Posted by: Gordon on 6/30/2014
The Supreme Court's decision today in Harris v. Quinn marks one tiny victory for one mom and one big setback for anyone who believes workers need to speak with one voice to win better wages and working conditions. (Read the Guardian, Forbes, or Washington Post).

In a Huffington Post column a month back when the decision was first expected, Ana Garcia-Ashley wrote that in the case -- about home healthcare workers and ensuring that everyone who benefits from the union, pays something into it--  we should applaud, not derail union efforts to lift wages and benefits for workers.

Gamaliel echoes today the statement of the National Economic Law Project, which noted Harris v Quinn (decided on a 5-4 conservative vs. liberal vote), "... does not reflect an even balancing of the scales of justice.

We agree with NELP executive director Christine Owens: Instead, on every question, the court elevated the interests of the minority objecting to paying their fair share over those of the majority who had democratically elected a union and the State that had concluded this form of representation was in the best interest of all parties.

We support our colleagues at Service Employees International Union and AFSCME and we know that SEIU's home care workers will continue to come together to have a strong voice for good jobs and quality home care.

Politics aside, the fact is unions that speak out on wage and other issues are the most effective tool to build a stable, qualified home-care workforce. States will need to find a new way to work with SEIU to make sure older Americans and people with disabilities receive decent care by a well-treated workforce. And as Owens and NELP point out, the Obama administration can help by implementing federal companionship worker regulations that extend basic federal minimum wage and overtime protections to the millions of workers who care for seniors and people with disabilities living independently in their homes.
Posted by: Gordon on 6/25/2014

At Rep Boehner's office

At House Speaker John Boehner's office, Juneteenth

This past week the Gamaliel network was in Washington, D.C. for Advanced Leadership Training. We also celebrated Juneteenth while we were there -- with action. We prayed in front of the locked office doors of U.S. Rep. John Boehner that he would see the light in the days remaining before we come to a legislative deadline for this session.

These two pieces were written in honor of Juneteenth, this past week during the ALT: The first is by Antonia Alvarez with Cirien Saadeh, co-founder and communications coordinator of Asamblea de Derechos Civiles in Minnesota and is reprinted from Equal Voice News. The second is by Nailah Pope-Harden of Capital Region Organizing Project [Facebook] in Sacramento, Calif.

Immigrants still await emancipation 

By Antonia Alvarez and Cirien Saadeh, La Asamblea de Derechos Civiles Antonia Alvarez

Juneteenth, June 19th, is Emancipation Day. However, it is also only a reminder that Emancipation is still but a promise undelivered. 

The Declaration of Independence states, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, That all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness." 

The work of Asamblea de Derechos Civiles is informed by this ideology, and we would like to see our representatives hold their work true to this Constitution.
This past week, dozens of leaders, members, and allies of Asamblea de Derechos Civiles (Asamblea) completed a weeklong national bus tour, visiting congressional offices and conducting actions, for a just immigration reform and for Emancipation. 

 On this Juneteenth, we are still seeking our own Emancipation. Undocumented immigrants in this country are living under increasingly sophisticated conditions of slavery, and it is necessary to remember that Emancipation is the only path to freedom for more than eleven million undocumented immigrants. 

We are Americans, and we are simply seeking a realistic, shortened, and humane path to citizenship. We can no longer stand living in the shadows, being criminalized and prosecuted because we are perceived as subhuman by our current immigration laws. The immigration system that exists is unjust and oppressive. Congress must act now to pass a comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship. 

This bus tour also serves as a reminder to Congress: we'll be voting in November. The Latino vote will decide this election. We will vote, and if we cannot vote, we will get out the vote for immigration reform. This past Wednesday, as part of our bus tour, Asamblea representatives met with Congressman Keith Ellison. 

As a representative who has closely worked with our organization in the past, and who is openly supportive of a humane and comprehensive immigration reform, he stated, "You are there to lift up human dignity." His words resonate with our work today more than ever.


Immigration Reform: Emancipation All Over Again

By Nailah Pope-Harden, Capital Region Organizing Project

Nailah Pope WareOn June 19, 1865 federal troops announced to enslaved Texans they were free: "this involves the absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves," the order reads in part. In essence this is the day the African-American community formed, when people were liberated and able to develop an identity beyond slavery.

