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Council resolution: Hold up school funding until 32BJ settlement is reached

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

Backed by 10 of her colleagues, City Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sánchez introduced a resolution Thursday saying that Council should hold up any action on the School District’s budget until a labor agreement is reached with SEIU Local 32BJ District 1201.

This came a day after Local 32BJ, the District’s blue-collar union, held a huge rally and blocked traffic on Broad Street protesting 2,700 layoff notices to its members and other education cuts. Several City Council members attended the rally.

The District is counting on $94 million in additional revenue from City Council to keep its projected budget shortfall next year in the $200 million range rather than $300 million – a sum that would make it much harder to borrow the money needed to keep the schools open.

That proposed budget also counts on significant union concessions. Chief Recovery Officer Thomas Knudsen said that he needs to wring $50 million out of maintenance, cleaning, and transportation costs – either by renegotiating the contract with Local 32BJ or replacing the District employees with outside contractors.

Quiñones-Sánchez said in a statement that she and her colleagues "completely understand the difficult financial situation at the School District, but we are extremely concerned about the situation facing SEIU’s members, who drive our kids to school, keep our schools clean and safe, and themselves live in Philadelphia. We do not want them to become the victims of our budget limitations."

Both sides have agreed that the two sides are still talking; union leaders said they have offered significant concessions.