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
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 16% 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 16% 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.
December 10, 2015
Austin Interfaith Wins Protections for Mobile Home Residents
Last July, Hidden Valley / High Meadows (mobile home) residents became distressed when lot rents for people on month-to-month leases were raised for the second time within a 12-month period. New rules mandated improvements and standardizations — adding new costs to residents — including deck and railing upgrades, paint jobs, skirting repair, shed standardization, and control over inside window coverings. Families were asked to demonstrate possession of a drivers’ license to drive on the property, impacting hundreds of residents. Many families scrambled to comply; some left.
A couple residents reached out to the pastor of their church, a member congregation of Austin Interfaith, and their local councilperson who called in Austin Interfaith and Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TRLA) for support. Within two months, resident officers founded their association (Hidden Valley / High Meadows Residents’ Association) and signed up over 200 households as members.
On December 10, after months of negotiation and tough conversations, the HVHMRA signed a historic accord with their landlord, Scott Roberts of Roberts Communities. The accord locked in many protections, including the right to organize residents’ associations that represent the interests of mobile home park residents, the first rent control concession in a mobile home park of Austin (locking in no more than 5% increases through 2017 and rent increase caps in subsequent years) and protections for undocumented immigrant residents.
Minutes before the item came up for discussion, Austin Interfaith leaders shepherded the signing of this agreement between HVHMRA officers and landlord Scott Roberts.
The accord not only afforded protections for residents of Hidden Valley / High Meadows, it formed the basis of a ‘mobile home regime’, or framework for landlord-resident relations, for future mobile home parks in Austin.
City Council: Keep ‘Em Waiting, Austin Chronicle
November 18, 2015
Colorado IAF Sponsoring Committee Launches New Organization
Over 150 leaders gathered in Denver for the launch of a new Industrial Areas Foundation - Colorado Sponsoring Committee. Leaders came from a wide cross-section of institutions including the Professional Black Firefighters’ Association, Colorado Education Association, Iliff School of Theology, and congregations from Jewish, Christian Methodist Episcopal, United Church of Christ and American Baptist denominations. Leaders celebrated the completion of 1,000 face-to-face relational meetings and pledged to work together to found a Colorado IAF organization.
November 18, 2015
North Texas IAF Wins Payday Reform in Arlington, Texas
After undergoing a congregational development process in partnership with the North Texas IAF that involved 3,000 parishioners – 600 of which participated in small group encounters led by 80 ministry leaders — leaders of St. Joseph’s Catholic Parish in Arlington, Texas were astounded by the number of stories about payday lending.
Dozens of “horror stories” detailed the debilitating effect of predatory loans on families, motivating parish leaders to work with their organizer address the problem locally. In October, parish leaders stood with the Texas Conference of Catholic Bishops to publicly launch a campaign calling on the City of Arlington to better regulate payday and title loan lending. And within one month, leaders — along with allies — celebrated success.
Arlington City Council members voted unanimously to become the first city in Tarrant County to “cap loans and require payday and auto title businesses to register and adhere to fair business practices.”
Arlington is First in Tarrant to Regulate Payday, Auto Title Loans, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Editorial: Arlington Shows Courage on Payday Lending, Dallas Morning News
October 31, 2015
AMOS Recognized for Creating Project IOWA
During a house meeting campaign in member congregations, AMOS organizers encountered countless workers, many of them Black, struggling to find decent work. In response, members of AMOS created Project IOWA to simultaneously fix the “skills gap” in the labor market and train people into living wage work. The Des Moines Register reports that since its inception, Project IOWA has graduated 205 people, 40% of which are Black, and making on average $14 / hour.
The Struggle to Help People Find Better Jobs, Des Moines Register
October 16, 2015
Valley Interfaith Leverages New Funding for VIDA
As this town continues to struggle with the fallout of a faltering economy, the City Council — at Valley Interfaith’s urging — voted to make a strategic investment in its own workforce, putting in $28,000 towards job training program VIDA. Said student Monique Cavasos, “I want [my four daughters] to know that they have something to look forward to.”
