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'Nevadans for the Common Good' Holds Off Medicaid Privatization

Las Vegas, NV - Backed by 300 leaders at a NCG action, senior Marsha Rodriguez told her story about the fragility of independence and state legislators listened.  Officials soon met with leaders and promised that privatization would NOT happen in 2016

'Together Louisiana' WINS: Governor Signs Off On Medicaid Expansion

Baton Rouge, LA - On his first full day in office, newly elected Governor John Bel Edwards made good on a pledge to ‘Together Louisiana’ to support Medicaid expansion.  Leaders flanked the governor's desk as he signed the executive order. More here.

Texas IAF Boosts Public Sector Wages in 4 Cities

San Antonio, TX - Amidst mariachis and balloons, COPS / Metro leaders celebrated a victorious end to a campaign culminating in higher wages for City, County, County hospital and Alamo Colleges workers.  Victories were also negotiated in Austin, Del Rio and El Paso.  Read below.

Jobs, Wages & Family Finance

COPS / Metro Hikes City & County Wages Over $13/hr

San Antonio, TX - After increasing the wages of the lowest paid workers for Alamo Colleges at the end of 2014, COPS / Metro Alliance turned its attention to the wages of the lowest paid workers of Bexar County and the City of San Antonio.  On September 10th, at the urging of COPS / Metro, 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 to $13 / hour voted ten days prior.  

Austin Interfaith Increases Wages for City Workers, Closes Loophole for Temps and Contracted Workers 

Austin, TX - At a press conference held after the passage of the new City budget, Austin Interfaith leaders celebrated a living wage hike for city workers and the closing of a loophole that had previously left hundreds out of prior wage increases.  As a result of their intervention, the City of Austin now pays their workers an increased living wage of $13.03 per hour (up from $11.39) and, for the first time ever, includes 800 adult part-time temporary workers in that wage standard.  Private corporations receiving public subsidies or contracting with the city are also required to pay the higher wage. 

EPISO & Border Interfaith Also Increase Wages

El Paso, TX - In addition to winning an ordinance enabling the City of El Paso to refuse contracts to employers violating wage theft laws, EPISO and Border Interfaith leaders launched a parallel campaign to raise public sector wages.  This summer, a majority of County Commissioners (and City Reps) committed to working with them to raise wages over the next few years to $15 /hour.  As a starting point, the County raised their lowest wage by 6%, the City by 5%.  City Rep. Lily Limon credited the organizations for creating the political will. 

The Border Organization Wins on Police Wages & School Cafeteria Working Conditions 

Del Rio, TX - 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.

North Texas IAF Wins Payday Reform in Arlington

Arlington, TX - After a congregational development process involving 3,000 St. Joseph Catholic parishioners unearthed weekly stories of payday lending predation, the pastor asked North Texas IAF for help. In October, parish leaders stood with the Texas Conference of Catholic Bishops to launch a campaign calling on the City of Arlington to better regulate payday and title loan lending.  Within one month, Council members unanimously voted "yes", becoming the first in Tarrant County to cap loans and require adherence to fair business practices.

Hearth & Home

Austin Interfaith & Mobile Home Park Residents Win Major Protections, Including Rent Stabilization

Austin, TX - Longtime Hidden Valley / High Meadows mobile home residents grew angered when a new out-of-state landowner raised rent twice within a 12-month period and mandated upgrades costing thousands per home; most own their home and rent the land on which it sits.  Families were also asked to show drivers’ licenses, leading many to flee in fear.  With the support of Austin Interfaith and Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, leaders renegotiated community rules, stabilized rent and created the first framework of landlord-resident relations for mobile home parks in Austin, a model for future parks. 

OTOC Fights Blight, Ups Rental Housing Inspections and Challenges Proposed Utility Rate Increases 

Omaha, NE - In addition to tripling the budget for demolition of blighted properties between 2012 and 2015, Omaha Together One Community (OTOC) succeeded in persuading the City Council to increase housing re-inspection fees levied on neglectful property owners, sufficient to increase the number of trained rental housing inspectors in the field to nine.  In a move against slumlords who abandon their properties, OTOC compelled the Council to pass a vacant property registration ordinance requiring owners to pay $500 for every quarter a house lies vacant (up to $2,000 / year).  OTOC succeeded over the opposition of the Landlord's and Nebraska Bankers associations.