On Juneteenth 2014, in Washington D.C. at John Boehner's office Gamaliel set out to be those troops for immigrants. Members of Gamaliel along with La Asamblea de Derechos Civiles lined the congressional hallways holding lights and singing the hymn "This Little Light of Mine."

 As we left, we dropped the lights at John Boehner's door along with a clock, representing that the time is now for immigration reform. The hall filled with the chant "si se puede." The spirit and feel of Juneteenth was in the air. As participants walked outside our message was clear: emancipate the immigrants.

 Many compare the immigration fight to the Civil Rights Movement. I argue a better comparison is the Immigration fight as it relates to slavery. We as a country are once again building an economy on the backs of those that have no rights and no say in our democracy.

As U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison D-Minn., supporter of Immigration said, "it takes ordinary people." There is not a need for education, for talent, for skill. There is only right and wrong and a willingness to do what is right.

 The scenes are the same. There were blacks that were free. Just as there are immigrants that have become naturalized. Some blacks fought for the abolition of slavery while some blacks owned slaves. Similar to how there are factions of ethnic groups that do not support immigration reform, and there are others that work at it every day.

The economies are similar. During the era of slavery there was a divide between agriculture and industry. This divide pitted regions against each other fearful of the loss of income. Now with immigration reform is the fear of losing the few jobs that are available. Just as in the case of slavery there needs to be a culture shift to understand that immigration can help to create jobs and grow the economy.

 We cannot sit and pretend we are an innovative, forward-thinking country if we continue to make the same mistakes over and over again. Imagine how this will read 150 years from now in history books. Are we setting the example for future generations that we oppress and then apologize? For the reputation and future of the country there needs to be Comprehensive Immigration Reform.

Posted by: Gordon on 6/22/2014

Gamaliel at Boehner office

Gamaliel at House Speaker John Boehner's office, Thursday June 19. See more pictures from the event here.

Thirteen states got a power infusion this past weekend as 110 leaders and organizers – 63 trainees and 50 youth and adults from Minnesota’s Asamblea de Derechos Civiles -- returned home from workshops, meetings, and an action on U.S. Rep. John Boehner in Washington, D.C.

Beginning with a deep reflection on the intersection of race and power, leaders and organizers from across the network immersed themselves in the attitudes and disciplines of community organizing to enhance their visions and expand capacities for themselves and their organizations individually and collectively.

Leaders made some 35 visits on Capitol Hill and at the White House Thursday. This included a group meeting with leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus: U.S. Reps. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., Barbara Lee, D-Cal., and Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill. Pledging to work closely with Gamaliel and other labor and organizing groups in a better-coordinated “inside-outside game,” Ellison and colleagues heard from Gamaliel on transportation and jobs, immigration reform, education, and criminal justice.

As a result of the meeting, their caucus of nearly 70 members of Congress will vote next week on sending a letter to President Obama urging him to update federal regulations to improve access to jobs for women, people of color and lower-income people among other planned collaborative actions.

Meanwhile, on the same afternoon that House Republicans voted to replace their Whip after Rep. Eric Cantor’s recent election loss, we took the action to the locked—but occupied—office of House Speaker John Boehner, where pastors prayed that he would at long last see the light on immigration reform, and left candles and a clock on his doorstep to remind him that just 9 days remained until the deadline for moving legislation forward this session.

Ntosake, Gamaliel’s long-running women’s leadership-development program, also hosted a special session at the Capitol Visitor’s Center, sponsored by U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill’s office, at which women leaders included Carolyn Jacobson from Coalition of Labor Union Women, U.S. Rep. Linda Meric of 9to5, Gwen Moore, D-Wisc., Izzy Santa of the Republican National CommitteeFeminist Majority President Ellie Smeal and others spoke.

Guest presenters also led sessions, ranging from Auburn Theological Seminary, Amalgamated Transit Workers Union, and American Federation of Teachers to TASH--a national disability rights organization--and Acting Undersecretary for Policy at the U.S. Department of Transportation Peter Rogoff.
Posted by: Gordon on 6/22/2014
MORE2 public meeting
The Ban is Banned: after  years of work by faith-based organizations and their allies, Governor Nixon signed SB680- Curls (D- KC),  on June 20

The following is reprinted with permission from MORE2 Facebook page--some reflections on a winning organizing campaign. Congrats to Gamaliel of the Heartland: Kansas' and Missouri's Metropolitan Organization for Racial and Economic Equity, MORE2 and Metropolitan Congregations United, MCU!