Specifically, the City Council of Raymondville approved $28,0000 in Economic Development Corporation funds to expand VIDA’s workforce training into their city. Said Mayor Gilbert Gonzales, “Education is a big thing…it improves our community with better-paying jobs.”
September 21, 2015
Valley Interfaith Saves $290K in Funding for VIDA Job Training
When Valley Interfaith leaders learned that the Edinburg Economic Development Corp. (EDC) was planning to slash funding for workforce development program VIDA, they immediately set up meetings with municipal elected officials to identify and ensure City funds to make up the gap. While they discovered that the Mayor and one councilmember was completely on board with the proposal, leaders soon learned that the other three commissioners (a new majority) were planning to slash funding.
One commissioner, despite professing to having his “heart touched by the testimony of the students” told leaders that he might consider an investment of $50K (as opposed to the $290K previously funded by the EDC). In response to Valley Interfaith’s vocal rejection of his crumbs, he told leaders they were “going to have problems” if they did not change their attitude.
Instead, leaders changed tactics, flooding the following budget hearing with 300 VIDA students, graduates and Valley Interfaith leaders to demand a full restoration of funding for VIDA. Promising the three opposing commissioners that “we will remember you in the next election,” leaders filled the room beyond capacity, spilling out into the hallway and outside. When one of those commissioners proposed the city fund the project by $250K (representing a $40K cut), the proposal was met with silence.
In contrast, when the Mayor proposed directing the full $290K to the project, leaders responded with thunderous applause. When the supporting councilmember seconded the proposal, leaders started whistling in approval. Seeing the opposing commissioners shift uncomfortably in their seats, the Mayor pounced on the one soonest up for reelection, inviting him to third the proposal. He reluctantly accepted and the vote passed unanimously – thus securing Edinburg funding for long-term workforce development.
Edinburg City Council Promises to Restore Funding to Project VIDA, Brownsville Herald
September 17, 2015
COPA Wins Half Million Dollars for Healthcare for Undocumented
By unanimous vote, the Monterey County Board of Supervisors finally agreed to fund a healthcare pilot project for undocumented residents, put forward by leaders of Communities Organized for (relational) Power in Action (COPA).
$500 thousand has been allocated to pay for lab tests, radiology and pharmacy services — things generally unaffordable for residents concentrated in the agriculture or hospitality industry — in order to prevent future visits to the county hospital’s emergency room. COPA organizer Tim McManus attributed the win to months of tireless work by the organization.
[Photo Credit: Laura Lawrence, Episcopal Diocese of El Camino Real]
Monterey County to Close Gap in Healthcare for Undocumented Residents, New American Media
Monterey County Supports New Program to Help the Uninsured, KION News Channel 5
September 17, 2015
Austin Interfaith Wins $13.03 Wage Raise in New City Budget
At a press conference held the day after the passage of the new City budget, Austin Interfaith leaders celebrated a historic living wage win and other ‘budget priorities’ that were included. Austin Interfaith leaders thanked the Mayor and specific council members for acting as “budget champions.” As a result, the City of Austin will now pay their workers an increased living wage of $13.03 per hour (up from $11.39) and for the first time will include temporary AND contracted workers in that wage standard. Workers employed for at least 12 months will additionally qualify for healthcare benefits. Employees of private corporations receiving public subsidies will also benefit from the wage increase.
Leaders celebrated additional wins in areas impacting workers, children and families: $350K in increased investment in long-term job training program Capital IDEA, $3 million in added investments in parks, pools and libraries, $684K for AISD parents support specialists, $520K for Primetime after-school programming, and at least $1.6 Million for property tax breaks for seniors and disabled homeowners.
Mayor Adler and Council members Casar, Kitchen and Pool celebrated the passage of what Rabbi Alan Freedman called a “living budget” alongside organization leadership.
Setting an Example, Austin Chronicle
Council Wrap Up: Unpacking Council’s Brand New Budget, Austin Chronicle
Point Austin: A Living Budget, Austin Chronicle
September 11, 2015
COPS / Metro Raises Municipal & County ‘Living Wage’ to $13/Hr
On Thursday September 10th, at the urging of COPS / Metro Alliance, San Antonio city council members unanimously voted for a living wage increase from $11.47 to $13.00 per hour, benefiting 1,300 of their lowest paid workers. By doing so, the municipality joined Bexar County in their living wage increase. Just ten days prior, Bexar county commissioners voted to increase their lowest wage to $13 / hour.
