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Sign the Petition–Pittsburgh Deserves Paid Sick Days!

Everyone gets sick, but not everyone has time to get better. At least 43 million people don’t have a single paid sick day to recover from common, short-term illnesses, 50,000 Pittsburghers don’t have the right to earn paid sick days. Do you?

Our nation’s failure to establish a basic paid sick days standard has never been so apparent and it’s costing workers, families, businesses, public health and our economy.

Government officials advise you to stay home (or keep your children at home) during outbreaks, but workers without paid sick days don’t have that option, and we all risk getting sick as a result. It’s a public health crisis and you can do something about it.
Please sign the petition to support Paid Sick Days:

Dear City Council Members,

Right now 50,000 Pittsburghers are denied access to paid sick days.

Without paid sick days, workers are often forced to make impossible choices when illness strikes: stay home, lose pay and risk their jobs; or go to work sick and put the health of themselves and their co-workers and community at risk.

Beyond the devastating cost to families, businesses lose $160 billion dollars a year in lost productivity when workers work sick and sick food and service workers are a public health risk.

Stand with working families, business, and everyone in the city and pass paid sick days now!







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Money for Jobs and Education, Not Tax Breaks for Corporations!

outside EQT Plaza

outside EQT Plaza

If you’ve been to an action with One Pittsburgh you know the chant. It helps us move our feet, clap our hands and it’s what we want most of all–for corporations to pay their fair share.

We are so excited about Governor Wolf’s proposal to rebalance the budget and reinvest in education and good jobs for our communities. There are some pretty simple steps that we want everyone to understand:

Step 1: Close the Delaware Loophole

Step 2: Reduce the Corporate Tax Rate to 5%

Step 3: Reinvest in jobs and education.

Let’s take this one step at a time:

Step 1: Close the Delaware Loophole.

For years One Pittsburgh activists have demanded that Harrisburg close the Delaware Loophole–a tax gimmick that allows corporations to incorporate in Delaware allowing them to dodge billions of dollars in tax payments on profits earned in Pennsylvania. Some infamous Delaware Loopers are: GE, Google, Comcast, Walmart and our own Pittsburgh Pirates.

The response from Harrisburg was consistent–

  • Corporate taxes are too high in PA!!!
  • Closing the loophole would be a job killer!!!!
  • Corporations would flee over the borders!!!!!

Enough exclamation points, let’s talk about what’s true.

  • 74% of corporations pay less than $1000 income tax to Pennsylvania because of the Delaware Loophole.
  • Pennsylvania is facing a $2 Billion shortfall in the state budget this year.
  • The average Pennsylvania taxpayer paid $847 more this year to cover the $150 billion that GE and others that use offshore tax havens skipped out on.

This is what we mean when we say corporations aren’t paying their fair share. Closing the Delaware Loophole is a great start to re balance the tax burden.

Step 2: Reduce the Corporate Tax Rate to 5%

WAIT! We’re going to cut taxes for corporations? Kind of.  Remember how we just said that most corporations pay nothing? Right, so 5% is a substantial increase for them.

So, who’s getting a tax cut then? Well, who pays PA corporate income taxes now? Small businesses make up the lion’s share. A business with the smallest margin of profit, a pillar in our community, pays more in corporate income tax than the top 10 corporate earners combined because those top corporate earners in this state pay 0%.

By closing the Delaware Loophole and requiring combined reporting those big profitable corporations will have to pay their fair share.  And what about those little guys?  They get a break. PA corporate tax rate will be reduced from 10-5%.

This corporate “tax break” is actually relief for small businesses and increases taxes on the other 70% who have been playing accounting tricks.

Step 3: Reinvest in jobs and education.

We’ve talked about money for education in our last post on the budget. Did you miss it? Take a look here.

Pennsylvania was 50th in job growth from 2011-2014. We can do better. We will do better. Looking forward to the Governor’s proposed budget we see a few strategic investments that will create jobs.

