The West / Southwest Industrial Areas Foundation is a network of broad-based institutional organizations building power to revitalize our democracy for constructive social and economic change. We are part of the Industrial Areas Foundation, the nation’s first and largest network of community organizations.
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Read below for recent victories. Click here for more extensive News Coverage.
RECENT VICTORIES & PROGRESS
April 21, 2017
IAF Workforce Development Model Shows Sizable, Significant and Sustained Results for Graduates
Almost ten years ago, Project QUEST agreed to participate in a randomized control trial in which half of a pool of 400+ qualified and equally motivated applicants were picked by a computer to participate in Project QUEST. The other half were turned away and they pursued other options.
After three years, Project QUEST graduates already earned more than those who were turned away. By Year 6, the difference in earnings not only persisted, they increased to over $5,000 per year.
Said study co-author Mark Elliott, “Other programs have had large earnings impacts, but they haven’t taken people completely out of poverty into the middle class….This is a stunning achievement.”
This “gold standard” study is said to be the first in the nation to show sustained, statistically significant increases in participant’s earnings (and employment) over time.
Escalating Gains: Project QUEST’S Sectoral Strategy Pays Off, Economic Mobility Corporation
Texas Job Program Shows Unusually Strong, Lasting Gains, Study Finds, Austin American Statesman [pdf]
April 3, 2017
Southern Arizona Interfaith Changes State Law to Combat Drug
When neighborhood users of SPICE, a synthetic marijuana with side effects including seizures and disorientation, began walking into traffic and collapsing on church and school grounds, leaders from St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church stepped into the void to identify solutions. Church leaders, in collaboration with Southern Arizona Interfaith, soon launched a campaign to “Give them Food” in addition to collaborating with local law enforcement and county health department to educate the community about the drug and prevent its sale. Over 250 area residents attended one of the community meetings.
In fall 2016, SAI and Pima County Interfaith hosted a nonpartisan accountability session drawing more than 500 leaders to address several issues, including SPICE. In front of hundreds of voters, candidates promised to introduce a bill to criminalize SPICE ingredients and to help law enforcement press charges against dealers.
This spring, Rep. Pamela Powers (LD9-D) negotiated the inclusion of SPICE ingredients in a bill (HB2033) sponsored by Rep. Heather Carter (LD15-R) on controlled substances, that Governor Ducey signed it into law.
SAI leaders are pointing to this victory as an “example of the great things we can achieve when we work together,” including bi-partisan cooperation in the expansion of the bill to include SPICE ingredients. Leaders also recognized the Tucson Police Department, St. John’s Pastoral Council and the Pima County Health Department for its collaboration.
Leaders are now working with City of Tucson Councilmembers Richard Fimbres and Steve Kozachik to follow through on their campaign pledges to pass a stricter local ordinance prohibiting the sale of SPICE in Tucson.
Southern Arizona Interfaith Confronts ‘Spice’ Epidemic in Tucson, West / Southwest IAF
March 7, 2017
OneLA, Allies Pass Measure H for Homeless Services, Prevention
One LA leaders celebrated a second election victory for the most vulnerable in Los Angeles County after the March 7 election. Together, with a coalition of other organizations and with the support of County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, leaders worked to pass Measure H— a quarter cent sales tax to fund critical services for homeless populations as well as homelessness prevention for those at risk.
Following successful efforts to pass Measure HHH in November, a county-wide ballot measure to fund the construction of housing for the homeless, One LA leaders rallied again to support Measure H in 2017. Expecting low turnout, leaders organized civic academies and information sessions in their congregations to encourage members to vote.
One day prior to the election, One LA leaders joined Rabbi Dara Frimmer of Temple Isaiah and Fr. Arturo Corral of La Placita in lending moral authority to the measure at a press conference in which they stood flanked by Mayor Eric Garcetti and Supervisors Mark Ridley Thomas and Sheila Kuehl.
Measure H passed by only 2 percentage points, approximately 16,000 votes, driving home the lesson that all politics is local, and every vote counts.
February 22, 2017
Together LA Blocks Tax Exemptions, Wins Sunshine Provision
Eight months after their victory in reforming the state Industrial Tax Exemption Program (ITEP), leaders of Together Louisiana noticed that industrial tax exemptions spiked 441% in its last year (2016), with the majority of tax exemptions granted after the reforms passed. They additionally noticed that the Commerce and Industry Board reversed the wording of the measure to undermine the reform that would have limited exemptions to proposals that had secured the approval of the local municipalities sacrificing the revenue.
Unsatisfied with the explanation that the 2016 reforms were not to touch applications already in the works, 100 faith and community leaders of Together Louisiana organized a press conference before the Board of Commerce and Industry’s meeting and then sat in on the meeting itself — demonstrating a rare presence of citizen oversight of a committee that distributed $4.9 billion in tax exemptions last year.
