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MLK Day Event to Highlight Plight of Low-Wage Workers & Urge City Action on Jobs Bill
POWER, a multi-racial, multi-faith advocacy group, will host "Dignity of Work: A Service of Celebration and Action" to promote local hiring and living wage enforcement at the Philadelphia International Airport.
Bishop Dwayne Royster, POWER’s Executive Director, says “the event will remind us that Dr. King’s work was a challenge to the economic and political decision-makers and systems of his day, and that we honor his legacy best when we take collective action against economic and political injustice in our day, in our city.”
1. Testimonies from Airport and other workers struggling for living wages
2. Preaching & Teaching from Dr. Leslie Callahan, Pastor of St. Paul's Baptist Church in North Philadelphia
3. Summary of, and Update on, POWER’s Airport Jobs campaign
4. Multi-faith prayer and song
5. Call to Action: mass call-in/text-
The event will highlight the fact that Dr. King marched in solidarity with picketing garbage collectors in Memphis the day before he was assassinated in 1968. Workers' wages were so low that many were forced to supplement their income with welfare and food stamps, and many worked under long-ignored dangerous conditions and with outmoded equipment which led to the tragic deaths of two men who were crushed by a malfunctioning garbage truck on Feb. 1, 1968.
Rev. Linda Noonan, pastor of Chestnut Hill United Church and POWER leader, remarks that “King's public show of support for these workers stood in contrast to the foot dragging of the much of the city's religious and middle class communities at that time.”
Forty-five years later, in our city, thousands of workers at some of our publicly supported institutions and enterprises – including the Philadelphia International Airport – are not paid family-sustaining wages, do not have health care coverage, and work in extreme and stressful conditions. Juan L., a security officer for Aviation Safeguards (a subcontracted Airport employer), makes $8.00/hour with no benefits. He has diabetes which sometimes requires hospitalization. “My family relies on public health insurance and food stamps to survive – even though I work. I have thousands of dollars in hospital bills I can’t pay. Airport workers employed by subcontractors deserve time off, benefits and better pay” says Jaun.
Juan is just one of many passenger service workers at the Airport who don't reap their fair share of the profits that the Airport generates. A recent report, Raising the Bar: Ensuring that Airport Expansion Lifts All of Philadelphia (visit http://fightforphilly.org/
Low-wage workers at our Airport are not alone. According to the city's workforce development entity, nearly 40% of employed Philadelphians live below the poverty line, contributing to the fact that Philadelphia, with a poverty rate of 28%, has earned the distinction of being the poorest big city in America.
POWER’s event on the 21st will honor Dr. King’s call to fight for the dignity of workers by staging a mass call-in/text-
1. Application of the city's Living Wage Standard ($10.88/hour plus health benefits) to all Airport workers,
2. Protection of collective bargaining rights for those workers, and
3. A "first source hiring" and training system to increase access to these jobs among poor Philadelphians who need them most.
For more information visit www.powerphiladelphia.org
POWER is a member of the PICO National Network (visit www.piconetwork.org)