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Rally and March for State Workers in Philadelphia


Rally and March for State Workers in Philadelphia

By John Oliver Mason

State employees, affiliated with Local 668 of Service Employees International Union (SEIU), held a rally at JFK Plaza (aka Love Park), 15th Street and JKF Boulevard in Philadelphia, on Monday, June 3, 2013.

The rally participants protested cuts in services to the handicapped and indigent proposed by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett, whom the protestors called “One Term Tom.”

Christine Haftl, a participant in the rally, said, “I want to support the people who are caseworkers in the Department of Public Welfare.” Governor Corbett, she said, “is trying to slash benefits, especially Food Stamps and other benefits for poor people who are trying to survive in this economy. (There are) three people for every job that’s out there, and (Corbett) already took away the cash benefits for anyone that didn’t have dependents. There are a lot of people relying on those cash benefits, people who are fighting drug and alcohol addiction who need to go to rehab and want to get clean and become healthy and productive members of society, (also) homeless people trying to get off the street and reestablish themselves and reenter the work force…A lot of (homeless people) have kids, a lot of them are couples, a lot of them have nowhere to go at this time.”

Also, disabled people, added Haftl, “want to have jobs, they want to work, and a lot of disabled people just can’t work, and they need (cash assistance) to survive.” Meanwhile, Governor Corbett has given money to the (natural gas industry which has performed hydraulic “fracking” polluting water tables across Pennsylvania and across the country.”

Ray Martinez, a member of the staff on Local 668, said that the rally “is mainly to send a message to the governor, (who) is not being very kind to us. He’s anti-labor, anti-worker, anti-middle class, a typical Republican who cares about giving tax breaks to the major corporations, and (for) blaming all of our problems on government workers, in this case state workers. We’re in the middle of a budget battle, where he is not funding our programs, he’s cutting them by twenty percent. So our programs, which are already under funded, are now, based on this budget, are going to be (funded) below” what they are now.

Martinez added, “We represent a lot of folks who work in the social services, and folks need services. The economy is bad, people are unemployed, people need mental health counseling, and (Governor Corbett) seems to be anti all of that.”

The rally began with the chanting of such slogans as:

“Who’s got the power?
We got the power!
What kind of power?
Union power!”

“What’s disgusting?
Union busting!”

“Union yes! Corbett no!
Union busting has to go!”

Ray Martinez addressed the crowd, saying, “This is part two of what we started earlier today. We started a day of action which took part all over the state, and specifically in Philly, at all the welfare offices and some other state agencies as well. we want to send a message to the Governor…who is clearly anti-worker, anti-middle class. We have to fight this guy, we can’t sit back.”

After the rally, members marched and chanted to the entrance of the Bellevue Hotel, Broad and Walnut streets, where the governor’s Philadelphia office is located.