By Marcy Norton
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Members of the union representing Philadelphia School District maintenance workers held a protest outside school district headquarters Friday, demanding safety improvements, after a worker was severely burned in a boiler explosion at an elementary school this week.
About 60 union members carried signs that read, “Philly schools are danger zones” and “Protect children, protect workers”. The bright orange ribbons they wore showed support for the 61-year-old mechanic recovering from third degree burns after Wednesday’s explosion at F.S. Edmonds Elementary in Mount Airy. They say the school district has ignored years of grievances about unsafe conditions. Assistant District Leader Ernie Bennett says it’s time for the district to address the problems.
“Tell us what your plan is, because we’ve been coming to the table with our suggestions, and they’ve been falling on deaf ears. What does it take? What does it take?”
32BJ Vice President Gabe Morgan rejects the argument that there’s no money for repairs.
“If the requirement to work in the school district is that you have to risk your life, then we’ll have to figure out what our next steps are.”
Union leaders said they planned to stay in the building until district officials come up with a safety plan.
School district officials say they are meeting with union representatives to discuss their concerns.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney spoke to the media late Friday afternoon, saying he will assemble a task force to try and prevent a similar tragedy from happening in the future, and that task force will head out as soon as Tuesday.
“To do a thorough inspection of all our boilers and heaters, and have a plan of action on how we can get those things fixed immediately to keep our children and our workers safe,” said Kenney.
Kenney says he has contacted representatives from labor, the School District of Philadelphia, the SEIU, and Governor Tom Wolf, who has pledged to help with the situation in any way he can.
KYW’s Dan Wing contributed to this report.