CBS News: Nehemiah Strategy Makes American Dream Possible
West/Southwest IAF Updates
Metro IAF Updates
Time of Transition: Ernesto Cortes Jr. Moves to New Role as IAF Sr. Advisor
JOE RUBIO TO BEGIN AS IAF CO-DIRECTOR
Dear IAF Leaders, Organizers, Allies and Friends --
After over 50 years organizing and building the West/Southwest IAF region, Ernesto Cortes Jr. will be transitioning from IAF Co-Director to a new role as IAF senior advisor. Mr. Cortes officially submitted his transition plan to our Board in January, and he and the IAF Board have carefully planned this process over the past year.
We are also pleased to announce that Joe Rubio, long-time IAF senior organizer, will succeed Mr. Cortes as Co-Director effective July 1, 2021. Mr. Rubio, who has organized and supervised IAF projects in Texas, Arizona, and Colorado, will join Martin Trimble, IAF’s other Co-Director, who succeeded Mike Gecan in 2019.
The IAF Board is deeply grateful for Mr. Cortes’ leadership and work to build the modern IAF in the West/Southwest, developing some of the most powerful and enduring non-partisan, broad-based citizens’ organizations in the country. We are gratified that, as a senior advisor, he will continue to offer seasoned guidance for organizer formation, leadership training, and development of the region.
Under Mr. Cortes’s leadership, the West/SW IAF has grown to 30 member affiliates, beginning in the early 1970’s with the founding of Communities Organized for Public Service (COPS) in San Antonio, which pioneered institutionally based membership organizations. Since then, West/Southwest IAF won transformative victories to bring billions of dollars in major infrastructure improvements, education finance reform, health care, immigrant rights, and workforce training, among others. These victories have dramatically changed the face of communities throughout the region. Even more importantly, these IAF organizations have identified and trained thousands of leaders who learned to enter public life and create long-term change.
As you all know, there is only ONE Ernesto Cortes, and his contributions have been irreplaceable. We look forward to honoring and celebrating Mr. Cortes’ IAF leadership at a collective celebration sometime in the near future when we can all gather together in person.
Bishop Douglas Miles
Bishop Joel Martinez
NJ Together Gets “Fair Chance in Housing Act” Signed Into State Law
June 18, 2021, New Jersey Together organizer Boris Franklin spoke at the state’s first event commemorating Juneteenth held at Calvary Baptist Church in Paterson. At the event, he shared his story and the stories of those directly impacted by the criminal justice system that we’ve listened to in Jersey City & Morris County in recent years.
Gov. Murphy then signed into law the “Fair Chance in Housing Act” that prohibits landlords from asking about a person’s criminal record and limits their use of background checks. The law will be the strongest of its kind in the country.
If you haven’t read the New York Times article profiling Boris’s story and the legislation when the bill passed both houses of the legislature, take a few moments to read it now.
New Jersey Together testified about this bill in Trenton, sharing stories we had heard about the impact on individuals and families we had met who had struggled to access housing because of a past criminal record.
Leadership on this campaign came from Fair Share Housing Center, with strong support from organizations like the Reform Action Center NJ, the NAACP, and many others. Legislative leadership came from Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly, Assemblywomen Shavonda Sumter, Senator Troy Singleton, Assemblywomen Angela McKnight & Verlina Reynolds-Jackson, as well as from Speaker Coughlin and Senate President Sweeney.
Landlords Barred From Using Criminal Records to Deny Housing, New York Times
Bill to Help Former Inmates Find Housing A 'Game-Changer' for NJ, Gov. Murphey Says , USA Today
Years of Work by CONECT Culminates in Clean Slate Law for Connecticut
After three years of sustained organizing work by the leaders of CONECT, Gov. Ned Lamont signed the Clean Slate bill into law on June 10, 2021.
