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
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 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]