Under the watchful gaze of Together LA, the committee unanimously rejected six applications that directly violated the Governor’s order and added a “Sunshine Provision” to the ITEP program rules to allow local citizens to learn when exemptions are being considered by local bodies. Thanks to Together LA, Louisiana Economic Development must now post on its website, within three days, when proposed tax expenditures are forwarded to local municipalities for consideration, thus beginning a 120 day period for the provision of public input.
[In photo: Ann Dunn addresses the press on behalf of Together Louisiana.]
Together LA: Corporate Giveaways Continue Apace, The INDsider
Together Louisiana Protests Industrial Tax Exemption Program, Greater Baton Rouge Business Report
February 14, 2017
AMOS Expands Affordable Housing Possibilities in Ames, Iowa
Six months after advocating that a 10-acre city-owned property be developed with a variety of affordable housing options for local working families, AMOS leaders succeeded in expanding the number of rental and lower-priced housing units to be made available.
Initially, the land parcel was zoned for single family detached homes, with some of the loudest voices calling for exclusively owner-occupied units. Thanks to the intervention of AMOS leaders, Ames City Council voted for more affordable housing to be developed on-site, including 60% to be made available at affordable rates, and to include rental housing in its Request for Proposals.
The following month, the City of Ames further committed to two years of matching funds for an affordable housing trust fund that was created at AMOS’ initiative. This move will help the fund gain funding and build momentum, locally.
Housing Trust Fund Task Force Approved for Incorporation, Ames Tribune
Affordable Housing Task Force Holds First Meeting, Ames Tribune
Housing Trust Fund Task Force Approved for Incorporation, Ames Tribune
February 13, 2017
Working Together Jackson Demolishes Campus Blight
Two months after Working Together Jackson put public pressure on Jackson State University (JSU) to replace long-abandoned buildings with green space, leaders celebrated the first demolition on campus. The demolition resulted from a collaboration initiated by Working Together Jackson in which Revitalize Mississippi Inc. agreed to demolish the properties at no cost to the JSU Development Foundation or university.
[In photo, Dr. Mary Jackson of St. Mark's Episcopal Church speaks at press conference celebrating local demolition. Photo Credit: Scott Crawford]
February 10, 2017
MACG & Allies Secure Tenant Relocation Assistance in Portland
As part of a larger strategy to secure affordable housing options in Portland, Oregon, leaders of the Metropolitan Alliance for Common Good (MACG) and allies secured unanimous passage of an emergency tenant relocation assistance ordinance, persuading an “on the fence” Commissioner to support the measure. Seventy-five MACG leaders packed City Hall chambers, with direct views of the commissioners as they voted.
The new temporary law requires that Portland landlords pay $2,900 – $4,500 to tenants who are evicted without cause or have to move as a result of a +10% rent increase. Leaders see the approval of this temporary measure as a critical step toward providing immediate relief. The plan now is to target the state legislature to pass Just Cause Eviction and Rent Stabilization legislation this year.
February 2, 2017
Texas IAF Network Joins Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops in Stand Against Anti-Immigrant Bill SB4
Said Bishop Joe Vásquez, on behalf of the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops, “We reject the premise that persons who are merely suspected of being undocumented immigrants should be rounded up by state and local police agents.”
“This bill requires local police and sheriff’s deputies to enforce federal immigration laws as if their job of maintaining public order and the public safety weren’t difficult enough as it is,” said John Elford, senior pastor of University United Methodist Church and member of Austin Interfaith.
[In photo, Austin Catholic Bishop Joe Vasquez speaks, surrounded by religious leaders of the Network of Texas IAF Organizations.]
Valley Priest: Anti-Sanctuary Cities Bill Could End Up Empowering Drug Cartels, Rio Grande Guardian
CLC Urges Lawmakers to Reject ‘Anti-Sanctuary City’ Legislation, Baptist Standard
Testimony by Reverend John Elford, Austin Interfaith, Network of Texas IAF Organizations
Press Release, Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops
January 11, 2017
Spokane Alliance & Allies Victorious in School Bullying Action
Following almost nine weeks of pressure from Spokane Alliance members and allies, the Spokane Public Schools (SPS) school board unanimously voted to make a public statement on recent school bullying that included four key points leaders advocated for: reaffirmation of the district’s commitment to respect all students; commitment to swift enforcement of harassment, intimidation and bullying; contact information for those needing to report incidents; and the context of the divisive year in politics.
Leaders testifying at the school board meeting were supported by dozens of parents and community leaders inspiring one leader to say, “It makes me want to cry to see so many people standing up together for children – as I’ve stood alone with parents so often with no resolution.”
December 8, 2016
One LA Reaches Milestone Healthcare Enrollment of 146,000, Celebrates Expansion of Enrollment to 54,000 More!