“Let this hard-fought win be a model for how states across the country can begin to end the continuing harm of mass incarceration, particularly in its targeting of Black and brown individuals, and build safer, more prosperous communities.” said Rev. Anthony L. Bennett, pastor of Mt. Aery Baptist Church in Bridgeport and co-chair of CONECT.
Clean Slate is the automatic erasure of criminal records for certain convictions after between seven and 10 years, for individuals who remain free of the criminal justice system upon release from custody. There was a process to apply for erasure in Connecticut, but the application process was burdensome, costly, bureaucratic, and subjective.
To put this momentous win in perspective:
Clean Slate is a racial justice issue. In Connecticut, black people are 9.4 times more likely than white people to be incarcerated, and Latinx people are 3.9 times more likely to be incarcerated than white people. The effects of this systemic racism would persist for decades to come without Clean Slate.
Clean Slate improves public safety. When people's records are erased, they gain access to jobs, housing, and higher education. Recidivism rates dramatically decrease as a result. That makes everyone safer.
Clean Slate boosts the economy. One 2016 study estimates that the collective national impact of the shackles of a criminal record reduces our GDP each year between $78 billion and $87 billion. Based on Connecticut's population, this means the loss of between $859 million and $958 million in economic activity each year in our state. Clean Slate will create job opportunities for thousands of CT residents, thereby expanding our state’s economic growth.
Read CONECT's letter, with Clean Slate allies, commemorating the victory and urging legislators to continue to support Clean Slate.
Gov. Ned Lamont signs ‘clean slate’ bill erasing criminal records of more than 300,000 Connecticut residents into law, Hartford Courant [pdf]
Gov. Signs Clean Slate Bill, CT News Junkie [pdf]
Texas IAF Blocks $10 Billion Dollar Corporate Tax Giveaway to Big Oil
When organizers set out to overturn Texas’s giveaway program for the oil and gas industry, they had a long game in mind. Over 20 years, the tax exemption program known as Chapter 313 had delivered $10 billion in tax cuts to corporations operating in Texas — with petrochemical firms being the biggest winners. This year, for the first time in a decade, the program was up for reauthorization. Organizers decided to challenge it for the first time.
At the beginning of last week, as Texas’s biennial legislative session approached its end, the aims of organizers remained modest. “We thought it would be a victory if the two-year reauthorization passed so we could organize in interim,” said Doug Greco, the lead organizer for Central Texas Interfaith, one of the organizations fighting to end the subsidy program.
At 4 a.m. last Thursday, it became clear that something unexpected was happening: The deadline for reauthorization passed. “The bill never came up,” Greco told The Intercept. Organizers stayed vigilant until the legislative session officially closed on Monday at midnight, but the reauthorization did not materialize....
“No one had really questioned this program,” said Greco, of Central Texas Interfaith. The reauthorization was a once-in-a-decade chance to challenge it. “We knew in our guts that the program was just a blank check, but we also are very sober about the realities of the Texas legislature.”
....As legislators met in a closed session to hammer out the bill, Greco heard from a colleague. “One of my organizers said there’s 20 oil and gas lobbyist standing outside this committee room,” he recalled.
Former Gov. Rick Perry, an Energy Transfer board member, tweeted his support for reauthorization. But as last week of the session ticked by, the bill didn’t come up. “It became clear that the reputation of the program had been damaged,” Greco said.
In 19 months, Texas’s subsidy program will expire, but that doesn’t mean the fight is over.
“We know there’s going to be a big conversation over the interim — we are under no illusions that this is not going to be a long-term battle.”
Organizers, though, recognize that the subsidy’s defeat marks a shift: “The table has been reset.”
