a year to support the public schools. Penn has a responsibility to its surrounding community to contribute to the solution of this problem at its root, which is the budgetary crisis imposed by statewide fiscal austerity. While Penn often cites the Penn-Alexander School, the Netter Center and existing financial aid to local students as proof that it is already “giving back enough”, the reality is that Penn’s efforts at “giving back” only benefit a small minority of the overall Philadelphia community who are lucky enough to benefit from the institutions Penn sustains. Most Philadelphia public students still study in schools that are understaffed, overworked and precarious in their existence, while Penn sits on an endowment of almost $10 billion. This is why we agree with SLAP that Penn must reinvest in the community through PILOTs: to show a commitment to working with the City to address the fiscal crisis directly, not merely put a band-aid on it by providing a limited set of services.

Finally, we as students seek a greater democratic say in the running of our institution. Lacking veto power over our administration, as students we lack any kind of enforceable, democratic say in how our university’s massive endowment is invested. We believe that decisions about the financial governance of this institution must be addressed in an accountable, transparent way that consults the will and interests of the student body, campus workers, and the broader community, not just a small board of financial stakeholders.

In the next few weeks, progressive student organizations will be convening a Student Assembly to discuss the issues we have aimed to bring your attention to, and to coordinate further work. The Student Assembly will seek further engagement and contact with the university administration on the issues we have outlined. SLAP @ Penn will remain the principal contact with the administration for the campaign for Penn to pay Payments in Lieu of Taxes to the City of Philadelphia.

Sincerely,
UPenn #MillionStudentMovement