Here are just a few of the initiatives that caught our eye.

  • An increase from $20 million to $45 million for PA First subsidies for job creation
  • $21 million, up from $6 million, for Keystone Communities, including Main Street and Elm Street programs
  • A bump in Infrastructure and Facilities Improvement Grants, from $19 million to $30 million
  • $5 million for Made in Pennsylvania Job Creation
  • $12 million for Industrial Resource Centers, including $5 million for the “IRC Manufacturing Initiative” to partner with research universities to advance manufacturing technology and commercialization

Overall Governor Wolf has proposed $1.75 Billion in job growth initiatives.

Money for Jobs and Education sounds like a winner to us.

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2015 Budget: A plan to fund our schools

tom wolf budget 2015

One of the most important parts of Gov. Wolf’s proposed budget is the focus on education. In under two years we can restore the $1 Billion in Corbett cuts and increase the percentage of dollars each school district receives from the state, while relieving the tax burden on working families. It all seems too good to be true, but it’s not, and we are going to explain where the money to fund our schools will come from.

Every school district in the commonwealth felt the sting of Tom Corbett’s four years as governor. He syphoned money from our schools, while giving tax breaks to the super wealthy and his friends in the shale drilling business. Classrooms swelled with students, sometimes cramming 50 deep for a math class. Hard working and promising teachers lost their jobs because districts couldn’t afford to keep them–over 20,000 educators across the state. Programs were cut, and our kids saw essentials like art, music and gym all but disappear from their schedules.

To see the impact of the proposed budget on your school district click here and select your school district.

Communities across the Commonwealth are organizing to fight back and demand a full and fair funding model. Together we elected a governor who values education as much as we do. We need to continue to demand the education funding be restored, by taxing the shale industry, just like every other state does, and just like Wolf proposed.

Restore School Funding 

Gov. Wolf proposes to finance our investment in education with a 5% severance tax on shale drillers. It’s about time Pennsylvanians see super rich oil companies to pay their taxes. For too long Pennsylvania has been an all you can eat buffet for the industry, but we are done with business as usual. Over time, this investment will not only fill the gap left by Corbett’s drastic cuts it will, along with other tax reforms, increase basic education spending by 7% so that we can actually invest in a more equitable future for our children.

Reforming Charter School Funding

This budget reforms charter school funding in two significant ways:

  • recalculating cyber charter funding. This will ensure that on-line programs have a payment limit and no longer receive the same payments as a brick and mortar schools who have significantly different overhead costs
  • prohibiting the charter pension “double-dip” that reimburses charter and cyber charter schools twice for the same employee costs.

Tax Relief for the Middle Class 

Right now, the state provides 35% of a school district’s overall budget. The rest is made up with property taxes from within the district. This means that the disparity we see in public schools is directly related to the neighborhoods that surround it. A poor neighborhood has a smaller tax base to pull from than a wealthier neighborhood, feeding the inequity in our public schools. Over time, once the $1 billion in cuts have been restored, Wolf plans to increase the level of state funding to each district from 35% to 50%,allowing for property taxes to be decreased and relieving the district from over-reliance on property taxes in the future.

To see the impact of the proposed budget on your school district click here and select your school district.

Stay tuned as we break down more of the Governor’s budget, connecting the dots on corporations, taxes and what it all means to you.

 

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2015 PA Budget: Let’s go to work!

wolf budget address

Just last week Gov. Wolf announced an historic budget for Pennsylvania. Our Governor has figured out a way to: balance the budget, put money into working people’s and small businesses’ pockets, and fund our schools. At nearly 1000 pages the budget proposal can seem overwhelming. At One Pittsburgh we are hard at work reviewing all the key points of the budget, and we are going to spend the next week breaking it down, piece by piece.