Oil & Gas Companies Depend on Tax Subsidies and Job Creation Myths to Survive, Truthout
In Blow to Big Oil, Corporate Subsidy Quietly Dies in Texas, The Intercept [pdf]
Texas Legislature Dooms Chapter 331, Which Gives Tax Breaks to Big Businesses, Business Journal [pdf]
Missed Deadline Could Doom Controversial $10B Tax-Break Program, Houston Chronicle [pdf]
A Texas Law Offers Tax Breaks to Companies, but It's Renewal Isn't a Done Deal, Texas Tribune [pdf]
A Controversial Tax Program Promised High Paying Jobs. Instead, Its Costs Spiraled Out of Control, Houston Chronicle [pdf]
Losers and Winners from Chapter 313, Central Texas Interfaith
The Unlikely Demise of Texas’ Biggest Corporate Tax Break, Texas Observer [pdf]
Jersey City Together Secures the First Fully Funded Budget for Jersey City Public Schools in Over a Decade
The Jersey City Together (JCT) Education Team led the charge for a huge win for public education in Jersey City. For the first time in more than a decade, the Jersey City Board of Education voted for a fully funded schools budget. The 6-3 vote is historic progress for a district that just a few years ago was $125 million underfunded according to the state funding formula. JCT leaders participated in this and previous meetings, testifying for the increased budget.
At their March action, Jersey City Together highlighted the history of underfunding in Jersey City Public Schools and called for a fully funded budget.
Jersey City BOE approves fully funded $814M budget at uncharacteristically brief meeting, Hudson County View [pdf]
Jersey City BOE hosts hearing on $814M budget, parents call for fully funding spending plan, Hudson County View [pdf]
After great debate, Jersey City BOE narrowly approves 1st reading of amended $814M budget, Hudson County View [pdf]
History of Underfunding in Jersey City Public Schools, Jersey City Together [video]
COPA-Powered Community Health Workers Reach 10,000+ Immigrants & Workers
[At the beginning of the pandemic] members of community groups 'Mujeres en Acción' and 'Communities Organized for Relational Power in Action' (COPA) began meeting twice a week at the onset of the pandemic to figure out what community needs were after seeing the virus negatively impact their neighborhoods. They began making hundreds of phone calls to locals, going to their respective churches, schools and other places of gathering, building a list and figuring out what people needed to stay safe – and financially afloat – as the pandemic progressed.
“What we were finding is people almost knew that they have symptoms or believed that they were infected but they couldn’t afford to stay home,” says Maria Elena Manzo, program manager for Mujeres en Acción....
Organizers made a list of things they believed were needed to slow the spread of the virus in the hard-hit farmworker community. The list included better communication from employers about potential exposure and wage replacement for those who miss work due to self-quarantine.
Organizers met with Monterey County Health [officials, and] later began working with a wider group of community leaders, including representatives from the agriculture and hospitality industries and Community Foundation for Monterey County, called the COVID-19 Collaborative.
In December 2020, they presented to the Monterey County Board of Supervisors, who voted to approve a $4.9 million budget for a community health worker program. That program, called VIDA (for Virus Integrated Distribution of Aid), is currently funding over 110 community health workers across 10 organizations, Mujeres en Acción among them, to provide resources to people in the communities that are hardest hit. One of the groups, Centro Binacional para el Desarrollo Indígena Oaxaqueño, is providing information in Triqui, Zapoteco and Mixteco, indigenous languages from the states of Oaxaca and Guerrero in Mexico that are all spoken in Monterey County.
“One way to stop the spread was to hire people from the community as trusted messengers to talk to people to help them understand the need of being safe, using masks and distancing and all that,” Manzo says.
[Photo Credit: Jose Angel Juarez/Monterey County Weekly]
Fielding A Virus-The Agricultural Season is Ramping Up For the Second Time During a Pandemic. Is the County Ready?, Monterey County Weekly [pdf]
Monterey County Board of Supervisors Approves Nearly $5 Million for COVID-19 Program, The Californian [pdf]
Monterey County Supervisors Approve Pilot Project to Help Those Disproportionately Impacted by COVID-19, KION [pdf]
Supervisors Approve Nearly $5 Million to Put Trusted Health Workers into Neighborhoods Suffering Under Covid, Monterey County Weekly [pdf]
County Supervisors to Consider $2.3 Million to Fund Pilot Program Targeting Neighborhoods Hit Hardest by Covid, Monterey County Weekly [pdf]
COPA Press Release, Dec. 21, 2020.
