In Wake of Wage Theft, Valley Interfaith Calls for Incentives Reform and Investigations
In small group conversations organized through their congregations, Valley Interfaith leaders Elisa Alfaro of Holy Spirit parish and Dayra Campos of San Juan Diego kept hearing the same stories: workers in cold storage facilities earning less than the minimum wage and experiencing rampant labor abuse.
While the federal minimum wage is $7.25, parishioners shared that they are often paid less than half that by McAllen producers. When one company closed access to the bathroom for employees, they were forced to walk 10 minutes to a gas station for their bathroom break. Another parishioner shared constant threats by their boss if they were to admit working 10 hours per day for $600 per month (less than half the minimum wage).
In response, Valley Interfaith leaders are calling on the City of McAllen to ensure that no company that pays workers under the minimum wage, or is guilty of wage theft, receives incentives from the city. They are also calling on the City to investigate abusive labor practices. Leaders are now meeting with the McAllen Economic Development Corporation and McAllen City Manager about making these changes.
"Nobody should earn a slave wage," said Elisa Alfaro.
[Image Credit: KVEO footage]
Faith Leaders, Lawyer: Wage Theft Rampant at Local Cold Storage Facilities, The Monitor [pdf]
Produce Industry Wage Dispute, KVEO [pdf]
Fair Pay a Distant Dream for Produce Packers in the Rio Grande Valley, San Antonio Express-News
TMO Leverages Wage Win of $14/hr for Houston School District Workers, Impacting Lowest Paid 3,000+
In a budget process that the Houston Chronicle says "devolved into a clash of wills," TMO clergy and leaders leveraged a major wage win for workers: $14 per hour for 3,000+ of the lowest paid employees in the Houston Independent School District, employees who keep children safe, nourished, and schools clean.
In testimony to the HISD Board, Deacon Sam Dunning, Director of the Office of Peace and Justice in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston argued: "A budget is a moral document...it is time to treat all workers with dignity."
Rev. Carissa Baldwin-McGinnis of Northside Episcopal Church argued, "There is a price to be paid for allocating funds that is not equitable to all classes and that price will be paid by your hourly workers and their family members... in the form of hunger, inadequate housing, anxiety, fear and stress." Rev. Jimmy Grace of St. Andrew’s Episcopal, Rev. Darrel Lewis of New Pleasant Grove Baptist, Rev. Jacqueline Hailey of New Hope Baptist, Rev. Rhenel Johnson of St. Andrew's UMC and Chava Gal-Orr from Temple Sinai spoke at Board meetings and press conferences as well.
This spring, TMO was part of a delegation of 300 Texas IAF leaders that called on state legislators to increase spending in public education in order to retain the talent upon which public schools rely. After passage of HB3, which put millions of dollars into public schools across the state, TMO leaders worked locally to make sure Houston Independent School District used its funds for the lowest paid workers.
[Photo Credit: Top photos from footage by Univision]
Push for Pay Raises for HISD, KHOU
HISD Board Lays Out Compensation Package for 2019-2020 School Year, FOX News
Activistas Exigen Aumento del Salario Mínimo Para Trabajadores del Distrito Escolar Independiente de Houston, Univision
Houston ISD Trustees Approve $1.9 Billion Budget, Houston Chronicle
Video of clergy statements [first skip to 14:33 and then to 19:05]
Express-News Credits COPS/Metro for Raising Alamo Colleges Wage Floor to $15 per Hour
Five years after COPS/Metro's first wage win, the San Antonio Express-News is crediting the organization with the most recent wage floor hike at Alamo Colleges to $15 per hour.
"The COPS/Metro Alliance, a community organizing coalition, has for years pushed local public entities to adopt a minimum 'living wage' of $15 hourly as part of a national movement. The Alamo Colleges had already raised its minimum wage, along with the City of San Antonio, Bexar County and some public school districts, with the stated intent of moving gradually toward the $15 goal. The city and county reached $15 last fall."
In photo top left, taken in 2014, over 300 COPS/Metro leaders publicly launched a "living wage and economic security" campaign to raise the living standards of public employees. In 2014, in top photo at right, a St. Alphonsus Catholic parishioners tells a reporter that her daughter, a full-time Alamo Colleges employee, earned only $8.50 / hour without benefits or vacation. In bottom photos, Alamo Colleges workers Jose Rodriguez and Jennifer Wilgen describe the impact of the wage raise.
The $15/hour minimum represents a 30% increase over the previous wage floor. Alamo College representatives argue that raising the wage floor “supports the economic and social mobility of the families of the lowest paid members of the Alamo Colleges District workforce and the persistence of a growing body of students” employed part-time at the colleges.
This position is consistent with what COPS/Metro leaders have argued for years.
[Photo Credits: Top left and bottom photos by Bob Owen, San Antonio Express-News; top right photo by Rafael Paz Parra]
Alamo Colleges, Other San Antonio Employers, Embrace 'Living Wage', San Antonio Express-News [pdf]
Alamo College Trustees Raise Hourly Minimum Wage to $15, San Antonio Express-News [pdf]
Colorado IAF Secures DPS Boardmember Pledges to Negotiate with Teachers in Fight for Fair Compensation
One month before a potential strike vote for Denver educators, who have been negotiating with the district for over a year to improve compensation and address teacher turnover, nearly 400 educators, students, parents, and community members gathered at the Montbello High School Auditorium to share stories regarding the state of schools in Northeast Denver and discuss the need for increased teacher compensation. Organized by the Denver Classroom Teachers Association (DCTA) and the Colorado Industrial Areas Foundation (CO IAF), the assembly represented a broad-based network of schools, congregations, unions, and non-profits.