The budget includes a series of bold moves by Governor Wolf who seems to have accomplished more in his first 100 days than Corbett did in his entire term. This budget proposal is evidence that Wolf is going to govern Pennsylvania in a way that values people over corporate interests.

We see One Pittsburgh’s priorities again and again in this budget proposal: restoring education funding, even increasing it over time; raising wages for working families, and finally making huge corporations and wealthy oil drillers pay their fair share. You can imagine there will be a lot of mud-slinging on the part of the super-rich, trying to confuse us as to what this budget really is.

To get you started you should know that this budget proposes to invest in schools as if our future depends on it, which it does. We can do that by requiring that rich oil companies finally start paying a reasonable severance tax for all their drilling, something every other state already does.

By closing the Delaware loophole and reducing the corporate income tax simultaneously Gov. Wolf has found a way to reward those small businesses who make up the lion’s share of taxes paid on corporate income and hold accountable the 70% of corporations operating in Pennsylvania who don’t pay any corporate income tax.

Before we go into more detail, here is an infographic that could help understand the budget proposal.

gov wolf budget infographic

 

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Join The People’s Lobby for a #fairbudget

We had an awesome time in Harrisburg yesterday. If you weren’t with us, don’t worry! You can still add your voice to the chorus calling for change in this year’s budget.

Click here! Email your legislator-demand that our priorities are central to the PA Budget

 We need Pennsylvania to get back on track. That starts with a state budget that reflects the priorities of working families — properly funded schools, quality community services, good jobs and affordable healthcare.

One Pittsburgh rolled with two full buses yesterday and we joined hundreds of other activists from all corners of the Commonwealth to deliver a loud and clear message to our elected leaders. After years of budget cuts, it’s time for a new direction. Enough is enough.

We can restore funding for education, services for those in need and create family-sustaining jobs. It’s time to make powerful corporations finally pay their fair share by stopping corporations from abusing tax loopholes and making oil and gas companies fulfill their responsibility to the state with a reasonable severance tax.

The moment is now and legislators must hear us: Pennsylvania’s working families need Good Jobs, Quality Care and Healthy Communities!

Click here! Email your legislator-demand that our priorities are central to the PA Budget

Here are some photos of the day and a story from the local TV news.  To see more you should like the One Pittsburgh facebook page and get at us on twitter.

  Hundreds rally for “Good Jobs and Healthy Communities”

Watch the great clip at http://fox43.com/2015/02/26/hundreds-rally-for-good-jobs-and-healthy-communities

With less than a week until the new budget debate starts in Harrisburg, hundreds of people rallied at the capital for what they call a fair financial plan.

Parents, workers, and taxpayers from across the state came together for the “Good Jobs and Healthy Communities” rally on Thursday. They want Governor Tom Wolf and state lawmakers to support community services and create jobs with wages that can support families. They also want Wolf to increase funding for schools.

“I want to see the shale companies taxed so that public education can be well funded,” Lancaster United Church of Christ Pastor Naomi Leaphart said, “I’m a product of public education; I used to teach in public schools in Philadelphia, and so I know what it’s like to do much with little and our students deserve more than that. So I want to see a budget that is balanced and invest in public schools like our kids deserve. ”

Governor Wolf will deliver his first budget address on Tuesday

 

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Do you think it’s time to Raise the Wage?

YES? You’re not alone!

2.9 Raise the Wage Sign

This year the National Employment Law Project (NELP), released their recent survey that shows how Americans really feel about the minimum wage. We were surprised by the massive support there is for raising wages in this country.

Two out of every three people in this country support an increase to $15.00 an hour by 2020. More than 75% of people surveyed supported a minimum wage increase to $12.50 an hour. America still believes in family supporting wages.

Big money, and the politicians they get elected, are way off base when it comes to the American people and where we stand on the issue of wages. While they cry “job creation” and point to the unemployment numbers’ decline we have been watching our wages stagnate while the NASDAQ and corporate profits reach record highs.

