POWER Wants Philadelphians to Work So Our City Works

In the last forty years Philadelphia has been economically decimated by federal, state, and local policy choices that benefit the super wealthy, leaving more humble families without a pathway to economic dignity:

Federal trade policies have given manufacturing companies an opportunity to abandon shop on U.S. soil. Philly, like other older industrial cities, felt the impact with tens of thousands of jobs leaving. The service sector economy that replaced manufacturing usually does not provide people with living wage jobs. The declining value of the federal Minimum Wage and weakening effectiveness and constituencies of unions has kept many who work in service sector jobs in poverty.

The result is that Philadelphia is poorest big city in the United States. Not only has poverty risen from 23% to 27% in the last decade. So too has the wealth divide between Philly and the surrounding counties. In 2009, the median family income in Philadelphia was $37,045, far behind the $75,406 of the suburban counties. And in every economic category people of color in Philadelphia fare worse than whites.

Instead of using their powers to ensure that Philadelphians are educated and trained for living wage jobs, and that, at the least, publicly-subsidized projects providing a source of good jobs to Philadelphians, elected officials have often sided with the interests of wealthy developers, big retail companies, and other institutions that represent those outside of the city. The outcome:

1) the economic divide between the city and the surrounding counties;
2) broad swathes of city neighborhoods whose residents struggle with insufficient incomes; 3) the challenges that face a major city with such high rates of un- and under-employment and insufficient tax base.

Too few good jobs go to Philadelphians, and the jobs that are attained are often not family-sustaining.
We must organize to begin to change that. POWER’s campaign slogan has become ‘Put our people to work and our city will work.”

POWER is lifting up a new vision for how city residents should be prepared for and benefit from publicly-subsidized projects; the following is POWER’s Economic Justice Platform:

~ Training programs to ensure that people in our neighborhoods are “job-readt” for the permanent jobs that the airport expansion and other publicly-subsidized project will make available.

~ A “first source” hiring program that offers ‘affirmative action’ for the permanent jobs to people who have struggled recently with employment or who live in disadvantaged areas.

~ A living wage, health and retirement benefits, and the right to organize, where applicable, for the permanent jobs.

~ Increased local and minority participation in apprenticeship programs to open doors into construction jobs for members of our neighborhoods.

~ A fully-funded compliance and monitoring system.

The time to implement these principles is now. Why? Because the Philly is on the verge of the one of the largest economic development projects our city’s history. The Capacity Enhancement Project at the Philadelphia Airport could potentially cost up to $6 billion, take up to 12 years to complete, and create 47,000 new jobs.

And POWER knows there will be other publicly-subsidized projects. And that our “first source” training and hiring program could become a model for helping people and neighborhoods traditionally facing employment challenges with new opportunities

Elected officials have a unique leadership opportunity by helping to develop and endorsing a policy that guarantees strong access to quality jobs. POWER believes that not only is this a moral imperative, but it also just good policy-making that will help lift the economic health of our entire city.

The question remains, will the Mayor and City Council STAND WITH Philadelphians or choose to continue the status quo? Is having so many who live in Philadelphia unprepared to work and therefore unemployed acceptable to our public officials?

The faith communities of POWER will be organizing four regional Economic Justice Forums in June to:

~ Promote new strategies to put Philadelphians back to work
~ To lift up stories from community members who are impacted by the economic crisis
~ To ask members of City Council to endorse policy that implements our Economic Justice Platform
~ To lay out a community engagement plan for the summer

Our Center City cluster of congregations will also be highlighting the need of making our K-12 public education system work effectively. Their proposal is to lay out a research plan that will develop a more publicly-involved and informed schools reform proposal.


1) JOIN US AT RODELPH SHALOM ON TUESDAY NIGHT, JUNE 12! Community organizing uses the political power of the people to make our politicians more accountable to broad public needs. Sometimes all that is required is showing up!

You will learn more about the POWER proposal for getting our city back to work. You will gather with folks from other congregations and get to see our politicians answer to their constituents. You might just have more fun on a summer evening than you would sitting at home in front of the t.v.!


Stirling Schwiebert and Mike Waas will be signing up Old First folks after worship for the next 2 Sundays. Please let us know that you will come!