It’s rare to find someone who is a licensed cosmetologist, worked as a corrections officer in the prison system, and holds the distinction of being the youngest African-American woman to be elected vice president of the local chapter of the largest trade union of public employees in the United States.
However, it is because of such a diverse background that Ethelind Baylor believes she is the perfect candidate for an at-large seat on Philadelphia’s City Council.
“I’ve always watched politicians and wondered why they were only accessible at certain times and to certain people,” said Baylor, 41, vice president and legislative director for community outreach for AFSCME District Council 47, the city’s white collar workers’ union. “The same way I have represented the members of the union —working with them directly and being hands-on — is the same way I want to represent the people of Philadelphia.”
Baylor looks at what is happening in the city and says she “knows we should be doing a better job of addressing the needs of the citizens of the city.”
Baylor, a Democrat, says she been interested in politics all her life. However, that interest became heightened in 2016 when she was elected vice president of AFSCME District Council 47. She also was tabbed to head the union’s Political Action Committee.
“She is ready to bring a work ethic to City Council that is much in need,” said Former AFSCME DC 47 President Thomas Cronin. “She is very active in the community, she’s from the city and she wants to make it a better place for everyone who lives here. She’s perfect for an at-large seat because she wants to address the problem across the city, not just in one district.”
The topics at the top of Baylor’s platform are public safety, education and improving the overall quality of life in the city.
Some of the issues she’s locked into are raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour, attacking the opioid crisis in the city through prevention and treatment, and working with the State House and Senate to push for more funding for Philadelphia’s embattled public schools.
Baylor points to Philadelphia’s entrenched poverty — the city has the highest poverty rate (26 percent) among the nation’s 10 largest cities — as perhaps the biggest challenge facing City Council and directly connects it to the city’s struggling schools.
“I believe that poverty and a lack of adequate resources and consistent staffing are some of the stumbling blocks facing the proper functioning of our schools,” Baylor said. “Some of these issues go beyond the classroom and have to do with finding jobs and decent, safe and affordable housing for families and the securing of a fair living wage.
Baylor, who has a master’s degree in organizational and strategic leadership, earned her degree while she was working as a corrections officer and raising her children.
According to the AFL-CIO website, 743 unionists won elections in the 2018 midterms nationwide, from Congress down through county commissioner jobs.
“I’m planning to continue to grow that number,” Baylor said.
Baylor has a tough road to hoe on this one. She pulled the last ballot position of 34 at-large candidates on the Democratic ballot for the May 21 primary.