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Give Philadelphians hope

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

To the editors:

All of us know the current situation in Philadelphia. The murder rate is skyrocketing. Everyone is asking what is the cause and what is the solution.

It’s not about putting more cops on the street or building more prisons. It’s about giving people hope and a sense of pride in themselves and the ability to care for their families.

Many Philadelphians only have a high school diploma and cannot afford to go to college or a trade school. So how do we give them the opportunity to have a well-paying job with decent benefits?

First, we need to stop contracting out School District jobs, such as cleaning. These jobs have been done by union workers who, through negotiations, have received a fair wage and decent benefits. Now these jobs are contracted out to the lowest bidder, who pays low wages with minimal or no benefits.

Most of the cleaning employees are low-income, minority Philadelphians. The District refuses to hire for these jobs and continues to move toward the contracting out of all cleaning services.

SEIU/NCFO Local 1201 represents District employees; among them are bus drivers and attendants, engineers, maintenance mechanics, environmental workers, pest control workers, print shop, and warehouse workers. These are fair-paying union jobs with decent benefits. How can the District ask a business or organization to hire our high school graduates when they don’t hire them?

Both Philadelphia city government and the School District have an obligation to give Philadelphians hope for a better life. Stop eliminating well-paying jobs with benefits. Start giving people hope for the future.

George Ricchezza and Dennis Biondo
The writers are president and health and welfare administrator of
SEIU/NCFO Local 1201, the School Employees Union.