Posted by: Gordon on 4/30/2015

In plenaries and visits with legislators, breakouts on driver’s cards for immigrants and parole for prisoners caught in a bureaucratic Catch-22, outrage was the word many used at United for Justice Madison Action Day.Pictures from Wisconsin Day of Action

All present focused on advocating for a better budget for Wisconsin – but news from Baltimore was on the minds of many. Hannah Rosenthal of Milwaukee Jewish Federation framed the day of advocating for social justice by noting that failing to address poverty in the state and inaction on criminal justice were an outrage. Rev. Everett Mitchell of Christ the Solid Rock Baptist Church in Madison called out the right of everyone present – white, black and all people – to protest in search of justice.

Wisconsin has 33 state senators. Constituents from every district but 3 turned out for the event, sponsored by WISDOM and 8 state faith groups and held every two years. More than 800 people met, marched, and spent the afternoon speaking with legislators in Wisconsin’s capital Wednesday. (News coverage by Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel here).

The emphasis was on advancing the 11x15 criminal justice campaign for wholesale reform and smarter spending on corrections in the state, as well as passing driver’s cards for the undocumented and supporting transit statewide.

The state Legislature would approve driver’s cards if the state Assembly and Senate leadership let members vote on the issue, organizers said.
Posted by: Gordon on 4/28/2015
Rev. Bigsby at JMA Action
A new coalition of groups promoting access to jobs thanked OSHA for fining a railcar manufacturer that has mistreated workers at an action in Chicago on Worker's Memorial Day, April 28

In observance of Workers Memorial Day on Tuesday, April 28, the Illinois Jobs to Move America coalition – including Gamaliel of Metro Chicago and dozens of Illinois community, faith, environmental and labor groups – thanked the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for citing railcar manufacturer Nippon Sharyo for 11 violations, after workers raised concerns about hazards inside its factory in Rochelle, Illinois. OSHA levied $34,500 fines on Nippon Sharyo for one serious health violation, six serious safety violations, and four other safety violations, in the last recent weeks.
The serious health violation was levied because Nippon Sharyo “failed to put into place welding shields/screens to protect workers...from health hazards such as arc eye and welder’s flash.” The serious safety violations were for various issues related to rickety planks used as scaffolding, and lack of fall-protection for workers working on top of railcars.

One part of the citation reads, “Employees were exposed to fall hazards up to 17 feet while walking on plywood boards that were not scaffold grade or intended for the use.” Another citation reads, “Employees were exposed to fall hazards up to 17 feet when walking and standing on plywood boards that were temporarily placed on the railcar’s roof.” Another citation reads, “employees… did not receive training in the use of personal fall arrest systems.”
“Nippon Sharyo’s flagrant neglect of the health and safety of its workers is unconscionable. They need to take immediate action to make this factory safe for its workforce, and stop disciplining or dismissing workers who speak up,” said Jorge Ramirez, President of the Chicago Federation of Labor (CFL). “With Nippon Sharyo receiving millions of dollars in grants, tax credits and training money from our state to open the Rochelle factory, we would expect a higher degree of safety precautions for Illinois workers. The people of Illinois, as well as our governor, should be outraged over Nippon Sharyo’s irresponsible actions.”

