Rep. Fiedler, colleagues host No More Excuses, End Toxic Schools rally

HARRISBURG, June 16 -- Labor leaders and lawmakers from across Pennsylvania took to the steps of the Capitol in Harrisburg on Wednesday morning to hold a Labor for Schools Rally. The group called for the legislature to take bold, job-creating, life-saving action and remediate the lead, asbestos and other toxins currently in schools across the commonwealth.

Rep. Elizabeth Fiedler, D-Phila, who organized the rally, joined with nearly four dozen colleagues from the House and Senate to demand action and to push back on the excuse that Pennsylvania does not have the funds to fix schools.

“We can use just a portion of the $7 billion in federal funding that has already been sent to PA to this substantive investment in public buildings from Philly to Scranton to Allegheny County,” Fiedler said. “We could create thousands of jobs — good paying, union jobs!”

The lawmakers were joined by Rosemary Boland, Scranton Federation of Teachers; Arthur Steinberg, American Federation of Teachers; Nicole Hunt, Unite HERE 634; Aaron Chapin, PSEA; Darrin Kelly, Allegheny-Fayette County Central Labor Council; Frank Snyder and Sarah Hammond, PA AFL-CIO.

Fiedler was joined at the rally by 33 House members from across PA, including Rep. Austin Davis, D- Allegheny, and Rep. Kyle Mullins, D- Lackawanna. Nine senators joined the rally, led by Sen. Vincent Hughes, D-Phila., and Sen. Lindsey Williams, D-Allegheny.

Hughes spoke powerfully on the issue, saying, “What message are we sending to our children, when we send them into buildings that are crumbling, that are poisonous, that are toxic, that are infested? We have the money to fix these things, it's time to put it to work.”

“Oftentimes we’ve heard the excuse that we don’t have the resources to invest in fixing our school buildings,” Davis said, “well this year we do.”

Mullins also remarked on the opportunity this funding provides, saying, “We have a plan that tells our kids and their teachers that we hear you and your safety is worth the fight.”

“We stand here in solidarity with the workers who are ready to safely and effectively do this work,” Fiedler said. “We stand in solidarity with the 5- and 6-year-old children whose lungs, hearts and brains are still developing while they sit in toxic buildings. We stand here today with principals, teachers and staff who have chosen to devote their lives to education and care work.”

Hughes and Fiedler have collaborated on a bill which would allocate $600 million of ARP funds to the Department of Education for grants that will finally allow communities across the state to have the safe, healthy school buildings they deserve. This bill fits into a larger vision that House and Senate Democrats have put forward on how to use the federal relief funds to best support families and communities across PA.

Speakers included:

  • State Rep. Elizabeth Fiedler, D-Phila.
  • State Sen. Vincent Hughes, D-Phila.
  • State Rep. Kyle Mullins, D-Lackawanna.
  • State Rep. Austin Davis, D-Allegheny.
  • State Sen. Lindsey Williams, D-Allegheny.
  • Rosemary Boland, Scranton Federation of Teachers.
  • Arthur Steinberg, American Federation of Teachers.
  • Nicole Hunt, Unite HERE 634.
  • Aaron Chapin, PSEA.
  • Darrin Kelly, Allegheny-Fayette County Central Labor Council.
  • Sarah Hammond, PA AFL-CIO.