In response to calls for change by their workers and Coloradans for the Common Good, the Jefferson County School Board approved a $3/hr increase to the minimum wage of all Educational Support Professionals (ESP). Nearby, the Denver Federation ratified a contract that increases the minimum wage to $20/hr for para-educators and over $18/hr for nutrition employees. This equates to tens of millions of dollars for working families in the metro area, and required coordinated action between unionized educators and Coloradans for the Common Good.
Last fall, CCG leaders organized an accountability assembly, leveraging commitments from every JeffCo School Board candidate at the time to support wage increases for ESPs if elected. When it became clear more pressure was needed, leaders returned to the JeffCo Board this spring.
At the same time, CCG organized a rally at Valdez Elementary with over 350 educators, parents, and community members to push for wage increases in Denver Public Schools (DPS). Leaders soon followed up with a press conference where the DPS Board President, Vice President, and an additional school board member committed to increasing wages.
[Photo Credits: (Top) Olivia Sun, Colorado Sun; (Right) Helen Richardson, The Denver Post]
This week, Polk County Supervisors approved AMOS' proposal to invest $1.8 million in ARPA funds to diversify and retain mental health providers through a scholarship and loan forgiveness program. This win is the result of over 10 months of organizing work including:
- Hundreds of conversations in Mental Health Civic Academies that surfaced workforce needs, including to fully staff the Children's Mental Health Crisis system AMOS worked so hard to secure
- A 'Mental Health Provider Summit' in December to understand providers' specific workforce needs and barriers
- 100+ AMOS leaders contacting Polk County supervisors in support of AMOS' mental health workforce proposal
- 4 AMOS leaders testifying at a Polk County Supervisors meeting to share the need for this investment, particularly for refugee and immigrant communities
- AMOS representation at mental health task force meetings by a First Unitarian leader
AMOS leaders plan to continue to work with Polk County to ensure that the funds are administered to maximize accessibility and impact.
At the Point Isabel ISD Board meeting, Texas LNG sought last-minute approval for tax abatement through the expiring Chapter 313 program. Leaders from Valley Interfaith, alongside allied organizations, made the case to the board.
On a unanimous vote Tuesday night, the school district voted not to go forward with the applications.
Several Port Isabel area residents voiced opposition, both to Texas LNG on environmental grounds, and to the abatements, saying Texas LNG deserves to have to pay its fair share of taxes.
Valley Interfaith and the other objectors said Texas LNG doesn’t need the abatement because the project has been planned for years and the company has already decided to build the facility here.
“Valley Interfaith congratulates the superintendent and PIISD Board members for their willingness to look at the facts and reject this application for huge tax abatements for an LNG export terminal they
have long planned to build in the Port of Brownsville area,” said Father Kevin Collins, O.M.I. pastor of S. Eugene of Mazenod Church in Brownsville and Valley Interfaith. “They don’t need to take money from Texas school children to build a profitable LNG export facility at a time when the whole world is clamoring for liquified natural gas,” Collins said.
Point Isabel School District Rejects Texas LNG Tax Abatement, The Brownsville Herald [pdf]
Building on a strategy initiated by Dallas Area Interfaith, parish leaders at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church issued parish identification cards to parishioners. The document allows immigrant parishioners to identify themselves to authorities, including law enforcement and county health officials, and was developed in partnership with the Catholic Diocese of Dallas and local law police departments. Revista Catolica captured the most recent parish ID event on film.
Parish IDs Issued at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church with the Support of DAI, Revista Cátolica [video in Spanish]
Together West Michigan is a nonpartisan partnership of 20 local, faith-based and community groups.
The coalition listened to more than 1,000 people over a three-month period this past spring to identify the top concerns, which were laid out at an event on Thursday.
At the event, community members held a march, then listened to the ways in which the issues are affecting families.
One mother said her family could only afford to send their older children to daycare this summer because of their tax return.
