FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Media Contact: David Koppisch, POWER 215-219-3950, Julie Blust, SEIU32BJ 215-713-6777
Monday, May 19, 2014 – Today at 11:00am, at the Philadelphia International Airport, Terminal E, Departures – More than 100 people are expected at the Philadelphia International Airport Terminal B/C Departure side for a prayer rally and tour that will highlight the plight of thousands of workers employed by firms with publicly-subsidized subcontracts but who are paid poverty wages. A procession will start at 11am at Terminal E and end outside of Terminal B, for a rally starting at 11:30.
The coalition of faith, labor and political leaders will promote Ballot Question #1 – which leaders are calling the “Living Wage Referendum” – that will appear on tomorrow’s primary ballot in Philadelphia and which asks voters if City Council should extend the existing 21st Century Minimum Wage and Benefits Standard ($10.88/hour plus benefits) to workers on city subcontracts. The referendum will solidify the executive order signed recently by Mayor Nutter to raise wages for subcontractors.
US Congressman Bob Brady, State Senator Larry Farnese, State Representative Maria Donatucci, and Philadelphia City Councilperson Kenyatta Johnson are among the speakers. Airport workers will give personal testimonies about struggling to make ends meet on minimum wage. Also speaking at the rallly will be John Temple, National Employment Law Project who issued a report recently documenting the impact of poverty wages among Airport and other subcontracted workers.
POWER, SEIU32BJ and allies have argued for several years that large, profitable firms with city subcontracts often skirt the intent of the 21st Century Minimum Wage and Benefits Standard – passed by City Council in 2005 – by subcontracting out large parts of their city contracts.
The result is poverty, insecurity and a reliance on public subsidies like food stamps for thousands of workers at the Philadelphia International Airport and other city-supported institutions. Their average wage is just barely above the state minimum wage, at $7.85 an hour, with no paid sick days or health insurance.
POWER and SEIU32BJ see this campaign as part of the national movement to raise the minimum wage, spurred by President Obama’s State of the Union Speech in January of this year and Mayor Michael Nutter’s signing of an Executive Order setting higher wage standards in the city two weeks ago.
“As the national movement to raise wages gains steam, Philadelphians will have a chance to raise the wage for thousands of workers in tomorrow’s election,” said Bishop Dwayne Royster, Executive Director of POWER. “By voting ‘Yes’ on Ballot Question #1 we will in effect ensure that the City’s minimum wage and benefits standard to airport and other subcontracted workers who have not been receiving the benefit of this law,” added Royster.
Royster’s claim is supported by an alarming new report by the National Employment Law Project (NELP) “Fairness Delayed: Ongoing Poverty at the Philadelphia International Airport” – to be released today at the prayer rally – documents that failing to extend the city’s “living wage” standard to airport and other subcontracted workers results in $16 million in wages per year and costs the city $20 million in economic activity.
To promote Ballot Question #1, POWER has contacted nearly 40,000 voters over the past 10 weeks and is working to move 5,000 infrequent voters to the polls tomorrow who otherwise would not likely vote in an off-year, primary election.