Organizations have been hard at work...

PCIC Wins In-State Tuition

PCIC leaders, DREAMers and parents packed a Pima Community College board room and cheered the 4-1 vote in favor of in-state tuition discounts for DACA students.  This will help hundreds of undocumented locals that currently pay five times the in-state rate. More here.

Valley Interfaith Gets GED Classes

In civic academies on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), Valley Interfaith leaders learned there were almost no Spanish GED classes or testing sites in Hidalgo County. The only available site in the Rio Grande Valley was hours away. Leaders worked with the McAllen Independent School System and St. Joseph the Worker Catholic Church to expand Spanish language GED preparation; now more than 60 students are enrolled.

One LA Wins Fight to Directly Enroll Thousands in County Healthcare

One LA leaders fought for and won “Community Partner Status” with the LA County Dept. of Health Services, granting it direct access to the County enrollment system. 50 leaders are now training to become ‘Certified Application Assisters’; they will directly enroll people at 25 events hosted by One LA institutions.  30 leaders from each hosting institution are training to become ‘healthcare experts’ to educate and recruit people to participate.  

DAI Spurs Counties Into Texas Battle for Medicaid

Dallas Area Interfaith sparked a collective cry across the state leading the Network of Texas IAF Organizations (NTO) to leverage County resolutions for Medicaid expansion from El Paso, Dallas, Travis, Hidalgo, Cameron and Bexar Counties.  Representatives from these counties joined over 200 NTO leaders at the Capitol to publicly call on Governor Perry and the Texas Legislature to expand Medicaid. Valley Interfaith leader Rosalie Tristan agitated the audience with a story about her brother, who has a tumor and can neither afford the needed $10,000 surgery nor qualify for Medicaid.  Governor Perry is now on the search for a 'Texas Solution.'

'Together Louisiana' Defeats Regressive Tax Plan

When Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal proposed to eradicate state personal income, corporate income and franchise taxes (and to offset the loss with a 55% increase in the sales tax) more than 250 Louisiana clergy descended upon the Capitol to publicly denounce the plan, calling it unfair to the poor, a threat to state services and based on ‘faulty math.’ 

Building on this constituency, 300 Louisiana leaders launched ‘Together Louisiana’; the “State of Affairs” issues conference kicked off a two-year education campaign.  In addition to tax reform, leaders studied school reform, Medicaid expansion, crime & punishment and payday lending.  [Photo Credit: Travis Spradling, The Advocate]

One week into the legislative session the House Ways & Means Committee indefinitely deferred all tax reform bills, calling the Governor's plan "dead." 

Jobs & Workforce Development

Austin Interfaith Gets Living Wage Concession 

After three years of public debate with business, city council and county commissioners, Austin Interfaith brought working poverty to the forefront of public discourse, most recently winning a living wage concession from National Instruments not just for its employees, but for construction workers, at $11 / hour.  [Photo: Barrera, Austin American Statesman]

No. Louisiana Interfaith Wins $208K for NOVA

The Delta Regional Authority awarded workforce development project NOVA $208 thousand to expand training further into the Delta region.  But only after Northern Louisiana Interfaith got the approval of Republican Congressman Alexander and Louisiana Governor Jindal. More here.  [Photo: The News Star]

Not only does NOVA train for good jobs, NOVA transforms bad jobs into better ones.  When approached by a call center seeking to train for high turnover positions paying $8/ hour, NOVA challenged the employer to invest in worker development for higher pay.  The call center responded and trainees now start at $10 / hour, moving to $12.50 / hour in 3 months with benefits.  Call center attrition dropped. 

Mississippi Clergy Stand with Nissan Auto Workers

Almost every auto-manufacturer returning to the US has done so on a non-union basis.  In violation of international labor standards, manufacturers in Mississippi require that employees participate in anti-union “education” sessions that threaten plant closure if workers even discuss unionizing. In one plant, 70% of the workers are mislabeled “temporary” and earn less than half the wages of regular workers. In response, working with Congressman Bennie Thompson, 20 pastors of Working Together Jackson helped formed the Mississippi Alliance for Fairness at Nissan, demanding that Nissan respect workers’ right to decide whether or not to unionize. More here.


Criminal Justice

AMOS Monitors Courts

To ensure that people are treated with dignity by the courts, A Mid-Iowa Organizing Strategy (AMOS) launched a Court Watcher program so that leaders can witness the justice system in action. Leaders are also working to keep youth out of the courts and out of the system. [Photo: Andrea Melendez, Des Moines Register]

Nevada Leaders Fight Sex-Trafficking

In its first steps towards becoming a political force in the state, leaders of Nevadans for the Common Good traveled 450 miles to urge their legislators to toughen state laws against sex-trafficking. They noticed they were the only organization of citizens in a sea of paid lobbyists, but soon learned that politicians pay attention to broad-based power. AB 67 just passed out of the Judiciary committee and is headed to Ways and Means. Two years ago, similar legislation died in committee. More here.


Arizona Bishops & Clergy Strategize for Reform

75 bishops and clergy from Lutheran, Jewish, Presbyterian, Catholic, Episcopal and Methodist faiths strategized on the future of immigration reform at an ecumenical gathering organized by the Arizona Interfaith Network. Catholic Bishop Gerald Kicanas, of the Catholic Diocese of Tucson told the group that “today is a day to develop strategies” and challenged clergy, asking “what can we do to mobilize our congregations?” Episcopal Bishop Kirk Smith asserted that “the current system is broken, cruel and an affront to God and man.” More here. [Photo Credit: Nicole Krug, Episcopal Diocese of Arizona]

Organizing for Schools

Albuquerque Interfaith Keeps Public in Public Schools

In a fight to prevent the diversion of taxpayer funding to out-of-state for-profit charter schools, 300 Albuquerque Interfaith leaders educated the legislature's interim education committee and the state Public Education Commission about the current (lack of) resources for New Mexico public schools. Leaders’ intervention helped obtain rejection of nine for-profit out-of-state charter school proposals.

Civic Engagement

Cortes Delivers 'Prophetic Voices' Lecture in Boston

The Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life invited West / Southwest IAF Executive Director Ernesto Cortes to deliver the 'Prophetic Voices' Lecture at Boston College.  Hosted by political scientist Alan Wolfe, the event was organized to honor Cortes' commitment to justice and engagement in public life.  [Photo Credit: Christopher Soldt, Boston College MTS Photography]

Berkeley Seminary Class on Organizing 'A Success'

At the invitation of the Episcopal seminary at Berkeley's Graduate Theological Union, the Bay Area Organizing Committee (BAOC) led a week-long class: 'Organizing for Congregational Renewal'.  Thirty-one Christian and Jewish seminarians, clergy and lay leaders participated.  One student said it was "one of the most eye-opening and practical things during my time in seminary."

Interfaith Education Fund Hosts Seminars

Leaders and organizers convened in San Antonio for an engaging discussion of modern pressures on families, including health, education and the economy.  Renowned journalist Michael Lind, author of Land of Promise: Economic History of the US, outlined major political and economic shifts.  Leaders engaged Harvard economist Richard Murnane about the class based achievement gap and education policy.  His forthcoming book is Restoring Opportunity: How Stronger Schools and Families Can Rekindle the America Dream.  Boston professor Mary Jo Murnane surveyed the latest cancer research and strategies patients can consider.  

The Interfaith Education Fund works with the West / Southwest IAF organizations to teach ordinary people how to effectively engage in the civic life of their communities to promote the interests of their families and neighborhoods.  Through action, reflection and mentorship, leaders learn how to build constituencies and skillfully negotiate at the local, state and national levels.
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