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
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]
January 28, 2014
TMO to David Brooks: Programs You Call For Already Exist!
Responding to David Brooks’ assertion that the President’s proposal to provide cost-free community college access is not enough, TMO leaders Rev. Kevin Collins, Mr. Franklin Olson and Mr. Bob Fleming offer initial agreement and the good news that the types of programs Brooks calls for already exist in Texas.
“Local programs in San Antonio, Austin, El Paso, Dallas and the Rio Grande Valley developed by IAF affiliates have graduated thousands of students from our community colleges, lifting them out of poverty and into self-sufficiency. These initiatives are ripe for expansion and replication.” Read more below:
December 24, 2014
Texas Observer Names Cortes Major Change Maker in Texas
Change Makers – The Texas Observer Celebrates 60 Years, Texas Observer
December 17, 2014
COPS / Metro Raises Wages of Lowest Paid Colleges Workers
In a win that COPS / Metro is calling “a beginning,” the Board of the Alamo (Community) Colleges approved wage raises for its lowest paid workers including an $11.50 minimum for full-time employees. This represents a $1.38 / hour raise for approximately 49 long-time housekeeping staff now making the lowest wage.
The district will also increase pay to $10 / hour for 700 part-time and temporary employees.
COPS leaders say they want these raises to continue to the level that Bexar County is implementing, and to include contracted workers as well.
Alamo Colleges Board OKs Raises For Its Lowest Paid Workers, San Antonio Express News [pdf]
November 24, 2014
Odd Couple?: US Catholic Bishops & the IAF
“Alinsky protégé and ‘genius grant’ recipient Ernesto Cortés, Jr. cites Catholic social teaching as influential in the development of community organizing, and when the nation’s largest denomination holds that Thanksgiving-week special collection of mostly small donations, it will be supporting one element in a broad-based coalition aimed at empowering ordinary folks. As Ernie Cortés notes, ‘The only answer to organized money is organized people.’ For all the efforts that are furthering that vision, we can truly give thanks.”
In photo: Bishop Joe Vasquez (in black suit on right) stands with Austin Interfaith in support of workers.
Odd Couple?, Huffington Post
November 14, 2014
Houston Chronicle Credits TMO With Changing Lives
“The Metropolitan Organization, which celebrated the 30th anniversary of its charter this October, works with the voiceless to help transmute their anger into leadership. In a meeting with the Chronicle editorial board, TMO representatives said that the nonprofit, which organizes church congregations and other institutions across the region, encourages residents to say: “This is the city I want,” and then to hold government accountable. Under TMO’s stewardship, neighborhoods find their voices, and city government acquires a hearing aid….”
TMO at 30: The Metropolitan Organization’s Successes Have Changed the Lives of People, Houston Chronicle [pdf]
The Metropolitan Organization Celebrates 30th Anniversary, Honors Three Community Heroes, Texas Catholic Herald [pdf]
October 16, 2014
Project Quest Wins $6 Million DOL Grant
Workforce development program Project QUESTwon an award of $6 Million from the US Department of Labor to train 475 adults in the San Antonio area for living wage IT careers. Project Quest’s “Homegrown IT” program is backed by local employers including Rackspace, Zachry Holdings and WP Engine. Quest will focus on training long-term unemployed residents of Bexar and neighboring counties. Said Executive Director Sr. Pearl Ceasar, “We are ready to implement it.”
Labor Department Awards IT Job Training Funds to Project QUEST, San Antonio Business Journal
Quest Wins $6 Million for IT Training, San Antonio Express News
October 6, 2014
With Fairfax Win Under Belt, MOC Steps Up Fight for Shelter
Fairfax became the first municipality in Marin to commit to providing funding for the expansion of the REST winter homeless shelter program into a year-round project, thanks to intervention from the Marin Organizing Committee. The Town Council voted unanimously to approve a request for $16,392, as part of a regional proposal put forth by MOC leaders.
At its ‘Housing Sabbath’ MOC gave a standing ovation to the Fairfax Council and announced plans to step up the fight for year-round emergency housing. In addition to targeting nine other cities, including San Anselmo, Tiburon and Novato, leaders aim to persuade Marin County to put in $500,000 and the Marin Community Foundation to put in $250,000. Congregations plan to step up their in-kind contributions of food and shelter as well.