Nippon Sharyo is a major corporation in the global railcar manufacturing industry that contracts with cities and their public transportation agencies to build passenger rail system equipment. Nippon Sharyo employs about 600 workers in its railcar assembly plant in Rochelle.
Nippon Sharyo has been awarded $1.3 billion worth of contracts with U.S. public transit agencies, including Metra, in the past six years[1]. The Metra contract totals $585 million for 160 Metra Electric railcars, purchased when bond funds became available in 2010.  Illinois state representatives flagged concern over OSHA issues at Nippon Sharyo with Metra, in a House Committee on Appropriations for Public Safety hearing on April 15, 2015.
Nippon Sharyo also received $4.7 million in grants, tax credits and training money from the State of Illinois to open the Rochelle factory.[2]
The violations are a victory for Nippon Sharyo workers who bravely came forth on October 22, 2014, to file an OSHA complaint, detailing broken and unsafe scaffolding, catwalks, ladders and planks; lack of fall protection around railcars; worker falls and injuries; poor ventilation around toxic and flammable chemicals; and inadequate protective equipment for welders and other workers. OSHA previously gave Nippon Sharyo a serious violation in March 2014 for failing to provide proper ventilation for workers using an extremely flammable chemical.
"Nippon Sharyo’s disregard for the safety and well-being of its workforce is shocking. No worker should have to balance on rickety plywood planks when they’re two stories up. Thankfully, OSHA has cited Nippon Sharyo, vindicating workers’ concerns about dangerous conditions in the plant,” said Susan Hurley, Executive Director of Chicago Jobs with Justice, which has supported the efforts of Nippon Sharyo workers to win safety improvements. 
Members of the Illinois Jobs to Move America coalition have raised alarm over unsafe conditions in the Nippon Sharyo factory in the past. Nippon Sharyo Chief Executive Officer Akira Koyasu has not responded to more than 15 letters of concern from community and labor groups demanding answers of the alleged dangers inside the factory. The company also denied entry to community leaders who organized a caravan to the Rochelle plant and requested a meeting with the plant manager on March 9.
Other community organizations who have expressed concern over Nippon’s unsafe conditions include the Sierra Club Illinois Chapter, Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, Alliance for American Manufacturing, International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART – Transportation Division), International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), United Auto Workers Region 4, the AFL-CIO, the Chicago & Cook County Building & Construction Trades Council, Communication Workers of America, and Teamsters Local 777.
The Jobs to Move America coalition unites community, labor, civil rights, academic, philanthropic, and environmental organizations advocating for cities to make our transit dollars go the distance – to build better, cleaner public transit systems, to create and retain good manufacturing jobs, and to generate opportunities for unemployed Americans like veterans and residents of low-income neighborhoods. Every year, United States transit agencies spend about $5.4 billion on bus and rail car purchases.
Posted by: Gordon on 4/20/2015
Pastor Ed Kail with cab drivers and other MORE2 leaders
Pastor Ed Kail helped organize cab drivers and other MORE2 leaders in a campaign that ended exclusive rights to serve major downtown establishments so women and minority-owned cab companies could carry on in Kansas City, MO.

When a transnational corporation went to war with Uber and Lyft in Kansas City, small cab company owners and drivers and consumers were the unlikely winners thanks to some help from MORE2.

Last year Kansas City’s Yellow cab company, part of the French multinational corporation Veolia, signed exclusive rights to pick up passengers at downtown hotels, casinos and entertainment venues. That meant other cab companies could drop off fares, but only Yellow cabs could legally pick up there. City Council changed the law April 10 after MORE2 leaders and cab drivers held rallies, met with members of the council and publicized the issues.

Yellow had created a monopoly that put people at risk for higher charges or lack of service and it also had the effects of putting out of business small independent cab companies that were predominantly owned by women and people of color, MORE2 leaders found after learning about the problem and working with the independent owners.

Initially they thought Uber was going to crush the campaign. But in the end the entry of ridesharing into Kansas City helped insure a new ordinance would be passed to cover the new “transportation network companies.” Advocates worked to get language banning exclusive contracts into the legislation.

Retired pastor Ed Kail, a MORE2 leader who went through weeklong leadership training last August, jumped into the campaign.

“In the face of global capital, local people need advocates,” Kail says. “I was a United Methodist pastor for 40 years. In Iowa, I saw the harm done to local communities when global players moved in, and agriculture became agribusiness. They set the terms of business, extracted profits, dumbed down the workforce and basically tore small communities apart.

“In the end the argument I was using most was, what kind of community are we going to have in Kansas City? One dominated by monopolists extracting profits and taking jobs away from us? Or a place where there’s justice and opportunity for everybody?”

Posted by: Gordon on 4/10/2015
Excellent Schoolspic from Model D

The following article is reprinted with permission from Model D Media, a Detroit-focused online news platform published by Issue Media Group an Inc. 5000 Detroit-based media company. (Photo by Marvin Shaouni of Model D). The piece covers the work of the Coalition for the Future of Detroit Schoolchildren (CFDS), of which MOSES is a member.

Why you should pay attention to a new coalition's recommendations for education in Detroit

Posted by: Gordon on 4/6/2015
The DOT just announced it would extend the public comment period to May 6 for a major change in federal policy, opening transit contracts to local job creation for the first time. 

On Wednesday a panel of national experts with the Jobs to Move America coalition – uniting more than 40 community, labor, civil rights, academic, philanthropic and environmental organizations – will offer a briefing call for members of the media on an historic U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) initiative for American job-creation.

