A History of Organizing for Justice 1975-2015
Since 1975, the Philadelphia Unemployment Project has organized the poor
and unemployed to fight for economic justice, bringing diverse groups
together to bring about major changes that benefit millions of unemployed and
impoverished. PUP has helped the unemployed link with coalition partners
in the labor, religious, community civil rights and women’s movements to
increase our power. Our victories prove that, once organized, working people
and the unemployed can be a powerful voice in the city, state, and nation.
Below are some of the many accomplishments in which PUP played a key role:
• The enforcement of the federal Hill-Burton Act, which required hospitals to provide free care to lower income uninsured persons.
• The continuation of Federal Supplemental Compensation Unemployment Benefits when they were scheduled to be slashed in 1977.
• The 1979 delay in the lay-offs of 3,300 Philadelphia CETA workers. Hundreds were transferred into civil service jobs and remained employed.
• A three-year extension of ITE-Gould circuit breaker plant’s Philadelphia contract in 1979 after its closing had been announced.
• The largest severance package ever given to a Container Corporation of an America plant when it closed.
• An increase in severance benefits, pensions, and health benefits for workers of the closed Eaton Corporation fork-lift plant.
• The passage of legislation in 1982 to require 60 days’ notice prior to a plant shutdown, the nation’s first municipal plant closing ordinance.
• The preservation of over $250 million in Pennsylvania state taxes for critical programs in 1981, 1982, and 1983.
• The extension of federal Unemployment Compensation from 39 to 49 weeks in August of 1982.
• A decision in 1982 by Landsdowne Steel and Iron not to relocate to West Virginia but to renew its commitment to the area.
• Creation of the National Unemployed Network, in 1983 a coalition of unemployed councils.
• A moratorium on all Sheriff Sales in Philadelphia in 1983 that lasted over a year.
• The passage of the Homeowner’s Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program (HEMAP) in December of 1983, the nation’s first mortgage assistance program.
• An end to mandatory overtime for American Postal Workers in 1984, creating 500 new jobs.
• PGW’s 1984 adoption of more liberal termination and reinstatement policies, and a moratorium on winter gas shut-offs for many homes.
• A temporary extension of Federal Supplemental Compensation Benefits for over 340,000 unemployed nationwide in early 1985.
• Agreements with seven local hospitals in the 1980’s to admit unemployed and poor who lack insurance.
• In 1989, the first increase in the state minimum wage since 1981.
• Prevention of the closing or privatization of Philadelphia Public Health Centers in 1988 and 1989.
• The 1991 passage of City Council’s landmark legislation guaranteeing a minimum level of services at City Health Centers.
• The extension of Unemployment Compensation benefits in qualified states from 26 to 39 weeks in 1991 and expanding to 59 weeks in 1992.
• Prevention of cuts to General Assistance in the summer of 1993.
• Prevention of cuts to General Assistance in the summer of 1993.
• Laying the groundwork for employment experience programs like Philadelphia@Work (1998), and the Work Opportunities program (1999) through a campaign demanding public jobs in light of welfare reform.
• An agreement in 1999 by Tenet Healthcare to adopt a formal policy which would allow treatment for the uninsured in its local facilities.
• The creation of the “Adult Basic Care” plan in 2001, which provided coverage for low-income Pennsylvanians.
• A 13-week extension of unemployment benefits in March of 2002, which especially aided workers who were laid off as a result of 9-11.
• A temporary moratorium on Sheriff Sales in March of 2004.
• The decision of several of Philadelphia’s largest foreclosure law firms to reduce their fees to homeowners by over 60% in 2004.
• The 40% reduction of fees that the sheriff charges to homeowners threatened with foreclosure, also in 2004.
• The establishment in September 2005 of guidelines with the city for making reasonable payment plans for low-income people who owe back taxes.
• The agreement in mid-September for the sheriff to reduce the length of Sheriff Sale advertisements by over 40%, which should allow a reduction in fees.
• Led the campaign in 2005 and 2006 that increased the PA minimum by $2.00 per hour beginning July 1, 2006.
• Launched an innovative reverse commute program in 2006, Commuter Options, which provides vehicles for inner city workers to commute to suburban jobs. Up to 32 vans take up to 130 workers to better paying suburban jobs daily.
• Organized homeowners to fight sub prime mortgage foreclosures which in 2008 led to creation of a national model program in the Philadelphia courts requiring mortgage companies to negotiate with homeowners prior to completing a foreclosure. Large numbers of loan modifications and other work outs prevented thousands of foreclosures through the Mortgage Foreclosure Diversion Program.
• Organized wide spread public support for reform of the nation’s health care system, including building a state wide coalition, the PA Health Access Network.
• Pressed for and won a public jobs program using federal stimulus dollars which the state had been unwilling to use. The Way to Work program started in 2010 and created over 12,000 jobs state wide and nearly 4,000 in Philadelphia with wages of up to $13 per hour.
• Led a national campaign to use federal funds to aid unemployed homeowners facing foreclosure. Over $106 Million was ticketed to PA for the Emergency Homeowner Loan Program which helped over 3,000 families prevent foreclosure in the state.
• Halted Philadelphia Sheriff Sales at Christmas 2010 lasting for 3 months waiting for implementation of the Emergency Homeowner Loan Program (EHLP)
• Conducted Americans in Struggle film series featuring documentaries of key struggles for economic justice over the years
• Prevented serious cut backs in Philadelphia Mortgage Foreclosure Diversion Program through successfully mobilizing against a court order to restrict the program.
• Prevented $500 increase in Sheriff’s fees for families facing sheriff’s sale through action by homeowners.
• Led a state wide coalition whose goal is to restore the HEMAP program which was ended due to budget cuts in 2011. HEMAP is now scheduled to reopen in the near future.
• Registered hundreds of Philadelphia High School student to vote.
• The HEMAP program reopened in August 2012 after being closed for a year
• Ran an aggressive grass roots voter registration campaign and registered nearly 4,000 people before the 2012 elections
• Organized a campaign to fix the broken phone system for the PA Unemployment Compensation system.
• Organized unemployed workers to demand that the federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation Program be continued. EUC was continued for another year
• Organizing to get Gov. Corbett to accept Medicaid expansion for up to 700,000 Pennsylvanians
• Educating the public on the dangers of Pay Day Lending
• PUP continued to pressure Governor Corbett to expand Medicaid for over 500,000 uninsured Pennsylvanians. The Governor refused to budge on the issue costing people insurance and the state budget the hundreds of millions that would have come from the federal government for Medicaid.
• We organized to fight the cutoff of Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) which has cost over 2 million workers their benefits so far. PUP targeted Sen. Toomey who finally voted to allow a vote on EUC in the Senate, which then passed the extension. We also brought long term unemployed to Washington to speak on the hardship of EUC cutoffs at several public events, thus providing a real voice for the unemployed in the debate. House Speaker John Boehner has blocked a vote in the House costing millions their only source of income.
• PUP has brought together a broad state wide coalition called Raise the Wage PA to advocate for at least a $10.10 state minimum wage. Several statewide actions have been organized and are putting the issue into public awareness with elections coming up.
Amidst all these larger victories and issue-based campaigns, PUP has also
assisted thousands of individual unemployed and low-income workers in their
job searches and in their dealings with tax and mortgage problems,
unemployment compensation, welfare, health care, and much more as the
organization works to protect individuals and families facing hard times.
PUP will continue its work on a large scale and on the level of the individual
as long as there is need.