Interfaith organization wants Philadelphia Airport expansion project to benefit city’s unemployed

A faith-based community group wants the planned airport expansion in Philadelphia to directly benefit the city’s unemployed workforce. The massive construction project could create more than 40,000 jobs.

On Monday, June 18, POWER’s Northwest Quadrant group will host the third installment of the Philadelphia Economic Justice Forum at 6:45 p.m.

The forum will be held at St. Raymond’s Catholic Church located at 1350 Vernon Rd. in the Cedarbrook section of Philadelphia.

During the forum, the group will present proposals to city council members that they believe can change the state of poverty such as training programs to ensure neighborhood members have the skills to do work, a first source hiring program so the struggling unemployed will have a crack at least a portion of the airport expansion jobs as well as apprenticeship program.

POWER members also want all jobs to provide living wages and health benefits. Philadelphia City Councilmember Cindy Bass, Marion Tasco, Jim Kenney and Dennis O’brien have all been invited to the forum.

“People who have been unemployed for a long time have lost confidence in themselves and their skills have gotten rusty so they can’t expect to just jump in and be able do the job, there has to be a training program and a pipe line,” said Carol Duncan, a member of Power’s Northwest Quadrant. “We understand that we need partnerships and to build relationship with city council and other partners such as SEPTA to help build that pipeline.”

The group hopes to propose that the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) will expand its hiring process as well as routes to ensure newly hired airport employees will be able to get to work.

While the unemployed is typically overlooked and viewed as “lazy”, Duncan believes our cultural structures favor those with money in turn crushing those that do not have money.

“When you lose your job, it happens that you can lose your house, marriage, family and everything crumbles down,” said Duncan. “Unless you have a community to support you, it’s almost impossible to get back in your feet.”

She maintained by saying that the faith community need to recognize that everyone is vulnerable and responsible to their neighbors and in conjunction with the people need to decide to stand up and speak or it will get worse so they have to speak and act together.

POWER is an acronym for Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower and Rebuild. It is a form of faith-based community organizing that aims to bring about justice in the region by strengthening and mobilizing network relationships.

The northwest quadrant group was modeled after movements in Chicago and Los Angeles that arranged with their city government to have a community benefits agreement to ensure the residents benefited from the airport expansions.

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