It was true grassroots-style organizing that brought to bear a Criminal Justice Task Force within MORE2, in 2011 when leaders started to recognize that in order to fulfill a mission of ‘Racial and Economic Equity’ they would have to pay attention to mass incarceration and the collateral damage it causes.

The first issue the group would take on was what eventually became dubbed, “Ban the Ban,” (by Susan Sneed, MCU organizer). 

Ban the Ban eliminates the lifetime food stamp ban for Missourians with past drug related felonies. The issue emerged through a listening campaign at Community Christian Church in early 2011, when what some thought was a surprising number of members identified barriers associated with their own or a loved one’s criminal history. MORE2 would secure the support of sister organization in St. Louis, Metropolitan Congregations United (MCU) to help fight for this important victory.

“Ban the Ban was the issue I cut my teeth on in MORE2 when I offered a sermon at that public meeting,” recalls Rev. Rodney Williams. And what a sermon it was: people still recall Williams having proclaimed, “Denying people food is a SIN!” Williams is now the Co-Chair of the MORE2 Board of Directors. This public meeting was a game changer: for the first time, at the urging of a MORE2 leader, a Republican, Rep. Bob Nance, would publicly declare plans to not only support but to sponsor the bill.

In the years that followed, the leaders of MORE2 and MCU worked to cultivate strong allies in both political parties. Rep. Barnes (R), was secured as a Co-sponsor of Nance’s bill, and he continued to serve as Co-Sponsor through 2014; in fact, Barnes, as Chair, saw the Senate Bill through House Committee in early May of this year when it seemed like it may not get to the floor for a vote.
MORE2 leaders again and again affirmed Yes, to continue to fight this battle, featuring the issue at not one but three annual public meetings and at every single legislative day in Jefferson City. They zig-zagged across the aisle of partisan politics, pulling in allies at every turn. Where there was opposition, they secured testimony to counter-act it, finding supporters in law enforcement, recovery communities, faith leaders, and most of all: people personally impacted by the ban.

Senator Curls (D- Kansas City) filed SB680 solo in 2014; Curls is a rare Senator indeed- she told MORE2 leadership that she would happily serve as a Co-Sponsor on this bill, which she sponsored for three consecutive years in Senate, if the ‘right’ person agreed to sponsor. In the summer and fall of 2013, leadership of MORE2 met with several potential sponsors and, in so doing, created some really important allies but did NOT secure an additional senate sponsor.

Curls would file the bill and, meanwhile, 19 members of the House, from both parties, would file a similar Ban the Ban bill. Seeing a bill with such swelling support in the House meant that there was suddenly a growing contingency of groups around the state paying attention to the bill and leaders welcomed the new support.

The leaders of MORE2 and MCU made personal visits and phone calls to every single member of both legislative chambers this year and joined allies from MASW in a meeting they scheduled with Nixon’s office.

And, in an era where people question many acts of our Missouri State Legislature, through the actions of Senator Curls and so many of YOU, that same legislature said it is time to lift this ban, with only about 20 Nays in both chambers. And, today, Governor Jeremiah “Jay” Nixon completed the bill with his signature, making it a law. 
-reprinted from Facebook with permission
Posted by: Gordon on 6/18/2014
Ana, Secretary Perez, Rev Bigsby

top, Ana Garcia-Ashley, Sec. Perez, Rev. Bigsby; bottom, getting petition-signers on the rooftop at the Labor Department Tuesday  

Advanced Leadership Training participants took advantage of an opportunity Tuesday.

Invited to celebrate and network with leaders from the U.S. Department of Labor and allies Tuesday evening, Irma Wallace of Faith Coalition for the Common Good and board member and South Suburban Action Conference leader Rev. David Bigsby signed up more than 50 supporters of our petition asking President Obama to update federal contracting and job training regulations.

Since 2013 Gamaliel has advocated for changes to three important sets of workforce regulations that focus on getting low-income people of color and women into good-paying jobs including updates to federal construction contract policy -- that have not been revised since 1980 – on how many women and people of color should be present on job sites funded by federal dollars. Apprenticeship regulations and HUD Section 3 are the other two types of regulations the group wants to see updated.

The attention followed last week's sign-on letter by the 30 members of Congress' Full Employment Caucus to President Obama.

