Posted by: Gordon on 2/26/2016

Leaders stopped traffic in downtown Minneapolis to protest deportations and raids and call for driver's license reforms in Indiana, Iowa, and Minnesota, a few of the states represented at the weekend Civil Rights of Immigrants campaign leaders retreat. 

Leaders from seven states and as far away as Georgia gathered in Minnesota to discuss strategy for the coming year, share information on dealing with raids, and renew ties after a year of campaigning the last weekend in February.

The CRI retreat kicked off with an action at the Hennepin County Government Center & Federal Courthouse in Minneapolis.They called for Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton to sign an executive order supporting drivers licenses for all. Leaders from other states facing similar issues spoke in solidarity and the group also marched past the federal courthouse nearby, protesting deportation raids by the Obama Administration.

“I would rather be arrested committing civil disobedience standing up for my mom’s rights than for her to get arrested for driving without a license," said Melina Tapia, Columbia Heights, Age 11. "I am making this choice, because this struggle continues until all are free.”

Retreat in Little Falls, MN
CRI Retreat group shot
Asamblea de Derechos Civiles, a longtime ally that recently became a Gamaliel affiliate, hosted the retreat. Emerging and seasoned immigration leaders from Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, and Minnesota attended the retreat, an annual event.

They laid out plans for civic engagement and strengthening their organizations. Jack Hayn of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades joined the group by video to lay out results from an emerging partnership between Gamaliel and IUPAT. Together WISDOM and IUPAT have already helped find several contractors who were stealing wages from employees in Wisconsin, for example.

Attendees at CRI also remembered Training Director John Norton, honoring him with t-shirts and telling stories about his legacy and impact he left on those he trained. 

Posted by: Gordon on 2/22/2016

Some 40,000 people participated in walk-ins on and around Feb. 17 at 838 schools in over 30 cities according to the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools.

“Our children deserve a whole lot better than what they’re getting,” in the words of Rev. Keith L. Whitney, pastor of Sanctuary Fellowship Baptist Church and chair of MOSES’ Education Task Force.

Support for community schools and more accountable charters topped the list of education issues on the agenda for Whitney and other leaders at Gamaliel affiliates in Detroit, Milwaukee and Pittsburgh who participated in last week’s national action. Details about the education issues leaders face in the 3 cities are below:


walk in at Langley School in Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh may be furthest along toward achieving the vision of the community-school movement thanks to work by the citywide Great Public Schools Pittsburgh coalition, which includes Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Network.

The city is currently hiring a new school superintendent. “Commitment to community schools and full-service school initiatives” is in the top 5 requirements, according to the job description.

“Community schools are the way we see to close the opportunity gap between children of different races and economic levels,” says PIIN education committee co-chair Dr. Sandra Woolley. She and other experts say community schools have the following characteristics:

  • Offer curriculum that is engaging, culturally relevant and challenging, with a broad selection of classes and after-school programs
  • Emphasize high-quality teaching over high-stakes testing
  • Provide wrap-around supports such as health care, eye care and social and emotional services to assist learning
  • Stress positive discipline practices such as restorative justice and social and emotional learning supports
  • Prioritize transformational parent and community engagement to allow the full community to participate in planning and decision-making
Posted by: Gordon on 2/4/2016

Gamaliel, Partnership for Working Families, and PolicyLink are partnering around a federal Transportation Department initiative to pilot local-hire policies on federally-funded highway and transit projects. Meanwhile, the idea of tying local development to employment is getting a new look around the country including in Nashville, where Mayor Megan Barry held a news conference Jan. 28 to implement the policy following voters' approval of a charter revision last summer.

In January Gamaliel, Partnership for Working Families, and PolicyLink kicked off a local-hire project that focuses on providing opportunities for jobs and training to people in four communities across the country.

Two Partnership affiliates – Ebase in Oakland and FRESC in Denver – and two affiliates of Gamaliel, Virginia’s Empower Hampton Roads, and MICAH-Milwaukee are part of the local-hire project.

Each will organize a local coalition and develop strategies to insure transportation and transit infrastructure projects help strengthen local economies by hiring workers in the communities where roads and transit are built.

Job creation strategies on the move

The four groups’ work takes advantage of the pilot project Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced last March. About 30 years ago, courts held that local-hire policies could deter competition on infrastructure projects. Foxx created the project to re-examine that premise.

  • Cross-network collaboration is important to target the key places where federally-funded transportation projects eligible for local-hire under the pilot project and assemble the knowhow of groups experienced in creating and implementing local-hire strategies. The 4 projects that are part of the Gamaliel, PWF, and PolicyLink joint project are:
  • In Oakland, CA, Ebase is working to incorporate local-hire strategies into the Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District’s $100-million-plus Bus Rapid Transit project.The district set a 50% local-hire goal in September.
  • In the Tidewater region of Virginia, Empower Hampton Roads is working to incorporate local-hire into a road-widening project on a segment of I-64.
  • In Denver, FRESC is working on the I-70 East expansion, a $1.8 billion project in a federally designated Environmental Justice community. 
  • In Milwaukee, MICAH is working on the Milwaukee streetcar project, one of the first to announce it would participate in the federal local hire pilot, estimated to be about a $124  million project. 

Over the coming months each organization will work to build partnerships with unions, contractors, and public and elected officials to build the will and the mechanisms to put local people to work on these construction projects.

Gamaliel, Partnership for Working Families, and PolicyLink will also work with the groups to build a learning community that meets monthly to share successes and strategies around developing local hire.

Interest in local initiatives up in Nashville and elsewhere

Meanwhile, there’s been an increase in interest in local, as opposed to federal, local-hire policies around the country. One of the leaders has been NOAH-Nashville.

NOAH, with support from LIUNA and other partners, advocated a ballot initiative amending the Nashville charter to require 40% local participation in any public-works project costing more than $100,000. The initiative won more support in the August election than anything else on the ballot, including new Mayor Megan Barry.

In the face of intense opposition--several state legislators are attempting to pass legislation that would outlaw local-hire strategies statewide--Barry announced a plan to address some objections in a Jan. 28 news conference. Barry's plan calls for creating a stronger pipeline for trained workers and phasing in penalties for non-compliance with the new policy. NOAH President Pastor Ed Thompson as well as leaders of local unions and contractors groups, stood behind her to support the plan at the news conference.

“When NOAH members came together and decided to organize around the local hire charter referendum, we did so with the sole intent of giving more hope and opportunity to Nashvillians who despite the growth and success of our city were struggling to find a good job and make ends meet,” Thompson said.

Nashville' economic growth is astonishing, with the New York Times naming Nashville "the 'it' city," Thompson and other NOAH leaders have said. "However, in the midst of giant cranes building hotels and condos sprouting like weeds, Nashville's poverty rate increased last year to 19.9%--meaning 1 in 5 Nashvillians lives in poverty.

Gamaliel affiliate ACTS-Syracuse leading a coalition proposing a city local-hire policy that would also target publicly-funded infrastructure projects of $100,000 or more. Faith Coalition for the Common Good, United Congregations of Metro East, Quad Cities Interfaith and other Gamaliel of Illinois groups are in talks with the Illinois Secretary of Transportation about a statewide local-hire policy, and MOSES, in Detroit, is discussed the policy tool with city officials.

More background on local-hire projects, including reports on how and where local –hire is being used, are available from PolicyLink and Partnership for Working Families. The U.S. Department of Transportation has a background page on its local hire pilot project as well.

Local and federal local-hire policies are likely to mesh when the final federal regulations are released later this year. They are expected to let cities and counties with local-hire ordinances use them on federally-funded transportation projects, as well. 

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