“We are grateful that it worked out this time, but it worked out because of a miracle and a miracle is not a strategy,” said Alaina Dobkowski. “Families should not have to rely on a miracle for this to work. I know that my family is not alone in these challenges. Many families are struggling.”
Organizers say the area has a long history of philanthropy and charity, but falls short when it comes to justice and equity.
“Often times people and organizations have the tendency to try and plan for individuals and circumstances,” said Rev. Willie A. Gholtson II, Together West Michigan co-chair. “We believe that at the core of our existence is to listen to what is going on in our community so we make sure that we’re meeting their needs.”
[Photo Credit: Joel Bissell, MLive]
The Morning Show: Together West Michigan, WGVU Public Media (NPR)
Complete Assembly Footage, Together West Michigan
Last year Texas IAF organizations led the charge to end Chapter 313, a program that had given away $10 billion in windfall tax breaks for corporations. However, hundreds of Chapter 313 applications are being filed in the rush to get in before the end of the program, including some with projects slated for decades from now.
“It’s like hogs at the trough,” said Bishop John Ogletree, an official with the faith-based Texas Industrial Areas Foundation, which has opposed the arrangements.
Meanwhile, lawmakers and interest groups have begun discussing how to craft a replacement during next year’s legislative session to keep the tax breaks flowing.
The Chapter 313 deals — named for their location in the state tax code — let companies slash 10 years worth of school property tax bills they otherwise would owe on newly constructed factories and energy projects.
Over the past decade the state comptroller’s office has received an average of about 90 applications annually from companies seeking the subsidy.
Since the Legislature adjourned at the end of May 2021, by comparison, records show companies have filed requests for more than 460 new tax breaks — about 400 in the past five months alone.
Typically, companies sought Chapter 313 tax breaks for projects two to four years in the future, with the occasional oil and gas facility taking six or seven years to complete. Since last May, however, companies have applied for 120 of the subsidies for facilities not scheduled to open until at least 2028. At least 10 won’t be online for a decade or more.
Despite the program’s demise, applicants “have figured out how to extend it,” said Rev. Minerva Camarena-Skeith, of Central Texas Interfaith.
Their strategy seems to be, “Just in case, let’s get 10 years of requests in in one year,” added Bob Fleming, of The Metropolitan Organization, the Houston branch of the Texas Industrial Areas Foundation. “I don’t know anybody who can forecast their needs 30 years out.”
....by slow-walking the end of a program they said was giving away too much money to corporations at the expense of Texas taxpayers, legislators have now put the state on the hook for billions of additional tax breaks that Texans will be paying off well into the middle of the century.
[Photo Credit: Mark Mulligan, Houston Chronicle]
"This takes money away from children's education and gives it to corporations, and that is a nonstarter," said Mother Minerva Camarena Skeith, [Reverend of] St. John's Episcopal Church in North Austin. "The corporation was the one that would have been their responsibility as part of our community to do their fair share of investing into our children. Right? And they have abdicated that. They just don't do that. Then we have to pick up the slack."
With Chapter 313 set to expire at the end of the year, the state's comptroller office has received a record number of applications. Since Jan. 1, 2022, school districts sent in 393 company Chapter 313 applications. In any given year before this, the office received maybe 150 applications.
"If all these things get approved, like, we could bankrupt the state," Rev. Miles Brandon worried.
"Anybody who's fiscally conservative at all should have a have a real problem with the unlimited nature of 313."
Council members got an earful Tuesday from the Living Wage Working Group, made up of unions and workers’ advocates, on why they say the living wage needs to be increased to $22 in the upcoming city budget. It’s been stuck at $15 since 2018.
"The high cost of living makes it difficult for city employees to live in the city that they work in,"
said [Rev.] Minerva Camarena-Skeith of [St. John's Episcopal Church and] Central Texas Interfaith.
