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 people. 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 remain 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 America plant when it closed.
· An increase in severance benefits, pensions, and health benefits for workers of the closed Eaton Corporation forklift 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 benefits from 39 to 49 weeks in August of 1982.
· A decision in 1982 by Lansdowne 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 shutoffs for many homes.
· A temporary extension of Federal Supplemental Compensation Benefits for over 340,000 unemployed people nationwide in early 1985.
· Agreements with seven local hospitals in the 1980’s to admit unemployed and poor people 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.
· 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 fore-closure 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 wage 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 the 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 workouts prevented thousands of foreclosures through the Mortgage Foreclosure Diversion Program.
· 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 statewide and nearly 4,000 in Philadelphia with wages of up to $13 per hour.
· We organized to fight the cutoff of Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC). 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 people 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.
· PUP has brought together a broad statewide coalition called Raise the Wage PA to advocate for at least a $10.10 state minimum wage. Numerous statewide actions have been organized but hard-core Republican opposition blocked the increase.
· We have been organizing to expand our innovative reverse commute program called Commuter Options. We are successfully raising the issue of an inequitable mass transportation system for inner city residents.
· Organized widespread public support for reform of the nation’s healthcare system, including building a statewide coalition, the PA Health Access Network.