Philadelphia residents hunger strike for safe schools, 2013

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Timing
Time Period:  
Time period notes: 
The campaign ended briefly after a 15 day strike, when they thought the school district would fulfill their demands. However, when the school district failed to rehire student safety staff, they resumed their strike for one day in August.
17 June
2013
to
14 August
2013
Location and Goals
Location City/State/Province: 
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Goals: 
The goal of the campaign was to restore the budget for Philadelphia's public schools and rehire the student safety staff that were laid off.
 

On 7 June 2013, the School District of Philadelphia (SDP) announced the firing of more than 3,700 employees, as a result of cuts in the school district’s budget. Of the employees laid off, 1,202 were noontime aides, who helped ensure the safety of students: they formed relationships with students and intervened and defused conflict when necessary.

Parents, students, and other Philadelphia residents reacted with anger and disappointment at the district’s decision. Governor Corbett had until 30 June to reform the budget, which would enable the rehiring of these employees, including the aides. UNITE HERE, a labor union that represented the aides, organized a hunger strike to protest against the district. Four engaged in the hunger strike, two parents and two cafeteria workers. They camped out in front of Governor Corbett’s Philadelphia office and announced they would reject all food and drink only water until the district reformed the budget and rehired the aides. The strike began on 17 June 2013. UNITE HERE coined the strike “Fast for Safe Schools.”

Strikers stayed outside Governor Corbett’s office from 8 a.m. - 8 p.m. every day of the strike. During the day, others occasionally joined to show their support for the fasters. Some slept overnight at a local church. On 24 June, the original protesters had to stop fasting because of health concerns. Another group of parents and concerned individuals stepped in and took over the strike.

The strikers had the support of politicians as well. On 28 June, 15 politicians vowed to fast for 24 hours in a symbolic show of support. Among these politicians were state senators, state representatives, and Bob Brady, US congressman. That same day, 28 June, strikers hand-delivered a petition with over 1,000 signatures to Governor Corbett’s office.

Finally, Governor Corbett signed an emergency budget, restoring $140 million to the school budget in Philadelphia. While this budget fell short of the demanded amount, the strikers called off the fifteen day hunger strike, and considered their campaign a partial success. In a statement, one of the fasters, Nicole Hunt, stated, “Today, we are celebrating an important, if incomplete, victory for our kids. The state budget does not do all that it should do for our schools, but we know that SDP can choose to prioritize safety.” The strikers expected that the new budget would be enough to rehire most of the student safety staff.

However, by mid-August, despite the new budget, the student safety staff had not been rehired. On 14 August, a group of about 100 Philadelphia parents, students, and other concerned citizens resumed the hunger strike for one day. They gathered on the steps in front of the School District of Philadelphia’s headquarters and did not eat from 8 a.m. - 8 p.m, with periodic rallies. Some even set up tents for the day. At 5:00 pm that day, the strikers marched and rallied at the headquarters. Many held signs that said “Let us keep kids safe!” and wore shirts that read “Fast for Safe Schools”. This was the largest number of hunger strikers during the Fast for Safe Schools.

The resumed strike sent a powerful message to the school district. On 21 August 2013, SDP rehired 1,136 of the previously laid off student safety workers, sending them recall letters in the mail.

Research Notes
Sources: 
Cohorst, Meghan. (2013). “Nearly 100 Parents, Clergy, Students and Staff Resume Fast for Safe Schools as Funding Deadline Looms.” 14 August 2013. Web site: UNITE HERE Real Food Real Jobs. Retrieved from: https://web.archive.org/web/20170405225525/http://www.realfoodrealjobs.org/2013/08/nearly-100-parents-clergy-students-and-staff-resume-fast-for-safe-schools-as-funding-deadline-looms/

Cohorst, Meghan. (2013). “Parents, Staff Break 15-day Fast for Safe Schools on Positive Note!” 1 July 2013. Web site: UNITE HERE Real Food Real Jobs. Retrieved from: https://web.archive.org/web/20170405225629/http://www.realfoodrealjobs.org/2013/07/parents-staff-break-15-day-fast-for-safe-schools-on-positive-note/

Cohorst, Meghan. (2013). “Philadelphia School District Recalls Nearly All Student Safety Staff.” 23 August 2013. Web site: UNITE HERE Real Food Real Jobs. Retrieved from: https://web.archive.org/web/20170405225700/http://www.realfoodrealjobs.org/2013/08/philadelphia-school-district-recalls-nearly-all-student-safety-staff/

Glover, Sarah. (2013). “Hunger Strikers Get Support From Outsiders.” 28 June 2013. Web site: NBC Philadelphia. Retrieved from: https://web.archive.org/web/20170405225723/http://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/news/politics/Hunger-Strikers-Believe-in-Safe-Schools-213560721.html

Klein, Rebecca. (2013). “Philadelphia ‘Fast For Safe Schools’: 15 Politicians Join The Hunger Strike.” 28 June 2013. Web site: The Huffington Post. Retrieved from: https://web.archive.org/web/20170405225806/http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/28/philadelphia-fast-politicians-safe-schools_n_3517676.html

Resnikoff, Ned. (2013). “Hunger strike against school closures begins in Philadelphia.” 17 June 2013. Web site: MSNBC. Retrieved from: https://web.archive.org/web/20170405225843/http://www.msnbc.com/all-in/hunger-strike-against-school-closures-begins

Schafer, Kyle. (2013). “Inaction on Student Safety Prompts Philadelphia Parents, Clergy and Staff to take Fast for Safe Schools to District Headquarters.” 17 June 2013. Web site: UNITE HERE Real Food Real Jobs. Retrieved from: https://web.archive.org/web/20160209221514/http://www.realfoodrealjobs.org/2013/06/phillyfastlaunch/

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Ploy Promrat 05/04/2017