Joseph Schulle, president of IAFF Firefighters Local 22, blasted District Attorney Seth Williams for hiding behind the Grand Jury report which faulted every city department as well as the Mayor and his administration for dereliction of their responsibilities resulting in the death of two firefighters in a major 2012 abandoned-factory fire in Kensington.
Schulle, in a press conference Tuesday, said, “I read the Grand Jury report and the one piece of information I don’t have is the instructions the District Attorney gave to the Grand Jury. The DA is not bound by the recommendation of the Grand Jury and it is our belief that the Grand Jury’s recommendation not to indict Lichtenstein (the factory owner) was based on guidelines.
“I am not a lawyer, but I did look up the definition of criminal negligence, conduct which is such a departure from what would be that of an ordinary prudent or careful person in the same circumstance as to be incompatible with a proper regard for human life or an indifference to consequences. Criminal negligence is negligence that is aggravated, culpable or gross.
“We do know the property owner is a rich and influential family from New York and they own about 30 properties in Philadelphia that they have allowed to deteriorate much like York Street.
“The Grand Jury report provides page after page of testimony indicating that the owners were acutely aware of the problems with the York Street building, but made a conscious decision not to do anything to remedy the multiple problems.
“The purpose of the District Attorney is to seek justice for the victims. This DA seems more interested in maintaining a high conviction rate rather than taking on difficult cases. The Grand Jury acknowledged the Lichtensteins seemed well practiced, or well counseled, in hiding behind others to escape responsibility for their actions.
“Had they exercised reasonable care, the fire would not have occurred. Yet the DA won’t pursue charges. There will be no closure for the families, and no one will be held accountable.
“Where is the justice for our Philadelphia Fire Fighters & Paramedics? Last week the DA informed me that he wouldn’t pursue the obvious perjury charges against Lloyd Ayers, and now he won’t pursue the case against these neglectful property owners. Shameful.
“The District Attorney recently told me that he believed in doing the right all of the time and letting the politics work itself out. I would ask, what is right about this decision?
“Mr. DA, reconsider your position, do the right thing for our neighborhoods that are suffering because of this type of calculated neglect and do right by the families of Bob Neary and Dan Sweeney. Charge these parasites and make the statement that this behavior will no longer be tolerated in the City of Philadelphia. We understand that it is a difficult case, but it is a fight worth fighting.”
SEN. REED, AFL-CIO’S TRUMKA SEEK U.I. RETURN
US Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka this week pressed for renewing unemployment insurance, before an expected vote on a straightforward continuation of UI for three months, retroactive to Dec. 28.
It has been 37 days since emergency unemployment compensation expired due to obstruction by Republican leaders in Congress. Today, the number of Americans who’ve seen their unemployment insurance cut has risen to 1.7 million jobseekers. If gridlock and filibustering continues, over 3 million more Americans are expected to be cut off in 2014.
U.S.W. SUPPORTS COLLEGE ATHLETES ASSOCIATION
The United Steelworkers voiced its strong support for the effort by Northwestern University football players to secure union representation with the College Athletes Players Association.
USW International President Leo W. Gerard and USW National Political Dir. Tim Waters joined Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter and CAPA President Ramogi Huma at a press conference to announce the group had petitioned the National Labor Relations Board for representation by CAPA. An overwhelming majority of Northwestern players have signed cards supporting the effort.
“Too many athletes who generate huge sums of money for their universities still struggle to pay for basic necessities, and too many live in fear of losing their scholarships due to injury or accident,” Gerard said. “These students deserve some assurance that when they devote weeks, months and years of their lives to an academic institution, that they will not be left out to dry, without the same basic protections that we all expect from the institutions we serve.”
CAPA is a new union established by Huma, Colter and former University of Massachusetts basketball player Luke Bonner. The group’s goal is to achieve greater legal protection for students’ scholarships and to improve the conditions under which all student-athletes live and play. The USW is covering CAPA’s legal expenses.