From Jobs With Justice Executive Director Erica Smiley: Minneapolis Police Union Must be Held Accountable for the Murder of George Floyd

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                      

Friday, May 29, 2020 

Contact: Jessica Felix Romero, Jobs With Justice, jessica@jwj.org202-393-1044 x104 

WashingtonDC – In response to the recently publicized targeting, attacking, and killing of Black Americans at the hands of both police and neighbors, Jobs With Justice Executive Director Erica Smiley gave the following statement on the toxic situations within local police unions and our communities: 

“While Jobs With Justice supports all workers who wish to form a union and have a voice on the job, the death of George Floyd at the hands of police is yet another example of local police union that spends more time nurturing a culture of white supremacy and violence than democratizing the workplace.  

Police officers should not be above the law, and should not be able to negotiate conditions that put them above the law. Derek Chauvin, the officer who murdered George Floyd, had 18 previous complaints against him — but his local ‘union,’ the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis, helped prevent his removal. 

In the past, when a local union gets caught up in criminal activity, they’re trusteed by national union affiliates to democratize.  How many times does Bob Kroll’s police union in Minneapolis  the makers of the Cops for Trump t-shirts — have to murder Black people before they are held accountable? In addition to fairly prosecuting the officers responsible for Floyd’s death, this union must be ‘un-mobbed’ and held accountable for the benefit of both its members and the community it operates within. 

But make no mistake — the systemic racism in our society has infected much more than just local police unions. Black people are consistently managing the fear and anxiety of white people around them in everyday situations many times, with their lives. As I recently collected take-out from a local business with my daughter, I simultaneously had to correctly guess the anxiety levels of the white woman in front of me who seemed to be following my every move. I was worried she might think I’d kidnapped my pale-skinned child and call the policeThe same anxiety likely existed in Ahmaud Arbery, as he tried to jog around that pick-up truck, or in George Floyd as he tried to reason with police officers who automatically considered him a ‘dangerous’ suspect. Unlike them, I escaped the situation with my life 

This pandemic has exposed our deadliest weaknesses  our lack of public health investment, our bankrupt healthcare infrastructure, an economic system that treats women and people of color as expendable, and of course our racist system of policing to uphold that economic system. But it is also making our calls for justice louder, and more unified, than ever. We can — we must — come out of this situation with a more just and equitable America. We the People demand it.” 

Erica Smiley is the first Black woman to lead Jobs With Justice as Executive Director.  

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Founded in 1987, Jobs With Justice is the country’s leading nonprofit in the fight for workplace and economic democracy. Comprising of a national network of local affiliates in nearly every state, Jobs With Justice brings together coalitions comprised of unionsworker organizations, community groups, students, and faith institutions to win concrete improvements in people’s lives. 

Philadelphia is one step closer to setting up a permanent agency to protect worker rights!

Working people in Philadelphia have fought HARD for our progressive labor laws, but laws aren’t enough if the city doesn’t have our back when it comes to enforcing them!

Photo via the Philadelphia Inquirer

On February 12th, we marched with the Coalition to Respect Every Worker (CREW) to demand:

-Independent Office of Labor
-Full Funding for Enforcement
-Worker Oversight Board, Whistleblower Protections
-Wall-to-Wall Enforcement
-Community Regrants for Worker Outreach!

On February 13th, City Council UNANIMOUSLY passed a bill to establish an independent office of labor! From the Inquirer:

The bill — introduced by Councilmembers Helen Gym and Bobby Henon in partnership with the Kenney administration — would pose this question to voters in the April primary: Should the city create a permanent Department of Labor that would enforce city labor laws and function as a front door for all worker-related issues?

The question has to be put to voters because it requires a city charter change.

Right now, the Mayor’s Office of Labor, created under the Kenney administration, provides these services, but advocates fear a future mayor with different priorities could scrap the office all together.

This effort is part of a broader push by advocates and organizers for stronger labor law enforcement in a city that’s passed some of the most progressive pro-worker legislation in the country but has historically failed to both educate workers about these laws and enforce them.

That started to change in the last year, as advocates who pushed for these laws set their sights on enforcement. Advocates won a modest increase in funding for the Mayor’s Office of Labor, which grew its budget to nearly $1.1 million this year and doubled its staff to six. The number of complaints filed by workers to the office quadrupled from 2018 to 2019 to nearly 100.