While this concludes a drama-filled and yearlong saga — which also resulted in raised wages for workers at Alamo Colleges — COPS / Metro leaders are not planning to rest long. Their long-term wage strategy includes a push to increase municipal wages to $14 / hour in fiscal year 2017 and $15 / hour the year after. They are furthermore setting their sights on wages paid by public schools and hospital districts.
August 15, 2015
Reflecting on the Legacy of the Civil Rights Movement
Ernesto Cortes and Julian Bond reflect on the legacy of the civil rights movement at Texas A&M’s “50 Years of Inclusion” speaking engagement.
July 9, 2015
Metro Vancouver Alliance Wins Living Wage Fight
Leaders of the Metro Vancouver Alliance celebrated the passage of a living wage ordinance, committing the city to paying $20.68 per hour (the rate includes benefits) for all City workers and contracted employees.
Last fall, at MVA’s accountability session, candidates from four civic parties committed to taking the lead on the issue. Mayor George Robertson fulfilled his promise, putting forth the motion, which won by unanimous vote.
City of Vancouver to Become Living Wage Employer, Vancouver Courier
Guest Column: Vancouver’s ‘Living Wage’ Plan, The Province
August 3, 2015
COPS / Metro Gains Support of City Manager on Living Wage
COPS / Metro leaders and allies are celebrating a huge victory — the city manager and a majority of city council members are now agreeing to COPS / Metro’s proposal to raise wages for the lowest paid city workers to $13 / hour for fiscal year 2016. This exceeds the City’s current living wage standard of $11.47 / hour.
“We are ecstatic— this is a huge step for public sector employees, not only in the state, but in the nation. We are proud to have spearheaded this campaign and to have gained the support of our council members and the manager,” said Mr. Robert Cruz of St. Leo the Great Catholic Church. In photo, Sisters Josephine Murray and Gabriella Lohan of COPS / Metro personally thank City Manager Sheryl Sculley for her support.
[Photo Credit: Tom Peel, San Antonio Express-News]
San Antonio Poised to Increase Wages for Some Workers, San Antonio Express-News
City Manager Recommends Raising Minimum Wage for City Employees to $13 Per Hour, San Antonio Current
City to Propose Minimum Wage Hike, 1200 News Radio WOAI
July 20, 2015
COPS Credited with Founding of Palo Alto College
The photo shows a lineup of COPS leaders at the ground-breaking ceremony for Palo Alto College. Pictured with shovels in hand are (from left) Helen Ayala, president of COPS; first student Elizabeth Aguilar-Villarreal; and Mary Segovia, chair of Southside college committee of COPS.
“At the first convention of Communities Organized for Public Service (COPS) in 1974, Fernando Rodriguez Jr. introduced a resolution to open a community college on the West Side or South Side. Berriozábal remembers the idea of such a college was a hard sell for local officials.
‘If we have insensitivity now, just imagine the insensitivity back in the 1960s and ’70s when we wanted a college in that area,’ she said.”
Read article below for the whole scoop.
[Photo Credit: San Antonio Express-News]
Grassroots Effort Led to Palo Alto’s Founding, San Antonio Express News
June 11, 2015
Sisters Combat Poverty, Impacting Thousands in San Antonio
At a graduate recognition ceremony for 200 Project Quest students, Executive Director Sr. Pearl Ceasar and Boardmember Sr. Gabriela Lohan — both instrumental in the creation and implementation of the long-term workforce development program — congratulated each one on stage.
Says Sr. Pearl Ceasar:
“Jesus was about the transformation of people and that’s what we do. We are about the transformation of people.”
Read the Global Sisters’ Report for more about the people behind Project Quest and their impact on families. Project Quest was founded by COPS / Metro Alliance leaders in 1992.
