Posted by: Gordon on 12/23/2014

Jobs and More Jobs ReportIn its new report Jobs and More Jobs: the Economic Impact Of Community Organizing, Gamaliel communityorganizers add up $13 billion worth of public and private programs that faith, community, and labor leaders worked to create or save through their advocacy efforts in 2012-13, employing nearly 460,000 people.

Using commonly accepted economic formulas to measure the direct and indirect impact of these workers on the economy, we estimate that these workers generated $17.2 billion in GDP over the two years.

Leaders from North Bay Organizing Project, United Congregations of Metro-East, and WISDOM released the study in a news conference by phone Tuesday. "The numbers are high, but we work on transit and food justice which has a very high payoff," Laura Barrett of Gamaliel told reporters during the news conference.

We need jobs

The programs that groups won fell into four distinct categories: Education, Food Justice, Infrastructure, Job Training and Transit. The groups that won the victories in 2012-13 were spread across the country from the East Coast to Hawaii. Victories ranged from supporting a ballot initiative in Michigan to pay for public transportation, support for transitional jobs program that generated support included public programs

The economic impact significant as it is, matters less in the long term than the moral imperative to create jobs.

There's a strong public policy argument, too, one leader noted: :We always talk about how can we do better with crime. It’s simple. Get people jobs[and] livable wages," said Brian Osei, a case manager and community organizer with Project Return, a Milwaukee agency that is part of affiliate MICAH and WISDOM. "It is important on so many levels to have a job."

One reason community organizers have had success at creating or preserving jobs is that they can spot the red tape and strategize with experts on the ground about how to cut through it. Pastor Norma Patterson of Good Shepherd of Faith UCC church and other leaders of United Congregations of Metro East in East St. Louis got tired of hearing that area employers would like to hire people from the community if only they could find candidates who were “job ready.”

Making jobs happen

To counter that attitude, Patterson and her group organized a group they called “100 Ready Workers”—certified and qualified individuals actively seeking employment in construction and other fields. Several of these ready workers began meeting weekly to strategize and discuss their search, and by comparing notes realized that several could start their own firms if only they had access to credit.

Patterson and the group ended up working with the state Transportation Department to create a revolving loan fund for minority owned firms and one of their number, Ed Slack started a firm that is even now building ramps on state highways near Effingham, Illinois. Slack in turn has been able to hire 5 others off the “100 Ready Workers” list.

Increasing access

David Walls of North Bay Organizing Project noted that Gamaliel has been working for the past year to win regulation changes to increase access for women and people of color to publicly-funded infrastructure jobs. He presented Gamaliel's plans for a "Workers On the Bus" Action tentatively set for the week of April 19  to get the White House to take action on those regulations in time for their 50th anniversary next year.

Download the report here:

You can also listen to audio of the news conference where the report was presented by Barrett, Garcia-Ashley, Osei, Patterson, and Walls.

Posted by: Amelia on 12/17/2014

Ponsella Hardaway, executive director of Detroit affilitate, MOSES, is one of 31 members of the Coalition for the Future of Detroit Schoolchildren - Photo by Paul Engstrom, The Skillman Foundation

Ponsella Hardaway, executive director of Detroit affiliate MOSES, is one of 31 members of a new coalition announced December 11 to explore solutions for problems facing Detroit’s Public School System.

“We’re not naïve and we don’t believe that this will be solved overnight, but we believe everybody has a role in this,” Coalition co-chair, Reverend Wendell Anthony told The Detroit Free Press. 

The Coalition for the Future of Detroit Schoolchildren is 31 business, civic, and education leaders who have pledged to present thoughtful and effective recommendations to Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan in three months.

“One of the things I like [about the coalition] in particular though: it’s a community conversation” Snyder told reporters.

According to the Skillman Foundation, the Coalition includes business leaders, education reform activists, parent leaders, teachers, principals, and union representatives. The Coalition’s work will primarily focus on the city’s charter sector, Detroit Public Schools, and the Education Achievement Authority. In addition, its members will examine how the city’s fragmented school systems impact student outcomes and efficiency in operations, and are committed to exploring and learning from education experts from Detroit and across the nation to find the best solutions.

The Coalition will meet with members of the community to discuss everything from academics to financials. Since the city’s official emergence from bankruptcy on December 10, more and more community members have turned their attention towards the education system, which has been facing falling enrollment, corruption, and a mounting deficit for years. 

--Amelia Sisk
Posted by: Gordon on 12/9/2014


Zora Neale Hurston said it: You have to go there, to know there. That’s why Gamaliel leaders decided to shift the venue for the annual December leadership gathering that took place last week to Florissant, adjacent to Ferguson in St. Louis County.

“We are here as Gamaliel to let it be known that if we want to see a change in our communities, we must have the brave conversations to confront racism,” Rev. John Welch of Pittsburgh, said during a march and die-in at the county government center.

National and local leaders participated in the action, at which the group called on incoming county executive Steve Stenger to hold a summit for St. Louis County mayors, police chiefs and other law enforcement officials. On the agenda: reforms to the debtor prison system trapping low-income people and people of color in prison for traffic violations, court fees and other minor violations and institute or increase community policing procedures throughout their jurisdiction. Stenger’s transition team met with the group the next morning and committed to work on making these goals a reality in 2015.

Strategic Discernment Process
It was perhaps timely that the main topic of the retreat was a strategic discernment process of how the Gamaliel network will adapt to changing times and circumstances. Staff from the Grassroots Policy Project participated in the conference, leading conversations that looked back to the Civil Rights era and posed the question of what it looks like to think long-term about our work.

About a quarter of the group stuck around for an additional day to carry out more than 60 one-to-one meetings with faith and community leaders on behalf of local affiliates Metropolitan Congregations United and United Congregations of Metro-East.

“Best retreat ever,” was the consensus from several organizers and leaders at the event, who noted that the Grassroots Policy Project’s perspective on developing “God’s economy” dovetails with Gamaliel’s work on regional equity.

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