In reaction to a proposal from the Omaha Public Power District to more than triple fixed fees from $10.25 to $35 per month, Fr. Mike Eckley and other OTOC leaders publicly challenged the wisdom of punishing low-income families for conserving energy.  OTOC not only succeeded in compelling the Board to reduce the proposed increase by 80%, the Board was forced to create a $1.5 Million customer assistance program for low-income low-use families.  Leaders plan to intervene in the November 2016 Board election to prevent future fixed fee hikes from being phased in.


Valley Interfaith Secures Streetlights in Olmitos

Cameron Co., TX - Upset that people would use thick darkness to openly deal drugs at night, Valley Interfaith leaders spoke with their neighbors and lobbied their County commissioners to create the political will to bring light to the streets of Olmitos.  Said Father Hector Cruz of Our Heavenly Father Church, "the streetlights show that democracy is alive in Cameron County." 

COPA-IAF Leaders Stop Church Foreclosure Fraud

Monterey Co, CA - Years after the foreclosure crisis, unscrupulous actors targeting low-income, Spanish-speaking Catholics signed up thousands of predatory lending victims at $1,250 a head for a lawsuit against the banks with no intention of seeing it through.  When they attempted to recruit at Assumption Catholic (a member of COPA-IAF), leaders pounced on the predators, immediately stopping them from recruiting at their parish.  Thanks to COPA training, leaders had the confidence to alert the Diocese of the danger to other parishes and persuade the County DA to investigate the case, thus protecting fellow parishioners and saving thousands more from falling into that trap. 

DAI Battles Apartment Slumlords, Mold & Crime

Dallas, TX - After a group of church women approached DAI, wanting to learn their rights and how to defend them, organizers worked with them as they organized meetings at churches and apartments to formulate a strategy to address mold, dilapidation and crime.  In November, extra chairs had to be hauled out to accommodate 160 people who gathered to bring specific issues with apartment conditions straight to the police chief and Dallas elected officials.  Officials vowed to help the residents.  The leaders are hopeful, and pressing on.

MACG Pushes for Millions in Affordable Housing

Portland, OR - When the Portland Housing Advisory Committee tried to argue that the Metropolitan Alliance for the Common Good's push for greater investments in affordable housing would necessarily reduce support for other services, MACG leaders responded by identifying $55 Million in available funds and convincing the committee to back their proposal.  The committee went on to recommend its passage to the Portland City Council.  At stake now is tens of million for affordable housing in the city.

COPS / Metro Fights for Streets in Bexar Colonia

Bexar Co., TX - When Maria Bernal’s baby stopped breathing after midnight, she called 911 and waited 90 minutes as the child turned blue.  The reason?  The ambulance was stuck in sandy, unpaved streets.  She, with over 250 families that live in the unincorporated corner of the county called Highland Oaks, is angry about being cut off from services because of lack of paved streets and — with the support of COPS/Metro --  are escalating their fight  to the county to pave the way.  

Healthy Families / Safe Communities

Monterey Co. Board Unanimously Ratifies COPA Win 

Monterey Co., CA - In September, by unanimous vote, the Monterey Board of Supervisors officially agreed to fund COPA's $500 thousand pilot program making available healthcare services for undocumented residents of the Central California county.  The Episcopal Diocese estimates that between 1,200 and 2,000 uninsured undocumented residents will be newly eligible.  

Spokane Alliance Wins Citywide Sick & Safe Leave 

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. 

AMOS Compels Focus on Racial Profiling in Iowa

Des Moines, IA - As part of a multi-year strategy to address the racial bias of the criminal justice system, leaders of AMOS (A Mid-Iowa Organizing Strategy) recorded the stories of black Iowans racially profiled by store clerks, security guards, police and more.  Says one woman, “I never, ever want to be that mom on TV crying because something happened to my son.”  The Des Moines Register responded, writing several feature pieces that highlighted such stories.  AMOS is now working with the Des Moines School District and Police Department to pilot programs aimed at reducing disproportionate arrests of youth of color.


