With 2020 just around the corner, we look back on a year of milestones and momentous accomplishments in the fight against discrimination and poverty. Thanks to the support of people like you, we were able to fight for civil, social and economic rights in 2019. Here are a few examples: 

Collage of images from our history
We celebrated a tremendous milestone in 2019: the 50th anniversary of our founding in Philadelphia in 1969. We looked back on our history, hosted a series of events throughout the year, and launched a capital campaign, In Pursuit of Justice, to ensure that our work challenging policies and practices that perpetuate poverty and discrimination can continue for decades to come.  

Our client Willie Taylor. Source_ Philadelphia Inquirer
Our client Willie Taylor. Source: Philadelphia Inquirer
In Philadelphia today, 67 percent of landlords refuse to accept tenants who use Housing Choice Vouchers (also known as Section 8), even though this practice is prohibited under Philadelphia law. We are representing two Housing Choice Voucher holders taking on this source-of-income discrimination by filing complaints against landlords and property management companies who turned them away for using vouchers. In City Hall, we were proud to join our partners and clients to successfully advocate for a strong lead safety law for rental housing and a Right to Counsel for low-income renters in eviction court. Next year, we'll continue to empower tenants to take on discrimination and unsafe housing by launching Renters United Philadelphia / Inquilinxs en la Lucha

Students at William Penn School District_ one of the plaintiffs in our school funding lawsuit
Students at William Penn School District, one of the plaintiffs in our school funding lawsuit
We spent 2019 hard at work preparing for trial in our lawsuit challenging Pennsylvania's inadequate and inequitable state school funding system, tentatively scheduled for fall 2020. This year, as we built our case, our attorneys spent more than 60 days with school district witnesses and in depositions, traveled more than 5,500 miles across Pennsylvania, and produced 60,000 pages of documents. Next year, we will demonstrate in court that our current system leaves thousands of students without basic educational resources, simply because they live in low-wealth communities. 

an absentee ballot envelope
This year, we took on barriers to the free and equal exercise of our right to vote as part of the Jeffery Golan & Francis Viella-Velez Voting Justice Project. Absentee voting is crucial for people with disabilities, first responders, students, and thousands of other voters. In 2019, we represented nine voters who filed a lawsuit challenging Pennsylvania's former deadline to receive completed absentee ballots--the Friday before Election Day. In 2018, more than 9,000 ballots were rejected because they were received after this deadline, which was the earliest in the country. Following our lawsuit, on October 31, Governor Tom Wolf signed a bipartisan election reform bill into law that extended the deadline for the receipt of absentee ballots to 8 p.m. on Election Day, among other changes that will make voting easier in Pennsylvania.

Our client Kara Gannon
Our client Kara Gannon
We continued to fight back against bias and discrimination in the workplace this year. Our client Kara Gannon is an experienced social service professional who, like one-in-three adults in America, has a criminal history: two misdemeanors, which occurred  9 and 11 years ago. We represented her in a lawsuit alleging that Montgomery County had violated state law protecting applicants from bias when it rejected her from two caseworker positions after learning of her record. As part of a settlement in her case, the County--a municipal government with nearly 2,400 employees--will establish a new written hiring policy, affirming that they will follow the law by only considering criminal history relevant to the position. In a piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer, we made the case that bias against job-seekers with records is not just unfair and often unlawful, but that it also drags down the economic prospects of entire communities. 

All of these victories for voters, workers, and renters across Pennsylvania are only possible with the support of people like you We know that with your continued support we will be prepared for what next year has in store. 

Make a Donation

If you have not yet donated to support our mission, now is the time. Contributions made by midnight on December 31 are tax deductible for 2019.  

Thank you for your support. Happy New Year! 

Jennifer R. Clarke
Executive Director

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