Currently, the main focus of POWER’s efforts is job creation— we would like to connect 10,000 unemployed Philadelphians to good jobs within the next 5 years.
POWER congregations and their leaders are currently engaged with public officials and regional stakeholders to develop a coordinated approach that creates true “pathways to employment” for all city residents, currently with a focus of linking public funding of construction projects to real goals for hiring city residents. For example, our pastor joined other POWER leaders last week for a meeting with Mark Gale, the city’s CEO of the airport.
Other cities have effectively used such Community Benefits Agreements to leverage employment and other supports for their residents. Supports that include “first source hiring”, living wage standards, and training funds.
The theory behind POWER’s strategy is that since Philadelphia has the largest pool of un- or under-employed citizens, it deserves a pipeline to these publicly funded jobs… and to end up with the most people who get trained and hired from a project like this. Surprisingly, and sadly, without some pressure, an outcome like this will not necessarily happen on its own.
Currently POWER is working ensure that the $6.2 billion Philadelphia Airport Expansion project, slated to start in 2012 and expected to span over 13 years, will create living-wage jobs for currently unemployed and low-income Philadelphians. The project is expected to add 44,000 construction jobs and 3,000 permanent jobs to the existing 141,000 current jobs. The Philadelphia Airport expansion is the biggest economic development project in the region. It’s already the biggest single economic engine in Southeast Pennsylvania, with an annual $14 billion regional economic impact. After the expansion is complete its economic impact is expected to grow to $26.4 billion. POWER is working to ensure the residents of Philadelphia benefit from the expansion of jobs from this economic growth.
In this effort nine POWER leaders and staff have already travelled to Washington DC and met with officials from the Federal Aviation Authority and the Department of Labor. In the effort to build our coalition and clarify our vision we are engaged in relational outreach and have planned a series of meetings with the Philadelphia Mayor and each of the 17 members of the City Council; all in preparation of future negotiation of our demands.
Currently, the airlines deciding 11th hour that they do not support the full expansion has added some uncertainty to next steps, or even if the full expansion project will come to pass. But Mark Gale says, even if the project were to be scaled back, or extended over a long time, we should expect the largest public works project in the area to be out at the airport.
POWER is prepared to put our faith into action, hold systems accountable, and work with allies to realize this vision of a City that Works – for Everyone. Join us please!
If you have an interest in learning more about this campaign and others on the horizon or interest in participating in one of the upcoming meetings with a member of the City Council – please speak with me, Stirling Schwiebert (at church, or the church office can provide my contact info.)
Upcoming meeting with members of the Philadelphia City Council:
Councilman Mark Squilla, Thursday, Feb. 15, 6:00 pm