Before a packed audience of 200 health care leaders and Dr. Mitch Katz, Director of the LA County Department of Health, One LA celebrated the milestone enrollment of 146,000 Los Angeles residents into My Health LA, 8,000 of whom were enrolled by One LA leaders themselves at their institutions. My Health LA is a program One LA leaders compelled the County to create to cover undocumented residents and leaders ultimately secured an additional $6 million in funding and negotiated an agreement from LA County to conduct healthcare enrollment at One LA member institutions. 350 trained leaders held over 100 events to enroll the 8,000 residents.
At the celebration, Dr. Katz agreed to authorize funding to expand healthcare enrollments to reach an additional 54,000 residents!
November 9, 2016
One LA Takes on LA Traffic and Wins, Passing $120B Bond
Building on a four-year campaign, One LA leaders and their allies shaped, pushed for and passed Measure M to raise $120 Billion for new rail lines, improved bus services, and street and highway projects which will create hundreds of thousands of jobs and make finding and getting to a job easier for working poor families across LA County.
Passing this bond measure required meeting a challenging two-thirds voter threshold for approval. This extraordinary victory took a county-wide education and mobilization of non-traditional allies crossing significant geographic, racial, religious and socioeconomic lines.
In addition to building a strong and diverse coalition of support, One LA led an action at the LA County Board of Supervisors that succeeded in putting the measure on the November ballot..
Leaders subsequently educated more than 500 voters through civic academies hosted at 8 One LA member congregations strategically positioned across LA County. Civic academies, taught by leaders, included information about LA City Measure HHH — which will fund the construction of 8,000 to 10,000 units of safe, clean affordable housing for the homeless — as well as about Propositions 55 for education funding and 57 for criminal justice reform. 75 precinct walkers targeted key swing precincts knocking on over 1,000 doors. Leaders then followed up with more than 500 phone calls.
“This is why a broad-based organization like One LA exists: not only to build a consensus among tens of thousands of voters across a county as large as Los Angeles, but to do so through trusted institutions and deep face-to-face engagement,“ said Rabbi Ken Chasen of Leo Baeck Temple. “During the development of this measure and during GOTV, we worked to build consensus across geographic and demographic lines which historically have been difficult to bridge in our segregated county.”
September 29, 2016
Together Louisiana & IAF Secure $500M in Flood Relief
Just days before Congress adjourns for October recess, the word among lobbyists was that a proposal for flood recovery funding for Louisiana would not even get a vote for inclusion in the continuing resolution (short term budget). It was the last opportunity to secure funding for flood recovery before the lame duck session.
Then, according to Together Baton Rouge (TBR), sister IAF organizations across the country began contacting their congressional representatives and senators urging them to support the funding package — across partisan lines. Together Baton Rouge posted a video that, in less than one day, was viewed 55,000 times as leaders quickly spread its message urging people to contact their congressional representatives.
48 hours after the funding was declared dead on arrival, the Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell, threw his full support behind the funding and announced it would receive a vote.
At stake was tens of thousands of homes and potential foreclosures.
After more days of posturing, haggling and deal cutting, the Senate voted (72-26) in support of the Resolution and the House voted (342-85) in support. TBR additionally credited the Louisiana Governor and congressional delegation for “working tirelessly across party lines to make the case for flood recovery.” They also credited high-ranking House and Senate Democrat and Republic leaders for the win (see right).
How a Bill REALLY Becomes a Law, Together Baton Rouge
Congress Clears Bill to Prevent Shutdown, Politico
Great Flood of 2016 and What We Need to Rebuild, Together Baton Rouge
September 29, 2016
DAI Leaders Secure Strongest Tenant Protections in Texas
With three asthmatic children in the family, Patricia Vega (holding the toddler in pink in photo above) was constantly on the lookout for mold. ”Every time we move, we think it gets better, but it does not.” Realizing that the Dallas housing code enforcement offered no protections, she, with a group of women from San Juan Diego Catholic Church, enlisted the support of Dallas Area Interfaith (DAI) to change the law.
In a little over a year of public action, DAI church leaders confronted landlords, secured the support of allies, negotiated with adversaries, and ultimately changed the housing code of Dallas in a fundamental way. Says Heather Way, a professor at University of Texas School of Law who specializes in affordable housing law, “These reforms are much needed and should have a big impact on protecting the health and safety of Dallas’s most vulnerable.” FOX News calls the code the “toughest landlord rules in the state.” Said former code enforcement prosecutor, Councilmember Adam McGough, “this is unprecedented.”
New protections include:
- required mold and bedbug cleanup by landlords
- eradication of insects from apartment pools
- required translation of rental agreements into Spanish and Vietnamese
- single-family rental inspections and registration
- 15 new inspectors just for single family rentals
- working AC with minimum required temperatures
Councilmember McGough said the new rules included “the strongest AC regulation in the state.”
A turning point was reached one month ago, when DAI leaders met with representatives of the Apartment Association of Greater Dallas (AAGD) to negotiate points of disagreement. At the end of the day, AAGD stood with DAI in support of the new code, arguing that “poorly operated properties and slumlords bring down…the entire industry.”