Let’s get real about where most low wage workers are employed. Retail, Foodservice/Hospitality and Healthcare. The companies leading these industries are laughing all the way to the bank.

Wal-Mart and McDonald’s employ millions of people around the world.

raise up pgh FFTheir profits are in the billions every year. The first family of Walmart, the Walton’s, are worth $152 Billion. To put that in perspective–it’s as much as the worth of the bottom 40% of Americans. 127 Million people’s wealth combined is less than the 6 Walton heirs are worth.

At the same time their shareholders are doing just fine: Walmart profited $129 Billion in 2014.

Everyone knows that you can’t survive on $7.25 — which is why the vast majority of minimum wage workers live below the poverty line and qualify for government assistance in the form of food stamps, Medicaid or housing assistance. In no single state can a person work full time at minimum wage and still afford 2 bedroom apartment.

rent's too damn high

In Pennsylvania Wal-Mart employs nearly 50,000 people. Over 15% of them are on Medicaid.  Fast Food is even worse.  With over 50% of their employees on government assistance their minimum wages come with a supersize of taxpayer subsidy. The other big employer who rounds out the top three in PA with number of employees on Medicaid is UPMC–University of Pittsburgh Medical Center; another multi million dollar a year corporation.

It’s time to raise wages. Employers can afford it. Voters and taxpayers are ready for it. And working people deserve to make a living wage.

 

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It’s time to make work pay!

Feb. 9, activists from all over the state converged in Harrisburg for an afternoon of workshops and direct action to Raise the Wage in Pennsylvania.

2.9 Raise the Wage March 3

One week ago One Pittsburgh joined with 300 activists from all over the commonwealth to launch Raise the Wage PA.  After a day of workshops and strategizing we marched to the Capitol with Lt. Governor Mike Stacks to demand an increase for over 200,000 minimum wage workers in Pennsylvania.

Lower-wage industries accounted for 22 percent of job losses during the recession, but 44 percent of employment growth over the past four years. Today, lower-wage industries employ 1.85 million more workers than at the start of the recession. At the same time we continue to see inequality growing here in Pennsylvania. The top 1% of the wealthiest Pennsylvanians captured 125% of the wealth grown in the state over the last three years. The rich are getting richer while the rest of us are barely getting by.

NELP_Employment_Low_Wage_Growth_615

So many people in Harrisburg on the 9th came together to fight back: small business owners, faith leaders, community activists, elected leaders. This coalition is proof that we are already winning. We must remain vigilant and dedicated to raising wages because we know that good jobs make strong communities. We also know that there are people invested in maintaining our low wage economy. Big low wage employers, like McDonalds and Walmart, and their lobbyists from the Chamber of Commerce are going to try their hardest to defeat this bill. They are not going to give up without a fight.

There is a strong piece of legislation in Harrisburg right now that will raise the minimum wage to $10.10/hr and ensure annual cost of living increases. At the same time Senator Wagner has proposed a lesser bill that would phase in minimal fifty cent increases to the already minimal wage. We can’t let the legislature pass a sub-par bill. Many of the activists in Harrisburg on the 9th felt the same way; which is why they ended the day of planning to go home and meet with their legislators during the week of March 9th. Email us at info@onepittsburgh.org to join the fight and make a better future for the commonwealth.

2.9 Raise the Wage Sign

We know that the Minimum Wage is going to be a big part of the PA Budget negotiations this year. Many of us are traveling to Harrisburg on February 26th, joining other activists who want to make sure the Governor understand what our priorities are before he gives his State of the State address on the 3rd. Click here if you would like to be a part of that trip.

 

 

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Raise the Wage because Black Lives Matter

raise the wage sign being held

In honor of the legacy of Dr. King, One Pittsburgh spent an afternoon together and went to see Selma. We were inspired and also a little  saddened. There is so much to learn from and celebrate in the legacy of MLK and other SCLC and SNCC organizers. The movie brought to life the real voices of an era that changed the course of this nation. Sadly, we also know too well that deep economic and racial injustice prevent our communities from really thriving today.