Fairfax Becomes First Town in Marin to Pledge Money for Homeless Shelter, Marin Independent Journal
Housing Sabbath: Hospitality and Home in Marin, Marin Independent Journal
Marin Homeless Shelter Committee Steps Up Push for Funding, Marin Independent Journal
September 23, 2014
One LA Wins $6M in Added Funding for County Health Coverage
The morning after an assembly in which hundreds of San Fernando Valley leaders of One LA leveraged commitments from District 3 candidates to ensure sufficient funding for the ‘My Health LA’ program, the LA County Board of Supervisors voted to invest $6 Million in additional dollars for the program.
One LA estimates that the added funding will expand coverage by 35 to 40 thousand individuals. This victory comes months after the organization identified millions of County dollars that could be used to cover more uninsured people, including undocumented County residents.
One LA leaders and allies were on hand for the vote.
LA County’s Top Health Official Shows Compassionate Side, LA Daily News
One LA Urges Supervisors to Cover the Uninsured, Angelus – The Tidings Online
Additional background information, WXSWIAF
August 28, 2014
COPA Leaders Get Crosswalk in Front of Senior Living Facility
Doña Francisca’s death by car, the 4th accident in front of the Sherwood Village senior living facility, brought clarity to members of Aging Latinos in Action. Without a stop sign, seniors were left vulnerable to rushing and inattentive drivers. ALA reached out to COPA for training, then conducted their own research actions and meetings with sitting Council members to secure a crosswalk in front of their living facility. In photo, ALA leaders process down their newly installed crosswalk.
Said leader Fermin Gonzalez, “We’re not part of history…we’re making history!”
Salinas Seniors Organize to Improve Crosswalk, The Monterey Herald
August 21, 2014
Capital IDEA-Houston Gets Praise from Chase + $100K Award
Carolyn Watson, Chase Bank VP of Corporate Responsibility, announced the award of $100K to Capital IDEA-Houston at a meeting of the Houston Community College Board of Trustees. Capital IDEA-Houston, established by leaders of TMO as a labor market intermediary, pulls working students out of poverty wage jobs and into living wage careers starting at upwards of $30,000 per year plus benefits. TMO (The Metropolitan Organization) built the political will to establish the training program to bridge the wage gap between industry needs and the skills base of the city.
“The Capital IDEA / Houston Community College partnership works!” declared Watson. “It gives workers aspiring to a better future the training and practical supports they need to persist to graduation….”
Full Statement [pdf]
August 15, 2014
COPA Breaks Ground On Acosta Plaza Basketball Court in Salinas
COPA leaders and their young children celebrated the breaking of ground at Acosta Plaza with shovels, stories and speeches. The story, the way Bibiana Alcala tells it, involved an important first phone call. ”Once our residents said they wanted a basketball court….we contacted COPA.”
Youth and community leaders of Acosta Plaza, in collaboration with other congregations of COPA, lobbied neighborhood associations, Mayor Gunter of Salinas and statewide community foundations to identify funding for the construction of a basketball court. The $100,000 construction project is the result of negotiation: Residents will assist COPA-member and affordable housing provider CHISPA in building the court while the City of Salinas and the California Endowment will help shoulder the costs.
Earlier this year, youth leveraged $500 from a local neighborhood association and then brought Mayor Gunter into the effort — framing the project as an opportunity to help young people in Salinas thrive. This week, construction begins. By October, the court will be ready for basketball.
Acosta Plaza Residents Build BB Court, The Californian
COPA’s Acosta Plaza Youth Accost Mayor to Clean Up Park, WXSWIAF [March 2014]
August 1, 2014
Texas IAF Calls on White House to Stop Deportations of Children
Asserting that anyone under 18 years must have an attorney and should never be subjected to expedited processing, hundreds of bishops and clergy from every major religious denomination in Texas denounced proposed changes to the Trafficking Victims Act of 2008 and called on the White House for a better approach to the humanitarian crisis at the border.
In El Paso, San Antonio, Houston, Austin, Fort Worth and Dallas, religious leaders preached about the crisis at the border, organized relief efforts and held press conferences reminding the White House and Congress of the Judeo-Christian admonishment for nations to “show kindness and mercy to one another, [to] not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner or the poor (Zechariah 7:9-10).”
Texas IAF organizations are spearheading an effort to ensure that the 2008 Trafficking Victims Protection Act not be weakened, that expedited deportations of children be halted and that religious congregations be granted access to attend to the spiritual needs of the children currently detained in detention facilities. [In photo, El Paso Catholic Bishop Mark Seitz delivers joint statement.]
Border Interfaith & EPISO (El Paso):
COPS / Metro Alliance (San Antonio)
Allied Communities of Tarrant (Fort Worth):
Dallas Area Interfaith:
See more extensive Media Coverage here.