Said Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings: “This is how you pass legislation.”
Dallas Makes Rules Tougher on Landlords with New Housing Standards, Dallas Morning News
September 16, 2016
California IAF Prepares Episcopal Seminarians for Public Life
Looking for a way to create a “tighter fit between the life of faith and public life,” the Very Reverend W. Mark Richardson of the Church Divinity School of the Pacific (CDSP) in Berkeley turned to the Industrial Areas Foundation to help train its seminarians.
Says Rev. Susanna Singer, “Bishops were saying increasingly that community organizing is a good thing.” The creation faith, she argues, is about God’s vision of flourishing for humanity and the cosmos. ”It means that the body of Christ, which is us now, has got to get out there now and be involved in the communities in which we live because that’s where God’s dream is going to come true.”
“The intention is to train ordinary people both in giving them a conceptual framework for thinking about issues of power and self-interest and leadership as well as some of the practical skills of engaging people who are different than you out in the broader world,” says Anna Eng, lead organizer for the Bay Area IAF.
The Church Divinity School of the Pacific not only offers the 6-day course each year in January, it participates as a member in the Bay Area IAF.
[In photo is the Very Rev. W. Mark Richardson sitting in a class. Photo Credit: Episcopal News Service]
CDSP Prepares Seminarians for Public Life, Episcopal News Service
Public Ministry in Practice, Episcopal News Service
September 15, 2016
COPS/Metro Raises Wages AGAIN & Secures QUEST’s Future
One year after raising the minimum wage for employees of the City of San Antonio (from $11.47 to $13 per hour), COPS / Metro Alliance leaders are celebrating again after the City Council passed a budget that includes a second wage raise to $13.75 per hour. This follows an intense two-year campaign with over 1,000 leaders recently assembling with the Mayor and council representatives to remind them of their commitment to a living wage. When the Mayor made some noise about living wages being an ‘outsider’s’ agenda, leader Maria Tijerina fired back with an editorial reminding her that COPS / Metro is a local organization with a robust constituency.
City Council additionally approved shifting funding for workforce development program Project QUEST out from human services into economic development with its own line in the budget. Funding increased to $2.2 million including $200 thousand to cover tuition for the Open Cloud Academy training developed in collaboration with Rackspace.
The Bexar County budget was also approved earlier this week with a new minimum wage set at $13.75 per hour (up from $13).
City Council to Up Minimum Wage for City Employees, San Antonio Express-News [pdf]
Living Wages are a Right, Not a Privilege, Rivard Report
City Discusses Upping Minimum Wage to $15, Rivard Report
COPS Metro Alliance Calls for $15 Minimum Wage for City Employees, Texas Public Radio
Elected Officials Hope City Will Cough Up More for New Master Plan, San Antonio Express-News
September 13, 2016
Together Louisiana Wins Industrial Tax Exemption Battle
Before a packed house of leaders from Together Louisiana, and after eight intense rounds of public testimony, the Louisiana Board of Commerce and Industry voted to defer all renewal applications for industrial tax exemptions, including an application for property tax breaks by Koch Industries which would have cost (disaster-declared) East Baton Rouge Parish $1.9 million in revenue.
Together Baton Rouge is calling this “one battle in a long fight for transparency and local control. But in terms of that battle, it’s a big, big victory!”
This victory follows political pressure by Together Louisiana to make the Industrial Tax Exemption Program (ITEP) more accountable to the local entities paying for them. Last week, the Shreveport Times reported that the program costs school districts across the state millions of dollars every year, potentially hindering implementation of universal Pre-K. Responding to pressure from Together Louisiana last June, Governor John Bel Edwards changed the program to exclude school taxes from the exemption program, protecting school dollars going forward.
[In photo: Together Louisiana leaders celebrate.]
Panel Defers Industrial Tax Exemption Request, The Advocate
Louisiana Tax Exemption Debate, BR Proud
Louisiana State Board Puts Off Vote on Most Industrial Tax Exemption Applications and Renewals, Baton Rouge Business Report
State Board to Take Up Renewal of $11B Worth of Industrial Tax Exemptions Today, Baton Rouge Business Report
TBR Analysis of 22 Renewal Applications, Together Baton Rouge
July 15, 2016
AMOS Strategy Reduces Juvenile Arrests, Expulsions and More
Thanks to persistent intervention by AMOS leaders, Polk County school officials and law enforcement appear to be keeping more children and older minors out of court.
Between 2011 and 2015, suspensions and expulsions dropped by nearly 64% and suspensions for school attendance issues dropped by 91%. Arrests of minors by city police dropped by 32%, with a 21% reduction in the arrests of African American youth.
Progress took careful work with Polk County Courts in pursuit of more widespread use of restorative justice practices. Public engagement got tense at times, in particular three years ago when AMOS pointed out remarkably higher arrest rates of African American youth.