[Photo Credit: Nuri Vallbona, Global Sisters Report]
Workforce Programs Moves People Up and Out of Low-Paying Jobs, Global Sisters Report
June 24, 2015
‘Better Together’ Beats Back Baton Rouge Separatists
Leaders of ‘Better Together’ successfully undermined a suburban incorporation effort (in the St. George area) by convincing voters who had signed onto the original petition to withdraw their signatures.
A small minority of St. George residents needed 17,859 signatures to call a vote for incorporation, an essential first step in separating the suburb from the City of Baton Rouge. After these residents turned in 18,000 signatures, ‘Better Together’ leaders painstakingly reviewed the list, contacting signatories to confirm they understood the significance of their signature . Over 1,100 original signatories were persuaded to submit petition withdrawal forms, thus ensuring that St. George remain part of the City.
[Photo Credit: Richard Alan Hannon, The Advocate]
[Video] How Citizens Turned the Tide on the St. George Breakaway, Better Together
[Oped] Better Together If That is the Goal, The Advocate
June 18, 2015
Memorial Service for Ed Chambers Announced
8:30am, Wednesday, July 1st
American Jewish University
15600 Mulholland Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90077
The service will be open to IAF organizers and others, and will precede the IAF International meeting scheduled that same day.
Reflections on Chamber’s life and legacy below:
Recognizing Ed Chambers by Dick Harmon
Lessons From a Great Community Organizer,Council of Philanthropy
May 19, 2015,
Valley Interfaith Upsets Pharr Election, Community Wins Big
As a result of Valley Interfaith‘s impact on the recent Pharr city comissioners race, the newly constituted city commission has placed six of the organization’s top agenda items on the agenda — all of which are expected to be approved. At an accountability assembly three weeks prior, leader raised the issue of needed investments in parks, libraries, additional job training, a bridge across a canal to link two neighborhoods, curtailment of predatory lending, street paving and additional bus routes. Back story here.
The Rio Grande Guardian reports:
“In the recent Pharr City Commission election, Valley Interfaith leaders knew the races were likely to be close. They calculated that if they turned out their supporters and members, particularly in south Pharr, they could impact the election and thus have leverage on which policies get implemented.”
After turning out 1,000 additional voters of South Pharr, the strategy appears to be paying off.
[Photo Credit: Steve Taylor, Rio Grande Guardian]
City Commits More Funds to Education-Based Nonprofit, The Monitor
City of Pharr Set to Adopt Valley Interfaith’s Initiatives for Las Milpas, Rio Grande Guardian (05/17/15)
All City Candidates Commit to Valley Interfaith Agenda, Lincoln Park, The Brownsville Herald (04/26/15)
Pharr Candidates Back Valley Interfaith’s Agenda, Rio Grande Guardian (04/27/15)
Valley Interfaith Hosts Forums Across Area, The Brownsville Herald (04/24/15)
‘Accountability Session’ to Feature Commission and Mayor Candidates, The Brownville Herald (04/18/15)
Pharr Candidates Commit to Valley Interfaith Agenda One Day Before Voting Starts, The Monitor (04/27/15)
Forum in Pharr to Focus on Las Milpas, But Only Challengers Commit to Attending, The Monitor (04/27/15)
Valley Interfaith to Host Forum for Pharr Candidates on Sunday, Rio Grande Guardian (04/24/15)
May 15, 2015
TMO Parent Leaders Triumphant Over Rezoning Proposal
TMO Lyons Elementary parents won an 8 – 1 Houston Independent School District board vote against proposed boundary changes to their school. The changes would have sent students from one of the top ranked schools in the state to one ranked in the lowest 18% statewide. Parent leaders signed up 600 petitioners opposed to the change to convince board members that this was a bad idea.
Rosa Rivera told board members, “We want you to listen to us. Don’t move our children.” Demonstrating that organized parents would be heard, board trustee members, including area representative Anna Eastmann, subsequently rejected the the proposed plan.
May 7, 2015
Stephens, Cortes and Others Reflect on Life of Edward Chambers
In a New Yorker piece by Samuel Freedman, Industrial Areas Foundation co-chair Ernesto Cortes and Sr. Christine Stephens reflect on the life and spirit of Edward Chambers, the long-time executive director of the IAF that led it to to become the premier community organizing network in the US and around the world.
