Hunger strikers end protest over school funding

Hunger strikers were moved to the School District's headquarters to end their protest with a small ceremony.
Hunger strikers were moved to the School District's headquarters to end their protest with a small ceremony. (ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff Photographer)
Posted: July 03, 2013

A dozen cafeteria workers and other Philadelphia School District employees ended their two-week hunger strike Monday following the tentative resolution of the school funding crisis that had imperiled their jobs.

The union members of Unite Here Local 634 held a small ceremony in front of District offices on North Broad Street to celebrate the budget resolution that they said was achieved in part as a result of their tactics. Employees had traded turns fasting over 15 days to protest the planned dismissal of 1,202 lunchtime aides as part of an effort to close the School District's $304 million budget shortfall.

On Sunday night, Gov. Corbett unveiled a school rescue package that could provide the District with up to $274 million and allow the rehiring of some of the workers laid off Monday. Those who had fasted, many in wheelchairs due to what they described as fast-induced frailty, said they believed the rescue plan had been directly influenced by their campaign.

"All of the news beforehand was: Accept it. It's going to happen and the state wasn't going to fund us," Mark Karcz, 33, a second-year teacher at Olney Charter High School, said after breaking his weekend fast. "Three weeks later, we're getting regular attention and the budget was successfully changed."

The hunger strike began with four people; a second wave of strikers relieved them after about a week.

One of the initial four, Patricia Norris, 56, a food service assistant, said she was surprised that more workers did not join.

"It hurts me to my heart to not see people out here like they should be, because a lot of people that got layoff letters [are] not even here," Norris said.


Contact Theodore Schleifer at 215-854-5607, tschleifer@phillynews.com, or follow @teddyschleifer on Twitter.

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