America Magazine: IAF's Community Organizing Offers Third Way
In an essay for The New York Times last November, Pope Francis exhorted us to “dare to create something new.” With the coronavirus pandemic reaching new heights, he challenged us to reject a strain of selfishness fed by a distorted ideology of personal freedom.
For this reason, the primary audience for Let Us Dream includes ordinary citizens and the institutions in which they organize. The book was written in collaboration with Austen Ivereigh, who previously worked with Citizens UK—which is a sister organization of the Industrial Areas Foundation, the largest and longest-operating community organizing coalition in the United States....The “inclusive populism” of community organizing is a practical embodiment of Pope Francis’ vision.
In Let Us Dream, Francis urges the church to be more receptive to such popular alliances—accompanying them both practically and spiritually, without seeking to dominate. He identifies “labor” and “lodgings” as two of the key issues for grass-roots action. The success of the I.A.F.’s Living Wage campaigns, and its renewal of whole neighborhoods in New York and Baltimore through the Nehemiah Housing program, demonstrates the power of institution-based organizing. If parishes and dioceses heed the pope’s call to engage with new vigor in this work, it can play a significant role in the civic renewal that is so urgently needed.
[Photo Credit: Paul Haring/CNS]
Pope Francis has Criticized Both the Left and the Right’s Politics. Community Organizing Offers a Third Way, America, The Jesuit Review [pdf]
In Strategic Partnership, Pepco & WIN Raise Base Wages to $20/hr & Expand Job Training by 20%
Washington Interfaith Network (WIN) is expanding living wage jobs and high quality job training through a strategic partnership with energy company Pepco in Washington D.C.
Base wages of certain infrastructure jobs will be raised to "$20 per hour, increasing to $22 per hour within one to two years" including underground work related to electric, natural gas, water, telecommunications, or other utility infrastructure.
'This enhanced partnership with WIN is a tremendous achievement, and supports efforts in building a resilient and equitable economy that provides all residents with more opportunity and continues to position the District as a leader in driving an innovative, inclusive and sustainable energy future,” said Donna Cooper, Pepco region president.
The plan also calls for the Department of Employment Services to expand its support of the DC Infrastructure Academy to increase enrollment from 100 to 120 students per year in the Pepco Utility Training School at the academy. Every graduate will be offered a job with Pepco or one of its contractors.
“We are so grateful that in this season of two major pandemics of both having serious social and economic reverberations throughout our city and our country, we are grateful that Pepco has stepped to the forefront to be a strong partner for justice, fairness, and opportunity,” said Rev. Joseph Daniels, lead pastor of Emory Fellowship in Washington and WIN co-founder." Rev. Lionel Edmonds, fellow WIN co-founder, concurred.
This agreement serves as a nationwide and even global example for what corporate accountability looks like when communities organize to put their interests in racial equity and economic justice on the table.
Pepco, Washington Interfaith Network Team Up for Jobs Initiative, The Washington Informer [pdf]
Arizona Interfaith Network Leverages Hundreds of Millions of Dollars for Arizona Schools in Passage of Prop 208
Through an intense mobilization campaign that engaged voters across the state, Valley Interfaith Project, with Pima County Interfaith, Northern Arizona Interfaith Council and a coalition of education allies, leveraged passage of Prop 208 which will restore millions of dollars to K-12 education funding.
[Excerpts from Jewish News below]
“Quality education is at the core of who the Jewish people are and how we have survived for thousands of years,” said Rabbi John Linder of Temple Solel, a member of the Arizona Interfaith Network Clergy Caucus. “And we look at quality education as reflecting the common good of the community.”
AIN was among five organizations that worked for the last four years to pass the Invest in Ed initiative. Other coalition organizations include the Arizona Center for Economic Progress, the Arizona Education Association, Children’s Action Alliance and Stand for Children.Read more