“Ed believed in the mission of the church, and I don’t just mean the Roman Catholic Church,” Sister Christine Stephens, a member of Chambers’s leadership team in the I.A.F., said. “That mission involved dealing with people who are on the margins, people who don’t have power.”
Says Ernesto Cortes:
“Ed had a spiritedness, a levity. And a lot of straight talk about power.”
[Photo Credit: George Tames, New York Times]
Lessons From a Great Community Organizer, Council of Philanthropy
March 28, 2015
Valley Interfaith Celebrates In Their (Newly Paved) Streets
When Valley Interfaith leader Monse Martinez (in photo, upper left)
first moved into Las Milpas he noticed the roads were in very bad conditions. Says Martinez: “The potholes were destroying our vehicles. But we started to get organized…talking about it in church, holding house meetings and demanding these roads get fixed.”
When the residents got their street paved, they organized a celebration where the potholes used to be.
Said Martinez’s pastor Reverend Edouard Atangana: “It is part of the Christian responsibility to participate in the life of the community.” Leaders of the Los Ebanos colonia are also pushing for a recreation center and a library. To that end, Father Atangana urged parishioners to stay involved in the process. ”We want our people in this part of Pharr, especially, to vote.”
[Photo Credit: Esmeralda Leal, Rio Grande Guardian]
Colonia Residents Celebrate After Streets Get Repaired, Rio Grande Guardian
March 16, 2015
EPISO & Border Interfaith Punch Payday Lenders in the Base with $13M Alternative Lending Program
For the second time in one year, IAF organizations in El Paso (EPISO and Border Interfaith) dealt a harsh blow to the bottom line of payday lenders.
During last year’s fight to restrict how much payday lenders can legally make off the backs of lower-income families, opponents from the lending industry couched their financial predation under the guise of “providing a valuable service” to residents. After winning a significant victory in 2014 limiting payday lending profits, leaders wanted more.
In financial literacy civic academies held in the poorest neighborhoods of El Paso, families revealed that when a tire blew, or a child got sick, they needed fast cash. They had the capacity to repay small loans, but were shut out of traditional consumer credit markets due to lack of income or credit…(more here)
March 10, 2015
PCIC Celebrates 25 Years of Successes in Battle
Over 250 leaders of Pima County Interfaith Council (PCIC) convened at St. Phillips in the Hills to celebrate 25 years of success. Since 1980, PCIC has leveraged upwards of $100 million in state and local funds into projects that benefit the common good including KidCo, JobPath, local parks and recreation centers across the County.
In addition to enjoying the sound of a youth-led mariachi band, participants honored longtime and retired leaders Episcopal priest Paul Buckwalter, Methodist Pastor David Wilkinson, former PCIC/AIN Lead Organizer Frank Pierson, former Diocesan CCHD representative Joanne Welter, and deceased former Tucson Mayor and PCIC leader George Miller. Bishop Gerald Kicanas of the Tucson Catholic Dioceses chaired the event (more here)…
February 4, 2015
VIP Leverages $26.6M for Tempe & Scottsdale Public Schools
Phoenix, AZ – 200 Valley Interfaith Project delegates assembled after the fall 2014 election to celebrate the leveraging of $26.6 Million in public school dollars for Tempe Elementary and Scottsdale Unified School Districts. Leaders achieved this by passing school override ballot measures.
Key legislative allies in attendance vowed to to protect Medicaid expansion that was won in 2013, re-connect public school funding to inflation and advance new legislation for Respite Care, all part of VIP’s 2015 Human Development agenda.
February 3, 2015
ICON Wins PUSD Boardmember Commitments for Cleaner Buses
ICON and its ‘Clean & Green’ team leveraged commitments from three board members of the Pomona Unified School District to begin to eliminate the use of diesel buses in favor of cleaner alternatives. Leaders made the case against a district contract that relies on diesel buses, excessively exposing schoolchildren to diesel particulate matter.
Pomona Unified’s Smog-Belching Diesel Buses Should be Mothballed, Residents Say, Inland Valley Bulletin [pdf]
Pomona Unified Officials, Residents to Discuss Diesel Buses, Inland Valley Bulletin [pdf]