Posted by: Gordon on 5/29/2014
MOSES Transportation Comm leaders in Lansing
Over the past month, the MOSES Transportation Task Force pivoted to advocacy on a statewide level to ensure funding for public transit. When Michigan House Speaker Bolger proposed a new transportation revenue package that gave less than 1 percent of new revenues to public transit, they knew they had to act to win support for more than roads.

Convening allies from around the state, the group organized to send a strong message that shortchanging transit was unacceptable, rallying in Detroit with the Amalgamated Transit Union and raising their voices in the state Capitol.

As partner Transportation For Michigan put it, "Testimony from Trans4M members and other advocates undoubtedly played, and will continue to play, an important role in shaping the outcome of the proposed transportation funding package."

According to another ally, transit ridership in the state is at its highest level since 1956 while per-person driving in Michigan has dropped almost 7 percent since 2005 according to James Bruckbauer of Michigan Land Use Institute. And every year Michigan voters overwhelmingly show their support for transit investments (see recent story on Ann Arbor transit millage vote).

The Senate version of the bill included a full share of funding for transit as well as roads, dedicating tens of millions in additional funding for Michigan's public transit systems.
Posted by: Gordon on 5/23/2014

Co-authored with Rev. John Welch, Gamaliel Board Chair; cross posted from Huffington  

For our allies in the labor movement, this is a crucial time as the Supreme Court is expected to hand down a decision affecting nothing less than the right to collective bargaining in the U.S.

Anti-union politics behind the Harris vs. Quinn decision may be just as dangerous as the pro-corporate speech politics that led to the Citizens United decision in 2012.

With Citizens United, corporations got the right to make larger political contributions. Now conservative organizations are threatening the right to collective bargaining in this country. 

According to oyez.orgPamela J. Harris is a personal care assistant who provides in-home care administered by a division of the Illinois Department of Human Services.

Harris sued Illinois in 2010 because she was required to pay dues to the Service Employees International Union Healthcare Workers, which negotiated salary and benefits for the state's home-care workers. In what is known as a "fair share" provision, all state home-care workers benefited from SEIU negotiations and were required to pay union dues as their share of expenses for being represented--since they received their share of the benefits.

The fee applies to all workers represented by and garnering benefits of the union, including those who opted not to join the union (as was the case for Harris),according to Alliance for Justice.

Her lawsuit seems grossly unfair, considering SEIU just secured a huge raise for these workers, an increase from $7 per hour to $11.65. They also got increased benefits, including health care.

Harris is represented by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, Inc. Whatever her personal motivations may be in the case, her attorneys have aimed at nothing less than ending the fair share provision. It's part of the larger, long-term pattern, of picking apart the power of everyone who does not subscribe to a corporate agenda.

It certainly does not make economic sense. A few months of working at their new salary level more than pays for their union dues, without even taking a look at how many thousands of dollars a year they can potentially save on health costs, now that they have better health insurance. 

It also does not make political sense. In America we run our country according to democratic principles. The union is democratically elected, just like candidates for public office. Yet that's something ultra-conservatives, whether at the National Right to Work foundation or in the Tea Party, just don't seem to accept. They value individual freedom--even if it is freedom at the expense of the greater good for others--above all.

This lawsuit only makes sense as a means of curbing the power of unions, which in essence takes away the voice of the middle class and those living in poverty.

In Pittsburgh we have been fighting the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) for months alongside workers who have demanded a right to unionize and to work in an environment void of intimidation. Many of the hundreds workers we have been organizing with over the last year haven't seen a raise or been able to take time off for a family vacation in years. 

The work the union is doing is lifting wages and benefits for all the workers. We should applaud those efforts, not derail them.

Posted by: Gordon on 5/17/2014
MORE2 public meeting on ban the ban
MORE2 public meeting on Ban the Ban

Metropolitan Congregations United and Metro Organization for Racial and Economic Equity are celebrating the passage of a bill in the Missouri Legislature that will lift the life-time ban on food stamps the state imposes on persons with drug felony convictions.

