Jake Blumgart

Jake Blumgart is a freelance reporter-researcher living in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter.

Recent Articles

Labor’s Cautious Endorsements

In the Pennsylvania Senate race, labor organizers have rallied behind the Democratic Party’s establishment pick—a familiar pattern also on display in the presidential primary.

(Photo: AP/Abby Drey/Centre Daily Times)
(Photo: AP/Abby Drey/Centre Daily Times) From left, candidates John Fetterman, Katie McGinty, and Joe Sestak participate in a U.S. Democratic Primary Debate hosted by WPSU in University Park, Pennsylvania, on April 9. W hen Braddock, Pennsylvania, Mayor John Fetterman announced his entrance into the state’s Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, there was a surge of enthusiasm from progressive activists. The biker-bearded Fetterman looked and sounded like an alternative to the candidates who had already announced—retired Admiral Joe Sestak and ex-state official Katie McGinty—both of whom look straight out of central casting for a senator from the Northeast, with the picture-perfect records to match. Soon after Fetterman’s announcement, at a hip bar in an up-and-coming corner of Philadelphia, the candidate gave his stump speech—focused on inequality and poverty in the small former steel town he represents—to a small crowd of voters, many of whom were sporting Bernie Sanders paraphernalia...

Service Workers Fight for a Share of Philly's Revitalized Center City

An SEIU mega-local representing janitors and secruity guards rallies ahead of tough contract negotiations this fall. 

Jake Blumgart
Jake Blumgart O n a humid Wednesday afternoon, over 1,000 members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 32BJ crammed into the confines of Center City Philadelphia’s Chestnut Street, between 22 nd and 21 st Street. The crowds were decked out in the usual purple and yellow garb, with enormous flags staking out delegations from New Jersey, Delaware, and farther-flung locations. Huge speakers blasted Billy Bragg, Jimmy Cliff, and a variety of other spirit-boosting music. The youth drumming brigade, Extreme Creation, dressed in black masks and purple SEIU shirts, kept the crowd entertained as some of the city’s most powerful politicians prepared to step up to the podium. The rally is meant to kick off 32BJ’s season of contract negotiations. The mega-local covers building service workers—janitors and security guards—in office buildings up and down the Eastern Seaboard, from Florida to Boston. As part of a strategy under development since the turn of the 21 st century, 32BJ’s...

Greyhound Therapy

In many of South Jersey's counties, homeless people seeking services are offered a one-way ticket to Trenton or Atlantic City.

Flickr/Germeister W hen Thomas Jones, a native of Asbury Park on the Jersey Shore, wanted to get clean and straighten out his life, service providers in his county gave him a one-way ticket to Trenton, 60 miles away. “In Asbury Park they didn’t have assistance—no shelter, no soup kitchen,” he said. “They just push you out to Trenton or Atlantic City.” Other homeless men recounted similar stories. When they got out of prison or lost their jobs and couldn’t keep up with the bills, they sought help. Instead, they were offered one-way bus rides to the Trenton or Atlantic City, home to the Trenton and Atlantic City Rescue Missions, the only two comprehensive shelters for adults without children in the southern half of the state. The practice—shipping homeless people off to cities better-equipped to provide services—is common enough in southern New Jersey that it’s come to be known as “Greyhound Therapy.” It’s difficult to quantify given that it’s not an official policy and there is no...

Back to School for Labor

The fight for union recognition at Philadelphia’s Olney High School shows the challenges of organizing charter schools.

Courtesy of greatphillyschools.org
Courtesy of greatphillyschools.org Olney High School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania M ost people wouldn’t jump at the opportunity to attend a three-hour meeting after work hours. But on May 29, the board meeting of ASPIRA of Pennsylvania, a non-profit that runs four charters schools in Philadelphia, was packed with teachers, students, and other staff members. Holding signs that read “Let’s Work Together,” a group of 30 from the Olney Charter High School quietly sat through the last board meeting of the academic year, waiting to hear if ASPIRA would continue to resist their efforts to unionize. The public-comment period didn’t begin until 9:00 p.m., with a strict two-minute limit for every speaker. Olney staffers got around the rule. Instead of rushing through their own remarks, each speaker read a few paragraphs from a co-authored statement. Olney employees emphasized their desire to work with the administration and asked ASPIRA to stop fighting their unionization drive. The speech’s...