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Philadelphia teachers lose health benefits after state officials cancel contract

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The state panel that oversees Philadelphia’s cash-strapped public schools abruptly canceled a contract with teachers on Monday, despite nearly two years of labor negotiations, and said teachers would have to begin paying for healthcare benefits.

The move, which a labor expert said was likely unprecedented in the United States, would free up $43.8 million for the district this school year. Next year, it is facing a $71 million budget shortfall.

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The system’s long-running financial woes have become a full-blown crisis over the past couple years, leading to thousands of layoffs, dozens of shuttered buildings and program cuts.

The move will affect the roughly 16,000 members of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, which represents teachers, assistants, nurses, counselors and others.

“Bringing health benefits in line with those received by other district, city and state employees will drive tens of millions to our classrooms,” the chairman of the School Reform Commission, William Green, said in a statement.

The changes could save nearly $200 million in operating funds and $47 million in federal funds over the next four years, the commission said. Wages, work rules and other economic provisions of the PFT’s bargaining contract were not altered.

Most of Philadelphia’s teachers do not pay anything toward their health insurance. The new plan requires them to contribute between $27 and $71 from each bi-weekly paycheck, depending on salary, and goes into effect on Dec. 15.

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Tom Juravich, a University of Massachusetts Amherst labor professor, said that canceling a public employee labor contract in such a manner is rare, if unprecedented.

“This idea of the state panel just simply canceling the teachers agreement, there is very little precedent in doing that,” he said. “This is violating the whole collective bargaining process.

“This is hard bargaining tough politics. You can’t send a stronger message than this,” Juravich said.

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The changes are likely to be challenged in court. PFT’s president, Jerry Jordan, said the union would “pursue every legal recourse we have.”

The ability to cancel the existing contract and impose new terms is unique in Pennsylvania to the commission and Philadelphia’s schools, acting Secretary of Education Carolyn Dumaresq said in a statement.

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“This is not an expansion of state authority and will not impact collective bargaining agreements in other school districts,” she said.

Teachers, many of whom have seen their classroom support slashed and have paid for supplies out of their own pockets, have been working under their old contract, which expired in August 2013.

The president of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, said the move was an “ambush” by Republican Governor Tom Corbett, who is fighting an uphill battle for re-election in November.

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Corbett said in a statement that it was time for Philadelphia teachers to “join the thousands of public school employees across the state who already contribute to their health care costs.”

St. Louis labor lawyer Corey Franklin said that the sudden change was “likely a function of limited health insurance options available to the district upon its annual open enrollment.”

(Reporting by Hilary Russ in New York; Additional reporting by Daniel Kelley in Philadelphia; Editing by Andre Grenon and Leslie Adler)


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Trump Tower is ‘under siege’ as Chicago Police make arrests to defend the president’s building

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Protesters marched on Trump Tower in Chicago on Saturday, as Chicago police in riot gear and on horses defend the president's building.

State police were deployed to the scene to back up local police, who are reportedly arresting protesters.

On video showed protesters taking a knee in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick.

Actor John Cusack was among those documenting the protest.

Here are some of the images from the scene:

https://twitter.com/dmihalopoulos/status/1266849888555409408

https://twitter.com/disclosetv/status/1266850390047408130

https://twitter.com/DirtyComoDiana/status/1266848376102039552

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George Floyd’s brother tears up discussing condolence phone call from Trump: ‘It hurt me’

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The brother of George Floyd described the condolence phone call he received from President Donald Trump during a Saturday interview on MSNBC.

Philonise Floyd was interviewed by the Rev. Al Sharpton on "Politics Nation."

While Derek Chauvin has been arrested and charged with third degree murder, the other three officers involved in the killing remain free.

"They all need to be convicted of first degree murder and given the death penalty," Floyd said.

"What was the conversation with President Trump like?" Sharpton asked.

"It was so fast," Floyd replied.

"He didn't give me an opportunity to even speak. It was hard, I was trying to talk to him, but he just kept like pushing me off, like 'I don't want to hear what you're talking about.' And I just told him I want justice. I said that I couldn't believe they committed a modern-day lynching in broad daylight."

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Bill Barr slammed by ex-FBI official for ignoring the right-wing ‘Boogaloo Bois’ infiltrating protests

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Attorney General Bill Barr was slammed by the former assistant director for counterintelligence at the Federal Bureau of Investigation on Saturday for misleading Americans about the source of violence at the protests over the killing of George Floyd while in police custody.

"There's evidence developing, Brian, that the organization we're seeing of the most violent protesters is coming from a couple of disturbing places," both, by the way, there's disparate in terms in being from the right or the left. here's what those who monitor these groups and sites are seeing.

"We're seeing a far-right group, one group for example known as the Boogaloo Bois, who on their private Facebook page and social media outlets are calling for violence, calling for people to show up," Frank Figliuzzi told MSNBC's Brian Williams.

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