by: Fabricio Rodriguez
How will we treat the “least” among us? How will we treat Comcast?
Paula Paul, quoted the the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me,” as we stood in the City Council-Caucus Room. Paula was pointing out this New Testament passage as short hand for the lesson that Jesus Christ was teaching in his parable. The lesson was that we are duty-bound to lift up our brothers and sisters who have fallen, to fight against poverty and demand dignity for all.
In the passage, Jesus details the duties of faith-led people in stating “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.”
Paula Paul and Carol Duncan, two POWER Interfaith leaders, arrived at City Hall on Thursday, November 12th with the expected invitation to share their testimony about how we expect Comcast to treat workers if we grant them another 15 year monopoly agreement in our city. Unfortunately, they were not invited in. Comcast filled the panel with hours of expert testimony from their lawyers and lobbyists, disallowing public testimony to be heard until later into the evening. Thankfully, Rev. Gregory Holston of POWER was granted the opportunity to speak during the expert testimony portion of the hearing in which he called on Comcast to expand and enhance the Internet Essentials program for low income Philadelphians.Although they did not receive the opportunity to speak during the City Hall hearings, Paula and Carol made videos expressing the testimony they were unable to share last week. Below you will find Carol Duncan’s testimony.
We, the citizens of Philadelphia, give Comcast an almost exclusive right to operate cable in our city. While the city can, on paper, invite competitors in – Comcast’s huge economic and political power protects it from competition. Due to this protection, Comcast and its leaders have become extremely wealthy off of the backs of its underpaid employees and working Philadelphians. As Carol points out, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts makes nearly $26.5 million in salary per year – while Comcast benefits from huge property tax abatements, and pays a third of what other Pennsylvanian companies pay on average in state income tax.
Philadelphians give Comcast the ability to succeed. In the book of Luke, it is pointed out that, “When someone is given much, much shall be expected in return.” If we enable Mr. Roberts to become a millionaire by protecting his business as a monopoly, shouldn’t we expect him to pay at least $15/hour to all of his employees, contractors, and sub-contractors? Below you will find a video from Paula Paul who also shared her dismay with Comcast’s behavior.
If we give Comcast the right to broadcast its voice, the loudest internet and communications voice in our city and the nation, shouldn’t we expect Comcast to ensure that its workers get the ability to raise their voice together and have the ability to form or join a union if they so choose, without interference?
We give Comcast significant tax breaks to build its gleaming buildings. Many of its contract, subcontract, and direct workers live in the city, were educated in our cities’ public education system, and send their children to local schools; yet at the same time, Comcast doesn’t contribute fairly to our schools or surrounding communities. Shouldn’t we expect that Comcast support us in return by giving our schools adequate technology for our classrooms and teachers to educate the next generation of our nation’s leaders?
Philadelphia has already shown how generous we can be to the strongest, wealthiest, and most powerful corporation in our city. The question is now, “What will we do for “the least” among us?”
We have the power to decide what we should expect from Comcast because our elected officials in City Hall are negotiating the next 15 year lease agreement that will enable the monopoly now. We can ensure all low income folks get affordable, high speed internet. We can include the rights of workers, a minimum wage of $15/hr now (and keeping ahead of Federal or State min. wage in the future) and the right to organize in this agreement. We can make sure Comcast pays its fair share to our schools, and protects consumers in the city it calls home. We have the opportunity to get more technology and teaching resources for our schools.
But, we must act now. Sign the petition at http://www.capcomcast.org/petition to make Comcast protect the workers – and the communities – that have given it so much.