The proposed change would apply to most city workers, from construction workers to airport employees to lifeguards, as well as workers for companies contracted by the city or companies which receive tax abatements. Departments citywide are plagued with high vacancy rates, as they lose workers to higher-paying private-sector jobs.
"$22 an hour is a starting place. We believe that it's still not a living wage," said Fabiola Barreto, Austin Policy Coordinator with the Workers Defense Project.
Austin City Council Considers Raising Living Wage for Workers, FOX News 7 [pdf]
City Must Raise Wages to $22/Hour Working Group Says, Austin Monitor
350 One-LA-IAF leaders gathered at St. Brigid Catholic Church in South Los Angeles with candidates for Los Angeles mayor and District 3 County Supervisor. Candidates committed to work with One-LA on affordable housing, homelessness, healthcare, mental health and quality job training that would allow Angelenos to live in Los Angeles.
Check out @TimothyParkertv reporting on One LA-IAF assembly with city and county candidates.— One LA (@OneLA_IAF) June 14, 2022
“When we are speaking about matters of homelessness and mental health, we are actually defending our own people," Rev. Kenneth Keke.#peoplepower #losangeles pic.twitter.com/KvwjzldHQp
One-LA leaders presented a common agenda that cut across faith, race, and geographic lines. Local leaders shared stories about the issues they and their communities are facing. A young Latino father shared his 2-month wait to get emergency mental health services for his 14-year-old daughter, a homeless service provider volunteer recounted the bureaucratic mess to find a home for a man who lost his housing solely due to medical debt, and a Black mother and veteran shared how her family was priced out of their rental home in Jefferson Park.
An underlying issue mentioned throughout the afternoon was the inability for the County and City of Los Angeles to work together effectively. Every candidate agreed to work with One LA members on making the government accountable to Angelenos.
“As people of faith we grieve and gather… we mourn and mobilize.. we take action. We are not waiting to be rescued, today we gather to build a more just and equitable city,” declared Rabbi Dara Frimmer from Temple Isaiah during the invocation.
Words, thoughts and prayers are not enough to address the gruesome murder scene at yet another school shooting.
Uvalde, Buffalo, El Paso, Santa Fe, Fort Hood, Sandy Hook, plus 26 other schools and 200 other mass shootings just this year. Our state leaders’ ongoing catering to the gun lobby, with periodic “heartfelt” platitudes of sadness, is leading our state into a death spiral. This is idolatry of the semi-automatic weapon.
We must resist becoming numb to the slaughter of our children and families. Action is the only appropriate response.
In the words of Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller of San Antonio, “People are dying! We have made guns our idols, they are sacred to the point that we don’t take measures to help avoid these situations. It’s horrible. It’s a systemic problem. So, when we say that we are respecting life, how are we going to do it in this field?”
There are measures we can take to help prevent this carnage. But after the shootings in El Paso, Texas legislators passed six state laws that expanded access to guns.
Rabbi David Lyon of Congregation Beth Israel reminds us of the scriptural mandate: “Do not stand idly by while your neighbor bleeds. It is our higher calling to be responsible for one another.”
We must become a state where mass shootings are a relic of the past.
The Texas Industrial Areas Foundation, a network of churches, non-profits, unions, foundations, and neighborhoods, publicly commits to build the power we need to make this world a reality. Our commitment is to engage communities, leaders, and elected officials around policy changes for safer communities. Texas IAF calls on the legislature to pass concrete legislation that will prevent further carnage at our schools, churches and communities.
We cannot afford another tragedy.
The time to act is now.
The Network of Texas IAF Organizations are non-partisan, institutionally based community organizations whose purpose is to train leaders to organize families around issues which affect their quality of life. The network includes Communities Organized for Public Service and The Metro Alliance in San Antonio, The Border Organization, Valley Interfaith in the Rio Grande Valley; TMO in Houston; EPISO and Border Interfaith In El Paso; Central Texas Interfaith; Dallas Area Interfaith; AMOS- Arlington, and the West Texas Organizing Strategy.