Progress in schools is largely credited to AMOS’ “Let’s Talk” program to which administrators and teachers refer youth in danger of suspension. The program currently operates in six Des Moines middle schools and involves a team of adults working with youth to resolve conflict and develop alternative approaches to conflict.
Says Organizer Liz Hall, “At Hiatt Middle School, Let’s Talk team leaders have trained all the teachers and administrators in restorative justice circles and facilitated circles with the entire student body.” At Meredith Middle School, there has been “a dramatic drop in out-of-school suspensions” in just three years.”
In photo is AMOS leader Rev. Dr. Brigette Black.
Editorial: Common Sense Prevails on Punishing Juveniles, Des Moines Register
AMOS Helps Juvenile Offenders Keep a Clean Record, Des Moines Register
July 8, 2016
Together Baton Rouge Secures Broader Investigation into Shooting of Alton Sterling
Shortly after leaders of Together Baton Rouge called on the Justice Department to widen the scope of its investigation into the fatal shooting of Alton Sterling, saying it should include possible state criminal violations, a spokesman for Gov. John Bel Edwards responded, saying that the U.S. attorney’s office will not only investigate whether civil rights were violated, but also potential state and federal violations. ”If the U.S. attorney’s office finds any violation of state laws and believes the officers should be charged with battery, assault or murder, it will refer that back to the local district attorney for prosecution.”
Leaders had argued that if the federal investigation were to be limited to the narrow possibility of a civil rights violation, the consequence of turning the investigation over to federal officials would be “indistinguishable from the District Attorney refusing to conduct an investigation into state crimes,” including aggravated battery and murder (see statement at right).
Together Baton Rouge leaders thanked Governor Edwards for “helping to strengthen public trust” in the process.
[Photo Credit: Travis Spradley / The Advocate]
The Latest: Governor Thanks City for Peaceful Response, Associated Press
Faith Leaders in Baton Rouge Call for Peace, Patience and a Serious Investigation, Delmarva Public Radio
June 24, 2016
Together Louisiana Reforms State Industrial Tax Exemptions
Baton Rouge, LA – With seventy ’Together Louisiana‘ leaders in attendance, Governor John Bel Edwards issued an Executive Order overhauling the nation’s largest state program of corporate subsidies, the Industrial Tax Exemption Program (ITEP).
Reforms include requirements that impacted local tax authorities approve the subsidy, including municipal government, school boards and law enforcement; exemptions demonstrate a Return on Investment (ROI) for new jobs or retention of good jobs; and that subsidy applicants sign contractual agreements based on promised investments and local hires.
Says leader Dianne Henley, “What the Governor did today is far bigger than reforming a single program. It signals a major shift in our state’s approach to economic development, focused less on corporate subsidies with no strings attached and more on jobs and the development of our people.”
Together Louisiana‘s victory comes the month after Edwards pledged to 400 leaders that he would support tax fairness, and only one week after the organization released a groundbreaking study of ITEP detailing its unorthodox structure and exorbitant cost to local governments. Leaders are calling this just the first major victory of their Tax Fairness Campaign and pledge to fight for more.
June 7, 2016
PCIC Leverages 18% Increase in County Funding for JobPath
After a campaign that included educating County Supervisors about the economic (and life) impact of JobPath workforce development program, leaders of Pima County Interfaith won a 18% increase in funding for the program, from $423 thousand to $500 thousand. Pima County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 for the increase after Pastor Steve Springer of Dove of Peace Lutheran Church and Lindsay Leonard, a JobPath graduate, spoke.
Long Term Impacts of JobPath Graduates on Pima County, Applied Economics
April 30, 2016
Texas IAF Celebrates 40+ Years Anniversary, Launches Strategy
Veteran leaders, funders, religious judicatories and Texas IAF organizational co-founders convened at the Whitley Center of the Oblate School of Theology to celebrate 40+ years of the network of Texas IAF organizations standing with families.
|Letters of Support||Video||Proclamations|
May 10, 2016
MOC Exceeds Campaign Goal, Signs Up 8,000 Voters
With the goal of building support for the County to site, fund and operationalize a year-round shelter for 60 homeless men and women by 2018, leaders of Marin Organizing Committee (MOC) launched a signature campaign to reach 6,000 voters. Within five months, leaders had collected over 8,000 signature cards, and counting.
In May, leaders presented the cards to District 2 and District 3 Board of Supervisor candidates in two separate local accountability sessions drawing over 100 people each. All candidates committed their support to the campaign to establish and fund a year-round shelter by April 2018 when the current 6-month temporary program is scheduled to end.
MOC plans to continue working to organize the support of partnering cities and other key allies.