Also at the ALT, on transportation and jobs, guest speakers and allies included U.S. Department of Transportation Acting Under Secretary for Policy Peter Rogoff, Jeff Rosenberg of Amalgamated Transit Union and several ATU staff and James Corless of Transportation for America among others. Other leaders focused on criminal justice, education, and immigration reform.
Posted by: Gordon on 6/12/2014
2013 Asamblea Bus Tour image
Last year's bus tour

Traveling from Minnesota to Washington, DC. with stops at congressional offices and actions along the way, Asamblea de Derechos Civiles de Minnesota is taking its fight for Emancipation on the road the week of June 16.

Last year the group visited the members of the House Judiciary Committee throughout the Midwest. This year, they will travel all the way to Washington, D.C to join with Gamaliel leaders Thursday for a meeting with the Congressional Progressive Coalition--after a stop off at House Speaker John Boehner’s district office amongst others.

They know the time is now for a just and comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship. They know the current immigration system is unjust and oppressive, that it is destroying families and communities, enslaving and persecuting people. This pilgrimage is an opportunity to let Congress know we will not stop fighting for a just immigration reform and that the power of the Latino vote needs to be recognized.

“The bus trip for Emancipation is the continuation of the Civil Rights Movement. Juneteenth, Emancipation Day, has been a day to celebrate the beginning of the end of slavery. It is an embarrassment, however, that there are more than 11-million people in this country subject to an oppressive immigration system that enslaves, persecutes, and abuses them. We are not afraid. We know that the power of our community and our vote will be seen on election day. We urge congressional representatives to support comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship,” says Pablo Tapia, Asamblea co-founder.

Asamblea leaders including Dreamers and other immigration-rights leaders  will visit the Offices of U.S. Reps. Sensenbrenner, Gutierrez, and Boehner, as well as a Congressional Progressive Caucus Hearing. They will also meet with Senators Klobuchar and Franken of Minnesota. Actions will be held at the Office of John Boehner in Ohio and at the White House. They plan to return home from there, getting back to Minnesota Friday, June 20.

“Coming on the heels of the dramatic Cantor upset, this tour is another chance to show Rep. Boehner and others that we need immigration reform now!” says Gamaliel national Civil Rights for Immigrants Campaign Chair Jesusa Rivera.
By Cirien Saadeh
Posted by: Gordon on 6/9/2014
Genesis Public Meeting
Gamaliel affiliate Genesis held a public meeting June 9 on the need for youth bus passes in Oakland area

This story by Jose Ricardo G. Bondoc is reposted with permission from SFNewsfeed

PLEASANTON, CA (6/9)- Genesis, a regional coalition made up of congregations and other institutions united for issues of social justice, convened a public meeting at St. Claire's Episcopal Church in Pleasanton calling for "Just Transit, Just Education." Faith and community leaders from all over the Bay Area gathered with over 250 people from throughout the East Bay.

"All across Alameda County, students are required to pay to ride public transit to school," said Marcia Lovelace from the First Congregational Church of Oakland, part of the Genesis Coalition. "This busts the notion that public education is fair and free with opportunity for all, when some children cannot access it because they lack bus fare. We will join together to say 'Rosa Was Right'-- that transportation can unlock countless opportunities.

Reverend Kurt Kuhwald of Oakland stated, "This is important to bringing word out to the community. Just because a few hills separate us and Oakland, we need to see that we are one community. We need to get those links established and communities united."

Dennis Fagaly of Oakland stated,"Transportation equity is vital to keep our area safe, free and just. I know there are neighborhoods where 80 percent of the people are transit-dependent and bus lines have been cut. There's one fellow I know, who had been looking for months and months for a job, but had to turn down a job because the job was at night and there was no night bus service."

Genesis is using this event to get the word out to Tri-Valley residents about issues of public transit (including paratransit) as a civil rights issue. In November 2014, there will be a transportation measure of which $15 million will be dedicated to bus passes for youth, as well as supplement and enhance transportation for seniors and those with disabilities.

"In Pleasanton, we understand the importance of good education. We have some of the best schools in the Bay Area, "remarked The Reverend Ron Culmer, Rector of St. Claire's of Pleasanton. "What a travesty it would be to know that some children in our county could not attain good education because of the lack of a bus pass..."

This sentiment was echoed by Reverend Joyce Parray Moore of Livermore, who stated,"I pray that if even one person can't afford to go to school due to bus fare, we come to realize that wherever we live in Alameda County, we are all part of the problem or part of the solution."

