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Posted by: Gordon on 2/27/2014
PIIN banner

It was cold and snowy for a protest this morning in front of the corporate offices of UPMC, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. That did not stop the police from arresting 9 clergy leaders from Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Network and Ana Garcia-Ashley from Gamaliel when they tried to go inside the office building where UPMC CEO Jeffrey Romoff works.

"We weren’t quite sure exactly how things would transpire," Rev. John Welch, PIIN leader and Gamaliel board member, told a reporter from TV station KDKA after the action. "We had an inkling that they would not let us in the building, as cold as it was we were hoping they would, but none the less they didn’t. So we were prepared to adjust accordingly.”

PIIN's Love Thy Neighbor campaign

We have all repeatedly read, studied and discussed the story of the Good Samaritan. PIIN clergy recently launched their Love Thy Neighbor campaign because they believe the Pittsburgh region is in desperate need of Good Samaritans who will not look at those hurting in our community and “pass by on the other side.”

While the group sees Love Thy Neighbor as a multi-year campaign, the initial focus is the need for Pittsburgh’s largest employer, UPMC, to pay their service workers a living wage. More details about UPMC are at the website of the group Make It Our UPMC.

Although it is technically a nonprofit corporation, some advocates have compared UPMC to Wal-mart for its pay and personnel practices.

Yesterday's action ratcheted up the pressure, and a march planned for Monday should keep things going.

"There was tension today," Charlie Deitch, a reporter for Pittsburgh's City Paper told the CBS radio reporter on the same show that featured Welch. "I've covered pretty much all of these [UPMC protests] in the past 18 months since the unionization effort began and there was something besides the chill--definitely something different in the air today."

After the action UPMC released a statement that their starting pay of $11 an hour is more than the average starting salary in the Pittsburgh market.

"They're comparing atrocious wages to abysmal wages [that] put people below the poverty line even after a 40-hour work week," Welch responded. "Many of these workers sit in our congregations. We preach how we are to love thy neighbor, and fairness and justice. For us to preach that and not live that would be hypocritical ... so we'll be in this fight for as long as UPMC wants to keep the fight going."

More news coverage from today:
 
Download a flyer for the Day of Action planned for Monday, March 3 here.
Posted by: Gordon on 2/14/2014

1980 called: its time for a change

Laura Barrett's blog about today's action, re-posted from Rooflines.org

On Valentine’s Day, job seekers and organizers will deliver candy and flowers to local and state officials, contractors associations and other stakeholders.

Their goal: change federal regulations to get construction firms to create more jobs for lower-income women and people of color to build the innovative public transit, water treatment and other projects that address the nation’s infrastructure deficit and prepare the country for climate change.

Plannerscivil engineers, business leaders, and others estimate the U.S. needs to invest billions (or $3.6 trillion by 2020 in the case of the American Society of Civil Engineers) in the country’s infrastructure to update our country’s bridges, roads and transit, water and sewer systems in the coming decade. Increased job training can insure improved infrastructure also creates more opportunities for everyone, Gamaliel advocates say. Because federal dollars typically bankroll such projects, federal contracting rules cover work done."Sign our petition

The Office of Federal Contracts and Compliance Programs (OFCCP) in the Department of Labor, one of the targets of the Valentine's action, has taken a step in the right direction earlier this year.  They  issued controversial regulations that will force federal contractors to ask people with disabilities to self-identify.  The regulations also task contractors to stop discrimination and to make accomodations.

Advocates believe that it is essential to monitor these new regulations that will move people with disabilities into jobs. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reported that “8 out of 10 people with developmental disabilities is not in the labor market.” That 80% unemployment rate has not changed for over the last 10 years for the over 5 million Americans with developmental disabilities (severe lifelong disabilities such as cerebral palsy, autism, epilepsy, and intellectual disabilities that occur at birth or before age 22) according to Tim Hornbecker of the Arc of Alameda County.

We have a chance to move all kinds of people into employment this year - by enforcing the great changes that the OFFCP has already made to move people with disabilities in to work and through changing outdated workforce regulations that will open federally funded jobs to low income people, minorities and women.  

President Obama, tear up that outdated regulation and get DOL and HUD working on new regulations that will help communities get back to work!


Posted by: Gordon on 2/11/2014
Detroit bus from flickr by Ario_
Last week board members from Southeast Michigan Regional Transit Authority acted on the enthusiastic recommendation of MOSES and others to schedule a ballot initiative for 2016 that would ask taxpayers to vote for a dedicated revenue stream to support the RTA, created in December 2012.

The RTA will also reopen its search for a CEO, after the finalist from the last search pulled out.

Transportation for Michigan, Trans4M, members turned out in force at the agency's board executive committe meeting last week. They included Michigan Suburbs Alliance, Transportation Riders United, Metro Coalition Congregations, and others.