Photo via the Philadelphia Inquirer

We’re Hiring a Field Organizer!

We are seeking a field organizer to expand our work on an innovative warehouse and logistics worker organizing project. This organizer will be based in our Philadelphia office, but will be expected to travel regularly throughout Southeastern PA.

Primary responsibilities:

  • Supporting the Director in developing an organizing plan;
  • Recruiting new members through canvassing in neighborhoods, community events, and worksites;
  • Planning and organizing membership activities, including leading workshops and meetings with members;
  • Coordinating with partner organizations;
  • Maintaining data tracking systems.

Qualifications

  • 1-3 years organizing experience, with a particular emphasis on worker organizing;
  • Excellent interpersonal skills and ability to work with people from diverse backgrounds and cultures;
  • Flexibility to work an unpredictable work schedule, including some nights and weekends;
  • Strong administrative and operations skills;
  • Demonstrated communications skills, including press and social media;
  • Experience in data tracking and online databases;
  • A valid driver’s license and access to a car;
  • A demonstrated alignment with Philadelphia Jobs With Justice’s values and mission;
  • A strong commitment to worker justice and the labor movement.
  • Oral and written fluency in both Spanish and English.

Starting salary is $40,000 depending on experience. Philadelphia Jobs With Justice offers a generous benefits package that includes paid vacation, sick leave, and medical and dental insurance.

Applications will only be accepted electronically. Email a resume, cover letter, and three references to devan@phillyjwj.org. Applications will be considered on a rolling basis. This position will remain open until filled.

FLSA Status: exempt

People of Color, Women, People with Disabilities, LGBTQ people, and people from working class backgrounds are strongly urged to apply.

Twenty Years of Solidarity

To purchase tickets online, click here!

Twenty years ago we formed a coalition of unions and community organizations to unite to fight for economic and social justice on the job and in our communities. Over those two decades, Philadelphia JWJ has played a critical role in uniting labor unions and community groups to win bigger victories. Philadelphia JWJ lead and won four-year campaign to defend the workplace rights of Philadelphia security guards, winning major victories including wage raises and paid sick days for guards at the University of Pennsylvania, Temple University, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. We responded to Philadelphia’s public school budget crisis by launching the Good Neighbor Campaign to pressure then-Mayor Nutter to hold the city’s tax-exempt multi-billion dollar universities and hospitals accountable for paying their fair share of our school district’s budget. We’ve supported the Teamsters on strike at Wawa, we’ve fought for fair contracts and fair funding at Community College of Philadelphia, for paid sick days, for our public libraries. This year, we’ve launched innovative, membership based campaigns to win justice and dignity for low wage workers of color across the Southeastern Pennsylvania region, and played a key role in the introduction of a groundbreaking Domestic Workers Bill of Rights.

For 20 years, we’ve been there for the fights that matter most, and this year, we’re asking you to join us in celebration. On Wednesday, October 23rd from 5:30 to 7, we will be honoring several organizations and unions who have done work for justice in the past year, and we will be looking forward to the challenges ahead.

The Rain Can’t Stop Us From Fighting For Philly Students!

On Thursday March 21st, we gathered with Penn students, Penn alumni, public school students, public school teachers, and West Philly community members in front of the University’s College Hall to hear stories from those affected by the School District’s lack of funding and demand that Penn begin negotiations with the City of Philadelphia to make Payments In Lieu of Taxes.

Despite an almost $14 billion endowment and a consolidated operating budget that rivals the entire City of Philadelphia, Penn doesn’t pay taxes on billions of dollars in property holdings. This is true even though Penn and other “mega-nonprofits” do not meet the criteria for tax exemption put forth by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in 2012. Penn is the largest private landowner in the entire city and public school students are losing millions of dollars a year in funding as a result.

“Growing up just fifteen minutes from Penn, I have seen its spread into West Philadelphia and how it has displaced many families and schools in the area creating its own infamy amongst West Philly residents,” said University of Pennsylvania freshman Dallas Ryan. “I have witnessed how others have been forced to move further west or work for barely livable wages at Penn to keep their homes. We’re not asking for charity—we’re asking for the “civic Ivy” to fulfill its most basic responsibilities to the city that it calls home.”

Check out our press coverage here: Daily Pennsylvanian (and related followup), WHYY, Tribune, Public School Notebook