Colorado IAF and DCTA leaders secured commitments from DPS board members Jennifer Bacon and Dr. Carrie Olson to participate in the upcoming bargaining sessions and to support teachers’ demands for fair compensation. This will be the first time in recent memory that DPS board members will take an active role in bargaining to support teachers.
When Ms. Bacon and Dr. Olson were asked if they would support the union’s demands for fair compensation, they both answered with a resounding “yes!” Ms. Bacon, whose district includes Montbello, assured the assembly that she has instructed the senior staff to “get to work and find the money” to support the teachers. Dr. Olson made the commitment “not just to listen, but to act.”
DPS interim superintendent Ron Cabrera and the next superintendent, Susana Cordova, were present. Sen. Angela Williams, Rep. James Coleman, and City Councilmember Stacie Gilmore also committed to working with DCTA and Colorado IAF to address the issues raised.
As the assembly unfolded, DPS board members Angela Cobian and Barbara O’Brien reached out to the organizations, committing to meet with them and answer those same questions before bargaining resumes in early January.
Teachers in Colorado make on average 37.1% less than other professionals with similar education, and compensation for Denver teachers lags that of nearby districts. Furthermore, Denver’s salary system for teachers, ProComp, puts substantial money in one-time incentives that are unreliable and unpredictable – meaning educators cannot plan for their future. This contributes to a high teacher turnover rate, resulting in over 3 of 10 Denver teachers being in their first three years of teaching.
Educator Leaders Meet with DPS Board Members to Discuss Teachers Compensation, Denver Channel [pdf]
Austin Interfaith Protects Living Wage Requirement for Taxpayer Subsidized Jobs
On the eve of Labor Day weekend, Austin Interfaith leaders celebrated the protection of living wages for all jobs subsidized by City of Austin taxpayers and applauded the Austin City Council for adopting a $15 an hour living wage floor requirement as a key feature of its expanded Economic Development Incentive Program.
Says David Guarino of All Saints Episcopal Church, “Austin Interfaith recognizes Mayor Steve Adler, City Manager Spencer Cronk and the members of the City Council for hearing and acting on our concerns.”
“Tonight, the Austin City Council has set a national standard for urban economic incentive programs by recognizing that people deserve the dignity of a living wage from employers who receive economic incentives,” Guarino.
Austin Interfaith has worked years to encourage the city to implement living wage standards for city-subsidized companies.
Support Your Local and Small Businesses, Austin Chronicle
Council Set to Approve Incentive Plan to Help Local, Small Business, CBS Austin [pdf]
Council Considers Which Strings to Attach to Corporate Incentives, Austin Monitor [pdf]
COPS/Metro Leverages $15 Per Hour Living Wage in San Antonio Draft Budget
For the first time in city history, the lowest-paid municipal workers are set to begin earning $15 an hour — a major victory for COPS/Metro Alliance, which has been advocating for a living wage for several years.
Scully to Present $2.8 Billion Budget with Flat Tax Rate, San Antonio Express-News [pdf]
Together Baton Rouge Wins Pay Hike for Teachers, Bus Drivers
After a hard fight, Together Baton Rouge and allies won a salary increase for every teacher, para-professional, bus operator or other East Baton Rouge school district employee with two or more years at the district.
According to The Advocate:
"As they have at several previous meetings, employee groups — Louisiana Association of Educators, the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, Service Employees International Union and the East Baton Rouge Bus Driver’s Association — pressed once again for raises for all the district employees. The groups have joined forces with the faith-based group Together Baton Rouge to press the issue as well as to push the school system to reject all future requests from manufacturers for property tax breaks via the state’s 80-year-old Industrial Tax Exemption Program. They want the school system to use any ITEP savings to increase employees pay."
Leaders commended the school board and Superintendent Drake for this action, while acknowledging that more work remains to be done to secure salaries. In their words: "this was a big, big step."
[Photo Credit: The Advocate]
EBR School Board OK's $473M Budget, The Advocate [pdf]
COPS/Metro Calls for Equity in City Budget: More Job Training, Higher Wages
One week before the San Antonio City Council votes on the municipal budget, COPS / Metro leaders descended on City Hall to call for increased funding for long-term workforce development program Project Quest. Increasing the city's investment in Quest from $2.2 Million to $ 2.5 Million would enable the program to train an additional 100 residents for new jobs.Read more
NCLI Launches ACTS Job Training Program to Combat Louisiana Poverty
With Louisiana as the state with the third highest number of poor people, many of them working full-time, Northern & Central Louisiana Interfaith leaders are devising new ways to tackle poverty. Says Pastor Clayton Moore, "If you work, how is it that you're poor?"
NCLI leaders have launched Another Chance to Succeed (ACTS), modeling itself on Project QUEST in San Antonio and NOVA in Monroe, Louisiana. The goal is to train adults into higher wage jobs of at least $15 / hour. ACTS is targeting January 2017 as its start-up date.Read more
COPS/Metro Raises Wages AGAIN & Secures QUEST's Future
One year after raising the minimum wage for employees of the City of San Antonio (from $11.47 to $13 per hour), COPS / Metro Alliance leaders are celebrating again after the City Council passed a budget that includes a second wage raise to $13.75 per hour. This follows an intense two-year campaign with over 1,000 leaders recently assembling with the Mayor and council representatives to remind them of their commitment to a living wage. When the Mayor made some noise about living wages being an 'outsider's' agenda, leader Maria Tijerina fired back with an editorial reminding her that COPS / Metro is a local organization with a robust constituency.
City Council additionally approved shifting funding for workforce development program Project QUEST out from human services into economic development with its own line in the budget. Funding increased to $2.2 million including $200 thousand to cover tuition for the Open Cloud Academy training developed in collaboration with Rackspace.Read more