We’ve been thinking about the deaths of Michael Brown, John Crawford, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, and countless others, and we see that the people who suffer in the low wage economy, who attend under-resourced public schools, and who are bullied by employers are far too often the same people who suffer violence from the police, in the courts, and in our polling places. We understand that economic and state violence have a deep relationship.

That’s why in 2015, the demands of 1965 echo in our hearts. We are still fighting for an end to police brutality, racial profiling and poverty. We are still advocating for a living wage for all working people, fair and resourced education and the right to vote unencumbered. We are in this together and when we stick together we can make real change.

In 2015, we intend to make progress on living wages.

We believe that a living wage is required for our communities to thrive. We also understand the historically racist policies that create systems of poverty and create a captive and disposable workforce. Corporations have recorded exponential profits for decades while we fall further and further behind. Wages are stagnant and people of color are losing ground faster than their white counterparts. A living wage is, and always will be, a civil and human rights issue.

#notlovinracism

Fast food workers showing support for workers who were fired for being black in South Boston, VA.

In 2015, we intend to call a halt to racial discrimination

One Pittsburgh activists stand in Solidarity with the #blacklivesmatter movement sparked in in part by the protests in Ferguson, and we also stand with the fast food workers, the UPMC workers and Walmart workers in the Fight for $15. We stand by the work of We Change Pittsburgh pushing back against police violence in Pittsburgh. We stand with these movements fighting for change because they are inter-connected.

Dr. King once asked, “What does it profit a man to be able to eat at an integrated lunch counter if he doesn’t earn enough money to buy a hamburger and a cup of coffee?”

That’s the question we need to be asking today as we fight to end racial and economic inequality. That’s the work of One Pittsburgh in 2015.

If you haven’t already–please sign the petition to Raise the PA Minimum Wage to $15 and we will continue to stay in touch on what’s next for One Pittsburgh.

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Who’s really paying taxes in Pennsylvania?

Does it feel like the tax structure is rigged and the odds are against you? The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy released a report this week proving you right.  Unless, of course, you’re super rich.

This is a chart of the national average of percentage of income paid in state and local taxes.

This is a chart of the national average of percentage of income paid in state and local taxes.

The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP)releases studies on our country’s taxation and economic policies. Their most recent findings has shed a light on what One Pittsburgh has been saying all along, that it’s time for the rich to start paying their fair share.

This interactive map details the tax structure in all 50 states. In Pennsylvania the bottom 20% of income earners (people making $20,000 or less a year) pay a total of 12% of their income to state and local taxes, while the top 1% of income earners in Pennsylvania (people making more than $426,000 annually) pay only 4.2% of their total income to state and local taxes.

The people who can most afford to contribute pay way less, as a percentage of their income, than the lowest 20%. Let that sink in for a minute.

The system is broken and the cracks are starting to show. Pennsylvania’s state budget is on track to have a $2 Billion deficit in 2015. We have an education system which is sorely underfunded and infrastructure needs that are downright scary.

It’s time for corporations, and their wealthy CEOs, to start paying their fair share in Pennsylvania. Not one more school should close so that one more rich man can count his profits. Not one more bridge should crumble while corporations pad their bottom line.

We are organized and we have worked hard to elect new leadership in Harrisburg. Governor Wolf wants to turn this tax structure on its head but he can’t do it alone. He’s facing a Republican led legislature who are committed to his failure. Republicans in Harrisburg have already said that they want to protect corporate interests and take another whack at working people with cost cuts and pension reform.

We, as an organized community, need to continue to let Wolf, and the legislature, know that we expect all of them to do the right thing.