Joel Batterman, policy organizer for MOSES, told the board’s executive and policy committee that Southeast Michigan spends only about $0.30 for every $1.00 that the average U.S. major metropolitan region spends per capita on public transit. “There is no way [transit agencies] can provide adequate service at those levels,” he added.

Our thanks to Transportation for Michigan, which blogged about the meeting here.
photo from flickr by Ario_
Posted by: Gordon on 2/7/2014
Jesusa Rivera, among Gamaliel's most stalwart leaders of the Civil Rights of Immigrants campaign, offered this response to the news today that a deal may again be slowed down. Like many, she has been disappointed by yesterday's news dimming prospects for immigration reform this year. Here is her reaction.
Jesusa Rivera at action
Long-time ally to Speaker John Boehner, Rep. Patrick J. Tiberi (R-Ohio) hit the nail on the head in the Washington Post today:
Right now, Jesus himself couldn’t be the speaker and get 218 Republicans behind something, so I think Speaker Boehner is trying his best to come up with a plan that can get close to that. Whatever we move, there will be critics everywhere, but at the end of the day we still have to govern.
Like Jesus over Jerusalem, Speaker Boehner may weep over D.C.'s disarray: “Washington, Washington, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how many times I yearned to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her young under her wings, but you were unwilling!” (c.f., Mt 23: 37).

While Tiberi's remarks were about raising the debt ceiling, Speaker Boehner laments that immigration reform is “difficult” because they do not “trust” the President.

It seems a poor excuse given their failure to pass much legislation since the 2012 election. Now, most legislative opportunities likely will be lost in anticipation of the 2014 election.

Two things to remember:
  1. This is not a Republican only issue. We are watching the president, our Deporter In Chief, to see if he will take action on his own over what he has authority to do, as he promised in his State of the Union speech just last week. He can stop breaking up families, right now.
  2. We call upon all current officeholders to do their duty. They were elected not because the job is easy, but because we expect them to tackle the “difficult” problems that face our nation. If they want to be popular, get a gig as a guest on television news. If they want to govern and do the difficult work, we will be there to work with them. Propose a bill, take action on the regulations in front of you, and let's make life better for our families.
Fresh from our CRI annual retreat, Gamaliel leaders will continue to work and pray for action. For those in St. Louis, former Gamaliel organizer and Fast For Families faster Rudy Lopez will be visiting with MCU on Wednesday, Feb. 12, contact info@gamaliel.org if you'd like more information about the event.
Posted by: Gordon on 2/3/2014
"If Latinos can sway elections to save the seat of the Senate President; if in his state of the union address, the President of the United States makes it a point to mention the importance of immigration reform to the Congress... then my question is: why don’t we have it? ... How can our efforts, struggles, lobbying, and marches be translated into equality, fairness, and justice?"

From these opening reflections by Elisabeth Roman, Managing Editor at the Hispanic Ministry Resource Center of Claretian Publications (download her full address to the group here), to the closing circle that drew together 50-plus national leaders in Gamaliel's Dream for All immigration campaign retreat, organization-building, leadership and continuing the movement for reform led the agenda. Leaders and staff from Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, and Wisconsin attended.

The group renewed its commitment to Gamaliel's comprehensive immigration reform principles, heard from high-level strategic thinkers such as Bob Creamer of Democracy Partners and partners from Illinois Coalition of Immigrant and Refugee Rights and Service Employees International Union, and laid out plans for the coming year focusing on voter engagement and continued advocacy.
Posted by: Gordon on 2/1/2014
“I can understand earning my freedom, but earning the right to have help with my mental and emotional issues?”
 
Voices from Inside coverThe question comes from an inmate in the Wisconsin prison system, and is one voice among many raised up in Voices from Inside: Wisconsin Prisoners Speak Out, a new publication from Gamaliel affiliate WISDOM as part of its 11x15 Campaign.
 
The 11x15 Campaign is WISDOM’s challenge from the faith community to all the people of the State of Wisconsin, to cut the prison population by half to 11,000 by the end of 2015 so that the state can have less wasteful, safer, healthier, and more just communities.
 
In fact, as Voices from Inside highlights, a third of men and three quarters of women in Wisconsin state correctional facilities were diagnosed with mental health conditions.
 
A core belief of Gamaliel’s leaders and staff across our network is that while we respect ‘experts’ and authorities, we believe everyone has something to offer, and that our communities are stronger when no voice is excluded from the decision-making process.

Voices from Inside
exemplifies that belief. It collects some 30 pages of stories, poems, and thoughts from inmates alongside reflections from judges, bishops, pastors and others. “Each of them reminds us that prisoners are human beings with hopes, dreams, regrets and questions,” according to WISDOM.
 
Copies are available from any local WISDOM group or from the WISDOM office — 3195 S. Superior St., #310, Milwaukee, WI 53207. A $5 donation per book is suggested.

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