Marin Churches Push for Year-Round Homeless Shelter, Catholic San Francisco [pdf]
April 26, 2016
Texas Senate Recognizes Texas IAF’s 40+ Years of Organizing
Noting that for “more than 40 years, the network’s organizing efforts have had a profound impact on the lives of countless families” and that it is “truly fitting that its exceptional achievements receive special recognition” the Texas Senate issued Proclamation No. 332 to “commend the Network of Texas Industrial Areas Foundation Organizations on its commitment to helping families, developing leadership, and promoting conversation on the issues facing our state.”
Proclamation No. 332, Texas Senate
April 21, 2016
Catholic Cardinal and Bishops Congratulate the Texas IAF
As the 40+ anniversary of the Texas IAF approaches, religious judicatories have begun congratulating the network for over four decades of leadership development and transformation. Descriptions of the work of the network range from “virtuous” to “transformative” and “a force for change.”
Click below to read letters from:
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston
Archbishop Joseph A. Fiorenza, Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston
Bishop Daniel E. Flores, Diocese of Brownsville
Bishop Joe S. Vasquez, Diocese of Austin
Auxiliary Bishop Greg Kelly, Diocese of Dallas
April 15, 2016
Library Breaks Ground, Valley Interfaith Celebrates Win
Valley Interfaith celebrated the construction of a new library they had fought for, marking the first time in 20 years that “we feel, as citizens, as a community that we belong to the City of Pharr…it is an historic day.” The library is the result of a protracted fight between Valley Interfaith leaders and the City of Pharr; the fight included success in signing up and turning out more than 1,000 new voters from Las Milpas.
In photo, Catholic Bishop Daniel Flores and other Valley Interfaith clergy break ground with children from nearby Carmen Anaya Elementary.
[Photo Credit: Rio Grande Guardian]
Anaya: Finally, Las Milpas Residents Feel Part of Pharr, Rio Grande Guardian [pdf]
April 12, 2016
Valley Interfaith Campaign Raises Wages, Transforms Lives
When St. John Paul II wrote that “a just wage is the key to economic justice,” Valley Interfaith leaders listened. Challenged to address the plight of parents working two to three jobs and seeing families break down under the pressure, leaders began their living wage campaign in 1997 to pressure employers across the Rio Grande Valley to increase their minimum wages from $5 /hour to $7.50 /hour or more. Valley Interfaith succeeded where others before them had failed.
In 2000, after MIT Professor Paul Osterman spent three months studying the economic impact of the wage raises, leaders learned that in just three years, their efforts had increased the salaries of 7,200 workers by an average of $1,128 annually. Employers reported costs savings due to lower turnover and absenteeism. Employment did not drop. Since then the campaign accelerated to include dozens of school districts, college districts, county governments and entire municipalities. Economic incentives are often restricted to companies paying appropriate base wages.
Click below for the rest of the story, spanning two decades of work.
Valley Interfaith’s Living Wage Campaign, Part One, Rio Grande Guardian [pdf]
Valley Interfaith’s Living Wage Campaign, Part Two, Rio Grande Guardian [pdf]
April 8, 2016
Bishop Fiorenza of Galveston-Houston Lauds Texas IAF
Recalling the early days of IAF-inspired organizing of faith communities in Houston, Bishop Fiorenza sent his congratulations to the Texas IAF on the eve of its 40+ year anniversary. He writes, ” It is a happy moment for me to congratulate all who have…participated in making human life more just and equitable in Houston due to outstanding efforts of TMO / GCLC.” After listing their local achievements, he adds, “It is evident that the work of TMO / GCLC and the Texas IAF are supporting the Church’s mission to be a witness of compassion by putting faith into action.”
April 6, 2016
Bishop Flores of Brownsville Praises Work of Texas IAF
As the 40+ anniversary of the Texas IAF approaches, Bishop Daniel Flores from the Catholic Diocese of Brownsville lauded the work of local affiliate Valley Interfaith as well as that of the Network of Texas IAF Organizations. He says that “it is fitting to recognize those in the community who are making a difference by helping our neighbors in need.”
In addition to the Bishop’s letter of support, the Rio Grande Guardian published a two-part series documenting the work of Valley Interfaith over the last few decades.
Bishop Flores Praises Work of Texas IAF as it Celebrates 40th Anniversary, Rio Grande Guardian, [pdf]
April 5, 2016
COPS / Metro Wins Wage Hike for Lowest Paid SAISD Workers
Thanks to the intervention of COPS / Metro Alliance leaders that stood with San Antonio Independent School District (SAISD)’s lowest paid workers and the San Antonio Alliance of Teachers and Support Personnel, the SAISD Board unanimously approved a wage increase of 20% for the district’s lowest paid , from $10/hour to $12/hour.
The move will raise the wages of 586 employees currently earning under $12, as well as 874 employees earning between $12 and $14/hour. Workers most benefiting from the wage hike include bus monitors, custodians, cooks, groundskeepers, delivery truck drivers and food service assistant managers.