  • Press Tele-briefing on new U.S. Department of Transportation initiative potentially creating tens of thousands of new jobs
  • Madeline Janis, Jobs to Move America
  • Laura Barrett, Gamaliel, Transportation Equity Network
  • Ernest Roberts, PV Jobs
  • Kathleen Mulligan-Hansel, Partnership for Working Families
  • 9 a.m. Pacific / 11 a.m. Central / noon Eastern Wednesday, April 9
  • U.S./Canada Toll-Free Number: (855) 884-6710, Required Conference ID: 20259823
The proposed change to “common grant rules” governing federally-funded transportation projects would allow ‘local hire,’ geographic preference, other targeted hiring programs on DOT-funded construction, rolling stock manufacturing, and other transportation projects. Previously, federal regulations prohibited incentives for ‘local hiring’ in these contracts.

United States Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx also launched a related 1-year experimental program for public transit agencies receiving federal grants in 2015 to create special programs to hire local workers and economically disadvantaged workers.

Taken together, the two DOT initiatives could potentially create tens of thousands of new jobs and give local workers greater opportunity from transportation projects. The Jobs to Move America coalition’s comments applauded DOT’s initiatives for this reason, and also offered suggestions for crafting the final rule with more specific guidance to transit agencies administering federally-funded contracts with geographic and targeted hiring language.

"There’s a stubborn unemployment gap in America -- in March it was 5.5 percent overall, but 10.4 percent for African Americans and 6.6 percent for Latinos. Based on the industry standard that every billion dollars spent on transportation infrastructure creates some 13,000 jobs, there's potentially a lot of work here. We look forward to working with Secretary Foxx and the administration to take advantage of this opportunity,” said Laura Barrett, Campaign Director of Gamaliel and the Transportation Equity Network (TEN).

The Jobs to Move America coalition’s comments provided specific recommendations to strengthen the DOT’s final rule, drawing on member-organizations’ extensive experience creating geographic and targeted-based hiring preferences in public contracting. The coalition urged the DOT to include a direct reference to “targeted hiring” programs in the final rule.

The coalition also expressed its belief that grantee agencies should be able to use geographic preferences in rolling stock procurement with certain limitations. The coalition also offered past examples to illustrate how targeted hiring policy will increase community and economic benefits of publicly-funded contracts without inhibiting open competition in the bidding process.

“It is fiscally prudent to create mechanisms of inclusion for our local citizenry unable to participate in the economic upturn,” said Ernest Roberts, Executive Director of PV Jobs. “In Los Angeles, we’ve partnered with LA Metro on targeted hire programs putting people of color, women, people returning home from incarceration, and veterans to work on the Crenshaw Line and local manufacturing projects. Having the leeway to create provisions that provide meaningful career pathways for left-behind people is a critical and necessary step for the health of our communities.”

"Over the past decade, targeted and local hire policies have proven to create real and effective pathways for disadvantaged workers into good construction careers. Together with innovative policy tools like Construction Careers Policies and U.S. Employment Plans local hire programs have directed billion of dollars in infrastructure investment to the people who need it most. We now have an incredible opportunity to build on these successes and ensure that US DOT funded projects create good job opportunities for local residents as well,” said Kathleen Mulligan-Hansel, Deputy Director of the Partnership for Working Families.

The Jobs to Move America coalition is dedicated to making our public transit dollars go the distance. Every year, U.S. transit agencies spend about $5.4 billion on bus and rail car purchases, alone.

(*If you are interested in learning more about the issue but are not a member of the media, please contact Rachele Huennekens or Gordon Mayer. A recording of the tele-briefing will be available.)
Posted by: Gordon on 4/1/2015
An education writer from Minneapolis, a youth organizer from St. Louis, teachers, parents, and community and union organizers from 7 Midwest states gathered this week for the first Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools regional conference.

Gamaliel, Center for Popular Democracy, American Federation of Teachers, and other national groups founded the Alliance last year as part of a resurgence of education organizing around the country.
AROS meeting in Chicago March 31
One theme that emerged in work across the Midwest was the need to invest in creating community schools that provide the supports students need.

Another was charter accountability, with participants sharing their experiences of how charters have repeatedly been used to break down the public-education system.

For example, leaders from Wisconsin described a high-stakes testing regime proposed by Gov. Scott Walker that would give every school a letter grade. Attendees said from reports it was unclear what sanctions a charter with three years running of failing grades would face.

The education organizers were also determined to push the envelope in connecting community schools and charter accountability to racial justice, the school-to-prison pipeline, and mass incarceration.

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