VIP Works to Move AZ from 48th in School Funding 

Phoenix, AZ - Following a much publicized legal settlement that reinstated a portion of voter mandated school inflation funding withheld during the recession, and still leaves Arizona in 48th place nationally in per-pupil spending, 400 Valley Interfaith Project leaders crowded into a Scottsdale Methodist church to challenge four state legislators to address the sad state of school financing.  While securing commitments to boost state revenue, leaders also launched a year-long voter education campaign to build local support for public schools.  

NCG Calls on State to Fix Teacher Shortage Crisis

Las Vegas, NV - High school teacher Gerald Pentsil knows that with 40 students per class, he cannot give each youth the attention they need.  In October, 300 leaders from 'Nevadans for the Common Good' joined him to draw attention to the statewide teacher shortage and call on legislators to expand state funding of public schools. Senate Majority Leader Roberson and Senator Woodhouse committed to making the shortage crisis a top priority and working with NCG to address the shortage in a special session of the legislature.     

Training for Better Jobs

Valley Interfaith Leads Raymondville to Invest in VIDA

Raymondville, TX - 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." 

Austin Interfaith Secures $350K for Capital IDEA Expansion in Tech Careers & Career Expressway

Austin, TX - In addition to leveraging increased City investments in after-school programming and parks, pools and libraries, Austin Interfaith leveraged an additional $350K for long-term workforce development program Capital IDEA, an initial step in its 'Career Expressway' expansion in tech industries.

COPS / Metro Secures Funding for 221 'Open Cloud Academy' & Project Quest Graduates

San Antonio, TX - Since Rackspace first created the Open Cloud Academy, a short training boot camp for programmers and network administrators, it has graduated 335 people.  Of these graduates, 221 were supported by Project Quest through City funds secured by COPS / Metro leaders.  COPS / Metro’s intervention to secure local funding put Project Quest on the cutting edge of bootcamp training for IT workers in San Antonio and helped capture the attention of the White House in the launch of its TechHire initiative.    

AMOS Recognized for Creating Project IOWA

Des Moines, IA - 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.  

Valley Interfaith Preserves $290K in VIDA Funding 

Edinburg, TX - After Valley Interfaith leaders learned that the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation was planning to deep six funding for VIDA, it took high-stakes maneuvering to convince an ambivalent council it was in their self-interest to make up the loss with a City investment of $290 thousand.  Read the dramatic story here.   

White House Declares ARRIBA El Paso 'Bright Spot'

El Paso, TX - Due to its work in closing the achievement gap for Latinos in college access and STEM education, Project ARRIBA (established by EPISO and Border Interfaith) was named one of three El Paso "Bright Spots" by the White House Initiative on Education Excellence for Hispanics.  Since its inception, ARRIBA has graduated and placed over 1,100 students in the El Paso economy.

Dallas Morning News Lauds Skill QUEST 

Dallas, TX - With over 400 graduated participants since 2010, Dallas Area Interfaith-established Skill Quest is making a name for itself  through effective long-term job training.  Says columnist Mercedes Olivera, Skill Quest is "doing its share to help reduce Dallas' poverty rate, one of the highest in the country."      

Civic Engagement

Colorado IAF Establishes New Social Change Vehicle

Denver, CO - 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.

Pima County Interfaith Registers 550 Collegiates

Pima Co., AZ - Building on a historic partnership for civic engagement and student leadership development, the Pima County Interfaith Civic Education Organization and Pima Community College co-sponsored National Voter Registration Day.  A friendly competition between PCC's six campuses and 30 PCICEO member congregations resulted in the voter registration of 550 students and much conversation around the impact of local elections on higher education spending.

Bay Area IAF Hosts 'Organizing for Public Ministry'

Berkeley, CA - In collaboration with the Church Divinity School of the Pacific, the Bay Area IAF sponsored a six-day training on how to engage the public mission of the church in the world.  In addition to learning about mission, sustainable leadership, strategic praxis and collaboration, trainees witnessed a 100-person internal action to kick off a Housing and Shelter Civic Academy strategy of the Marin Organizing Committee.

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