Three East Bay mayors Jerry Thorne (Pleasanton), John Marchand (Livermore) and Tim Sbranti (Dublin) were all asked about whether they supported the proposed transportation measure. Thorne stated, "Yes, para-transit, better public transit and immigration reform. I have been of the opinion that despite our differing opinions, people of good will can find common ground on these things."

Marchand stated,"I've been working on these issues for over the past 4 years. It's about solidarity. There were many concerned since the last time, there were proposals to bring BART to Livermore.

Sbranti said,"When it comes to these measures, I think of the 'BBs', being better BART, better buses, and better business for all of us."

Also at the meeting Genesis mourned the loss of all who have lost their lives due to gun violence, especially the youth. This morning, 3 people, including a 15-year old girl were victims of gun violence.

"We believe that giving opportunities to youth is THE anti-violence tactic that the region should support," The Reverend Scott Denman, Clergy Co-Chair of Genesis and Rector of St. John's Church Oakland stated,"We are asking all to 'back up our youth' so we can give alternatives, stop the violence and provide hope to our young people."

Erin Tolva, RN of Oakland, stated,"I hope that this gets some traction. It's time that progressive churches and congregations got involved in the political process. All the attention is focused on the right-wing and conservative churches, even though we are no less Christian. I'm tired of the right-wing churches dominating the media, when many churches and congregations are liberal and progressive. We just don't make enough noise."

Members of San Francisco-based Pace.Core came to the event to show support and solidarity. Gordon N. of Lincoln High School stated, "The event was very diverse and holy, and very informative..." Nora M. of City College of San Francisco said,"I really enjoyed the diversity of all the people and the communities assembled, not just by skin color and viewpoints. It was very educational!" Reverend Duhart of the First Unitarian Church of Oakland stated,"If justice flows like the waters of a river, then it must be true that the water touches us all..."

Michelle Pariset of Sacramento stated,"I think the event had a lot of energy and people dedicated to helping each other. Mary Lim-Lampe did a great job of organizing so many different groups and people and bringing them together..."
Posted by: Gordon on 6/4/2014
In January, U.S. Rep. John Conyers and 7 other Congress members created the Full Employment Caucus, with the goal of creating more than 24 million jobs in order to to end the unacceptably high rate of unemployment and underemployment in the United States.

Yesterday the Caucus, now 30 members strong, sent an open letter to Pres. Obama asking him to "ensure that America's prosperity is inclusive of women and minorities" by updating three sets of federal regulations along lines Gamaliel has been advocating since last year: 

  • Update hiring goals for contractors and subcontractors on federally funded projects -- the last time these numbers were updated was in 1980. 
  • Revise federal apprenticeship regulations with particular attenetion to opening up this pathway to employement for women and people of color 
  • Strengthen the language in HUD Section 3 workforce regulations to help more residents in communities of color get access to work on improving public-housing developments when such work is contracted. 
"We say thank you to the 30 members of the Full Employment Caucus to alert Pres. Obama to the need to update these regulations," said Ana Garcia-Ashley, executive director. "This is a fix the president can do right now, with the power of the pen, to improve employment outlook for our people."

Read the sign on letter
Posted by: Gordon on 6/3/2014
Gallaudet University will host Gamaliel's Advanced Leadership Training, ALT, the week of June 16. Trainees will help organize and present at a meeting with Congressional Progressive Caucus Thursday, June 19.

Sixty-plus leaders and organizers from across the Gamaliel network will travel to Washington, D.C. for a week to practice and learn new skills June 16-20.

Part of the "training" will be hands-on as the week-long session culminates at a joint meeting with the Congressional Progressive Caucus to discuss ways to work together to create an economy that works for all. Increased infrastructure spending, immigration reform and reduced inequality are among the key goals of the Caucus’ “Better Off Budget.”

Gamaliel congregational and community leaders and organizing staff will discuss these shared goals during the meeting and explore with Caucus members ways to work together to create an economy that works for all. A delegation of immigration-reform leaders from Gamaliel's Civil Rights for Immigrants campaign, traveling across the country in a last-minute effort to advocate for immigration reform and an end to deportations this summer, will join the group for the Caucus meeting. 

While part of the training focuses on organizing staples such as campaign planning and non-partisan civic engagement tools and methods, the week will have a strong issue orientation, with presentations from Gamaliel partners including American Federation of Teachers, Annenberg Institute for School Reform, National Employment Law Project, and others. A few spaces are still available, registration is here.

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