Philadelphians Join the Fight for Earned Sick Days

What do you do when you get sick? This can be a terrifying question for the millions of workers around the country who go to work every day without access to earned sick time to get healthy. A person’s health can be put into a very compromising situation when they don’t have access to earned sick time. That’s why Working America members in Philadelphia are standing up to fix this problem.

Members have been submitting letters to the editor, circulating postcards and writing letters addressed to council members, and making visits to City Hall to encourage Philadelphia City Council to pass an earned sick days bill that would allow most workers throughout Philadelphia access to earned sick days.

Kathryn, a young worker who recently joined Working America, said it best in a letter that she submitted to a local newspaper:

With the flu season approaching I once again find myself very concerned with the illnesses that circulate in my workplace. I work for a screen printing company in Philadelphia. While I believe that my employer makes a good faith effort for a safe work environment, it’s troubling that we do not have access to earned sick days. When I or my co-workers are sick we still go to work because we cannot afford to miss a day of pay. Because of this, when one person is sick, we all eventually get sick. Having sick days would mean that I would be able to care for myself and come back to work healthy. It would mean that I would not have to risk getting my co-workers sick. It would mean higher morale for the work that I do.

After writing her letter, Kathryn made a decision to begin talking with others she knew about how important it is for people to have sick days on their job. She has gotten the support of her family and co-workers, who have signed postcards to show their support for the issue.

Then there is Chris, who works as a server at a local restaurant. He is also a Working America member who has chosen to not only get involved himself, but to get others involved also. He has enlightened many of his co-workers to the fact that they have a real opportunity to change things for the better by simply letting their voice be heard. Recently, Chris shared with me that he was just getting over a cold virus. “I normally do not get sick but over the last few weeks there has been a cold virus that has been spreading around my work place,” he shares. “This is concerning not just for me and my co-workers but for the hundreds of customers who come through our restaurant every week.”

In Philadelphia alone, more than 210,000 workers do not have access to earned sick days on their job. Chris, Kathryn, and many other Working America members are fighting to stand up for these working families because no one should have to choose between the jobs they need and the families they love. We all get sick and therefore it only makes since that we all have access to sick time to care for ourselves and our families when illness strikes.

Working America Members Increasingly Concerned About Pennsylvania Voter Suppression Law

With the Pennsylvania primary election taking place this past Tuesday April 24th, voters had a snap shot look at some conditions to expect with the upcoming November general election.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett recently signed a voter suppression bill, HB 934, into law that will go into effect in November. It requires voters in the state to show a state-issued photo ID in order to vote. A survey by the Brennan Center for Justice found that seniors, African-Americans, and low-income citizens are disproportionately less likely to have this kind of ID.

Concern about the bill began to come into bubble up over the course of the Tuesday primary. Signs were posted at polling sites stating that voters should be prepared to show their ID’s in order to vote, even though the law hasn’t yet gone into effect.

Many voters who were exercising their rights this past Tuesday experienced new obstacles to casting their ballot. At one polling location, in Cumberland County, voters encountered several signs with a large font heading reading “ID Required to Vote.” Below the large heading was a poorly photocopied news article that explained a state issued photo ID would be required to vote in November. Earlier in the day, a State Representative’s staff person observed four voters reading the signs and then turning away without voting. The staff person was able to catch them and explain that photo ID’s are not required to vote until November and they then proceeded in to the polling location.

This is just one account; reports throughout the day indicated extreme confusion and misleading information given across the state. Not coincidentally, there was a very low voter turnout at the polls. One can only imagine how much the misleading photo ID signs and other confusing misinformation contributed to the low turnout.

Even before Pennsylvania Working America members saw this law in action, they were very concerned. Terry, a Working America member in from Ardmore, was livid. “As a senior citizen and lifetime voter, I am outraged at the thought of a voter ID law that would disenfranchise so many voters in the state,” Terry mentioned.

Terry went on to express her concern by writing a letter to the editor of the Main Line Times:

As a senior citizen I am outraged about HB934 the “voter ID bill” recently signed into law by Governor Corbett.  HB 934 mandates voters to produce photo IDs issued by the federal and state governments, a university, or a long term care facility, before casting a ballot.

This law will suppress votes of the elderly, the disabled, the poor, minorities, and violates the Pennsylvania constitution mandate of free and equal elections.  A Think Tank group is estimating that this law will cost at least $11 million.  Voter ID laws are expensive.  With budget shortfalls already cutting numerous programs, Pennsylvania can’t afford this legislation.

Terry is right: we need to protect the right to vote in Pennsylvania and across the country. With the primary now behind, it’s time to ensure that all Pennsylvanians are able to exercise their voting rights in November.

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Three Citizens Versus the Corbett Budget Cuts: How Pennsylvanians Are Standing Up to Bad Priorities

by Jihad Seifullah – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Last year, Pennsylvania residents saw drastic budget cuts to very important resources and services. K-12 public education was cut by $860 million. Health care and programs that help Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable citizens were cut by $651 million. At a critical time when many are still out of work, it would seem that now would be an ideal time to put more resources in to the community; however, we are seeing the exact opposite of that. On Feb. 7th, Gov. Corbett laid out his plan for the Pennsylvania 2012-2013 state budget which includes even more cuts.

We are still seeing the devastation caused by last year’s budget.  School districts like Chester Upland ran out of money half way through the school year and many more are on the brink of financial emergency. While citizens in the state are doing their best to recover from last year’s cuts, there are now even more cuts that have been piled on top. The truth of the matter is this; most of these cuts that have been implemented and currently being proposed do not have to occur. 70 percent of corporations in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania currently do not pay income tax because of the Delaware tax loophole. Corporations have been able to escape paying income tax by simply having their headquarters (or in many cases P.O. box) in Delaware. By closing this loophole, additional revenue would be created that could restore many key programs and services in Pennsylvania.

Working America members are coming together to take action to stand up to these devastating cuts. On February 21st, three Working America members met to discuss the budget, how it’s impacting their neighborhoods, and ways to take a stand and fight back. They’ve written letters to their state legislators and are talking to family, friends, and neighbors to shed light on the inequality that is taking place. The budget cuts hit Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable communities the hardest.

Karen, from Northeast Philadelphia, has experienced firsthand the impact of the budget cuts. She has been diligently striving to find work for the past 16 months. “I am terrified about what will happen to me and my two children if I do not find work soon,” Karen says.  In addition, she is also disheartened that key programs are being cut that have helped her family stay afloat during this recession. “I can’t believe that they would cut programs like Medicaid, LIHEAP, and CRISIS. These programs help families like mine keep healthy and stay warm during the cold winter months.”

Vicki, a retired teacher says, “I have worked for 35 years with special needs children.  I have a grandson that qualifies for early intervention programs. Fortunately for me, he lives in a state where he will be able to get the attention he needs.” She shares that she is deeply concerned for those children who will not get the proper attention needed as a result of these continued cuts. She knows that these programs are vitally important. “I am particularly disturbed about what these cuts will mean to our youngest students in Pennsylvania as 100 million is being cut from full day kindergarten.”

“I have seen both friends and neighbors trying to take care of their families in this economic downsizing but it has been difficult since many are currently unemployed,” says Terry, a retired clerical worker. Terry has gotten involved so that she can give something positive back to her country and community. “I feel privileged to be giving something back so that generations to come will benefit.

Vicki, Terry, and Karen have this in common. They want to make their communities a better place in which to live both now and for future generations. They are each taking active steps to make that dream a reality by standing up for equality.

Photo by Rick Smith Show on Flickr.

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