COPS / Metro leader Maria Tijerina told the Rivard Report that this will also improve the living conditions of many SAISD students living in poverty because “the lowest paid SAISD employees have children in the district.” This is one step in a larger campaign to raise the wages of SAISD employees to $15 / hour.
[Photo Credit: Scott Ball, Rivard Report]
When Even a Low Tide Lifts All Boats, San Antonio Express-News
SAISD Employees Get Wage Increase, Rivard Report
SAISD Approves Minimum Wage Increase, San Antonio Express-News
SAISD Board Approves Salaries for 2016-17, San Antonio Alliance of Teachers and Support Personnel
March 11, 2016
EPISO & Border Interfaith Win Big on El Paso Wage Theft
Eight months after the passage of a wage theft ordinance that enabled the City of El Paso to refuse government contracts to employers that violated wage theft laws, EPISO and Border Interfaith leaders celebrated the passage of a stronger ordinance which allows the city to revoke the operating license of any business that refuses to pay their workers. Taking the lead on Lift Up El Paso, a coalition of non-profits and congregational members of EPISO and Border Interfaith, EPISO and Border Interfaith leaders leveraged the support of Bishop Mark Seitz of the El Paso Catholic Diocese and local restaurant owners and construction companies to compel the City to pass this stricter ordinance. In several cases, owners were shocked there was even a fight to ensure their competitors don’t skirt labor laws. Said EPISO leader Eloiso de Avila, “This is an important step for El Paso to show that way for Texas…that we care about employees and that we are fair.”
EPISO and Border Interfaith furthermore secured the support of Texas State Representative Mary Gonzalez, county commissioners, other Texas state legislators and the local franchise owner of Chick fil-A. Organizational pressure prevailed over lobbyists flown in from Austin to try to block the new law.
El Paso Can Lead on Wage Theft Prevention, El Paso Times
City Council Passed Amendment to Prevent Wage Theft, KDBC Channel 4 News
City Strengthens Wage Theft Ordinance, El Paso Proud (City of El Paso)
March 9, 2016
COPS/Metro Secures Streets in So. Bexar County
When Azeneth de la Fuente’s daughter suffered an accident at home last month, an ambulance took 25 minutes to arrive because of terrible road conditions. Ms. de la Fuente has been organizing to fix her neighborhood for over a year. On International Women’s Day she testified before Bexar County Commissioners declaring, “we are not second class citizens… my daughter deserves better!”
Highland Oaks residents and COPS/Metro won big at the Commissioner’s Court, with approximately $4.4 million dollars to be be allocated over the next two years to pave the sandy roads in South Bexar County.
[Photo Credit: Scott Ball]
County Approves Plan to Fund Road Repairs in Highland Oaks, Rivard Report
Bexar County to Start Maintaining Languishing Roads, San Antonio Express News
February 25, 2016
Austin Interfaith Celebrates Opening of Southeast Austin Clinic
After years of public pressure on Austin’s Central Health District, Ofelia Zapata, a leader with Austin Interfaith, celebrated the opening of a modern wellness clinic in Southeast Austin, a comprehensive health center near Dove Springs. “We are finally getting that holistic health care facility we wanted!” she said.
Officials expect 80,000 patient visits this year, mainly from low-income or uninsured residents of Dove Springs, Montopolis and Del Valle. The one-stop shop will include access to on-site imaging services, a pharmacy, laboratory, pregnancy support, and hearing tests in addition to nutrition classes, same-day appointments when sick, dentist appointments, community space and a garden. University of Texas Dell Medical School students and new doctors will train at the center.
Central Health officials say the goal is not just to treat the sick, but to help keep people healthy.
[Photo Credit: Laura Skelding, Austin American Statesman]
Southeast Austin Health Clinic Opens, With a Focus on Wellness, Austin American Statesman
February 3, 2016
Albuquerque Interfaith Instrumental in Passage of School Bond
Albuquerque Interfaith leaders breathed a sigh of relief when the official votes came in with more than 65% of the voting public casting ballots in support of a $575 Million bond package. Overall, voter turnout was double the average for similar elections.
Organization leaders including Rev. Trey Hammond, Msgr. Richard Olona and Pauline Artery put their reputation on the line when they threw their weight behind the bond package, organizing Get Out The Vote walks and publishing multiple op-eds. Artery reminded the public that Albuquerque Interfaith not only succeeded in passing a bond package in 2003, they blocked school officials from diverting bond funds to other purposes — holding the then-Superintendent accountable to the wishes of the voters.
The bond is slated to cover the cost of upgrading the most dilapidated schools, alleviating overcrowded schools with the building of two new ones, adding a district health clinic and expanding technological resources for the children.