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OUR 2015 Resolutions for Harrisburg

WP Featured Image For EK

On January 6, legislators were sworn into office in Harrisburg. At the same time dozens of students, teachers, parents and community activists braved the chilling weather in order to let those incoming legislators know that we expect some changes in 2015. One Pittsburgh was joined by Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers (PFT), SEIU 32BJ, and the Black Student Union at CAPA High School, as we released our resolutions for the coming year.

Those resolutions are:

-Invest in education by restoring the $1 billion cut by Gov. Tom Corbett  We are committed to ensuring that every child in Pennsylvania has access to a great public school. We will have to restore Corbett’s cuts from education funding and raise even more money to improve Pennsylvania’s future. That’s why One Pittsburgh helped start Great Public Schools (GPS) Pittsburgh and joined the national Alliance to Reclaim our Schools (AROS)It’s time to put PA’s future first and start investing in our schools again.

-Increase access to healthcare with real Medicaid Expansion It’s time to use the federal dollars set aside for PA to expand Medicaid and provide 500,000 Pennsylvanians with affordable healthcare. It’s the right thing to do and will make PA healthier and wealthier in the long run.

-Raise the minimum wage to $15.  Every single state surrounding PA has raised their minimum wage, leaving working Pennsylvanians behind. Right now, $7.25 and full time adds up to about $15,000 a year. For an adult with only one child, that means they still qualify for government subsidies like food stamps and housing. People who work full time should be able to support themselves without having to rely on government programs. It’s time to raise the wage in PA.

-Close the Delaware Loophole The Delaware Loophole, which allows corporations to open a POBox and register their company in Delaware, avoiding PA income taxes, cost the commonwealth hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue every year. The problem is so bad that 74% of corporations in PA pay zero state income taxes.

-Make Marcellus Shale drillers pay their fair share. Pennsylvania is one of the only states that does not charge an extraction tax for natural gas. Oil companies are making more money than ever, they could certainly afford to pay their fair share. Taxing Shale Gas at the same rate as our neighbors in Ohio, goes a long way to fixing our state budget.  

Below is a speech, which tells the story of school funding cuts. Alexis Payne, a member of the Black Student Union, and a senior, at CAPA wrote and delivered these remarks. We were so moved by it we thought we would share.  

If you are similarly moved and want to send a note to Alexis just email us at info@onepittsburgh.org.  We will make sure that she gets it.

Good afternoon. My name is Alexis Payne and I am a 12th grade student at Pittsburgh CAPA. My school is right across the street from you. It is different from a lot of schools in this district. We have one of the highest graduation rates and the environment at my school is something that is rarely found in other places; it is generally positive and the students in my classes generally really want to learn. We are not at all superior students. We come from the same neighborhoods as the kids at our home schools. The only difference between our school and others is that we have art.

Alexis PayneHistorically and through my own observations, I have learned that art has the capacity to make people see the world in a different way.  It produces an unprecedented amount of empathy for the struggles of others and it makes people see things outside of themselves and gain a much wider scope of the world.

At other schools however, arts programs are being cut completely. Students not only lack opportunity to study things like music and dance and creative writing but they also lack the opportunity to study in healthy environments. I have first-hand knowledge of what it is like to be in a classroom with more than thirty students. Teachers are unable to teach effectively and students fall significantly behind because of the lack of specific attention given to them.

The most ridiculous thing about all of this though is that the schools that are most affected are the schools that need the most help. The schools in minority and lower-income neighborhoods are the ones where education cuts affect the most. The students who need the most attention in order to succeed are forced to be in classes where teachers don’t have the time or the resources to teach. Some of these same students are often given few creative outlets and resulting in a significantly  more narrow worldview.

In this way, the issue of budget cuts to education is largely an issue of racial and class equality. While students in wealthier districts with often predominately white populations have opportunities to study art in classes with 15 students, students in districts like this one are placed inside four walls with dozens of other young people with little opportunity to look beyond the realm of their own existence.

In this legislative session, please consider these issues, please remember these students and please consider the effect that your votes have on their lives.

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