APS Lets Out Sigh of Relief as Bonds Pass, Albuquerque Journal
Rejecting APS Bonds Won’t Solve District’s Problems, Albuquerque Journal
Voting Yes On Feb. 2 Is For The Children, Albuquerque Journal
$575 Million in APS Bonds Would Fund Technology, Construction, Albuquerque Journal
January 13, 2016
Together Louisiana Wins BIG, Gov. Signs Medicaid Expansion
On his first full day in office, newly elected Governor John Bel Edwards made good on a pledge to ‘Together Louisiana’ to expand Medicaid. Edwards signed the executive order for this expansion flanked by Together Louisiana leaders Fr. Rick Andrus, Rev. Patti Snyder, Ms. Pat LeDuff and Ms. Alma Stewart (with LA Health Equity). The expansion is expected to provide healthcare to an additional 300,000 Louisiana residents within the next six months.
This expansion came two months after what many called “an intervention” in the gubernatorial runoff election, which had devolved into a brawl of personal attacks. At the only event in which both candidates appeared jointly, more than four hundred Together Louisiana leaders assembled from 38 cities to put family issues like healthcare, wages, higher education and transportation back at the center of the campaign.
Together Louisiana is made up of 160 member institutions across Louisiana, including broad-based IAF organizations in Shreveport, Monroe, Alexandria, Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Tallulah, Lake Providence, Iberville Parish, West Baton Rouge, and affiliate member institutions in smaller communities throughout the state.
Newly in Office, Edwards Starting Medicaid Expansion Plan, Associated Press
January 28, 2016
New Study Verifies JobPath Training in Tucson Works
An economic impact study examined almost 400 people who graduated from JobPath in the last five years to track their progress. They found that the vast majority of people who graduated from JobPath still have a job five years later in the Tucson area, and that many have tripled or even quadrupled their pre-training wage.
Said Applied Economics researcher Sarah Murley, “That is a huge increase over a relatively short period of time.” JobPath was established by Pima County Interfaith as part of a multi-pronged living wage strategy.
[Photo Credit: Arizona Public Media]
Local Job Training Program Lifts Incomes, Arizona Daily Star
Tucson’s JobPath: Most Grads Better Off Than Before, Arizona Public Media
January 13, 2016
Spokane Alliance Wins ‘Sick & Safe’ Leave for Local Workers
Spokane, WA – Concluding a two-year campaign at an 11:30pm Monday vote, 180 Spokane Alliance leaders celebrated the passage of a historic citywide ‘Sick and Safe’ leave policy covering absences due to illness or re-locations to escape domestic violence. The ordinance mandates that businesses with 10 or more employees provide their workers at least 5 days of ‘sick and safe’ leave per year, and businesses with 9 or fewer workers at least 3. Forty leaders shared their personal stories with the council that night, resulting in a strengthened ordinance.
More background here, Spokane Alliance
January 11, 2016
NCG Staves Off Proposed Medicaid Privatization in Nevada
Backed by 300 leaders at a ‘Nevadans for the Common Good‘ accountability assembly, Marsha Rodriguez told her story about the fragility of independence as a senior. 72 years old, Rodriguez described waiting 6 months to get into a Nevada Medicaid waiver program, the Home and Community Based Waiver, which helps pay for non-medical services that are essential for some aging seniors to continue living at home. After seven years of receiving non-medical care, she fears that privatization of Medicaid services would reduce access to those services and push her into a nursing home. NCG leader Barbara Paulsen noted that the cost of at-home services for six or seven people is about equal with the cost of covering one person in a nursing home.
State legislators in attendance carefully listened and soon followed up with a delegation of NCG leaders, promising that Medicaid privatization of services would NOT happen in 2016, and that the legislative proposal would move more slowly, transparently, and inclusively.
Potential Move to Privatize Some Medicaid Services in Nevada Draws Scrutiny, Las Vegas Review-Journal
Officials Assure Advocates That Push to Privatize Medicaid Services Will Move Slowly, Be Transparent, Las Vegas Review-Journal
January 10, 2016
The Border Organization Raises Police & Cafeteria Worker Wages
After collective bargaining with the city manager stalled, the police officers union asked The Border Organization (TBO) for help. Politicizing the issue of police pensions and wages, police union firefighters and TBO leaders targeted the City Council, meeting with individual members to line up the four votes they needed. On the day of the vote, police, firefighter, cafeteria worker and TBO congregational leaders piled into the chambers. After a two hour debate, the council unanimously voted to increase city retirement matches on police and firefighter pensions, maintain previously promised step increases, AND increase all city worker wages by 2%!
After house meetings unearthed stories of school cafeteria worker abuse, TBO leaders began researching. They learned that the district contracted with a new delivery company that only unloaded heavy boxes of food to the dock. To compensate, managers forced the workers to haul the hefty boxes to storage off the clock and after hours. Initially fearful of losing their jobs, cafeteria workers gained confidence as they engaged in action, eventually taking the issue straight to the superintendent and school board — with police, fire fighter and TBO congregational support. Not only did working conditions improve, the cafeteria workers succeeded in raising their wage from $7.25 to $10.31 / hour.