The lifetime ban on SNAP benefits was lifted with bipartisan support (27-3 in the state Senate, 122-19 in the state House). All that’s needed is Missouri Governor Jay Nixon’s signature and the road to rehabilitation will have one less obstacle. One legislator stood on the floor to declare that she had changed her mind on the issue and wanted to support those who were doing their best to stay sober and out of prison. 

Missouri is one of only nine states with a lifetime ban on food stamps for people with past drug related felony convictions. This is the only felony classification that has been excluded from public benefits.

Supporters of the bill declare that those targeted have served their time and taking away access to public benefits will only hurt them further. While many with a felony on their record struggle to find jobs, the added burden of "food insecurity" only makes things more difficult. In addition, both hunger and economic stress are known factors that reduce rates of rehabilitation.

In addition, treatment and rehabilitation centers often depend on public benefit programs to offset the costs of their already limited programs. Without these benefits for their clients, the cost for drug treatment can be even higher, making it even less accessible.

One barrier might be that many Missouri legislators tend to view drug crime as an 'urban' and male issue. However, with Missouri as a national leader in meth production, this affects rural areas, as well. Additionally, according to a study by the Sentencing Project, women are currently adversely affected by the ban. In Missouri, 25% of women in prison are incarcerated on drug crimes; they also make up 86% of TANF recipients and are twice as likely as men to receive food stamps.

Instead of worrying about how to take care of the basics, which can lead to poor and desperate choices, lifting the lifetime ban will allow people to focus on recovery, rehabilitation, and reintegration. As Susan Sneed, MCU Organizer, says, “Not all ex-felons need food stamps, but what kind of a society are we to deny food to a person just in case he/she might misuse that help?"
--Sarah Caldera Wimmer
Posted by: Gordon on 5/9/2014

Some 10,000 voters turned out to win more funds for local transit in Michigan Tuesday. Local news reported that 70 percent of area residents supported funding for more public transit in the Ann Arbor area, a signature issue for the new group WeROC (Washtenaw Regional Organizing Coalition), a project of MOSES.

WeROC has been active on transportation issues for the better part of a year, working to get better bus service to the University of Michigan's East Medical Campus. UM runs a bus out to the campus, located beyond the city limits in rural Ann Arbor Township, but the service has been infrequent and unreliable, leaving many patients out in the cold.

With assistance from MOSES Policy Coordinator Joel Batterman, WeROC leaders filmed a music video to spread the word. They've also helped with door-to-door canvassing and phone banking. The MOSES Transportation Task Force even took an expeditionary force out to Washtenaw this past weekend.

As Ann Arbor has gentrified, the Ypsilanti area now include the better part of the county's African American residents. WeROC leader Rod Casey said a few opponents of the transit proposal had been "trying to turn the races against each other, trying to cause divisions among the citizens of Washtenaw County," by suggesting that residents in Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township would not be paying their fair share for bus service.

Instead, Casey said, the voters chose to stand together as one community. "Washtenaw County is advancing. It's moving forward. It's not going to be stuck in the past," he said.
Posted by: Olivia Schiller on 5/7/2014
Several weeks ago Kalmazoo rerouted public bus service to include Pavilion Estates, a mobile home park that has about 2,000 residents. It was a milestone for affiliate ISAAC. Michele McGowen, a leader of Friends of Transit (a group that ISAAC and the Disability Network of Southwest Michigan organized), is one of many involved with the win.
Posted by: Gordon on 5/6/2014

 The covenanting Sunday of Rochester Alliance of Communities Transforming Society, Roc/ACTS, was several years in the making, but already the group has chosen issues to focus on and started planning for the future. 

“We are committed to change based on our faith and values,” said Father Robert Werth, co-pastor of St. Francis Xavier Cabrini Church.

Congregations in Rochester – among the poorest of cities its size (population 210,000) have attempted to deal with the city’s problems through charity and relief, but failed to achieve lasting progress, added Reverend Dr. William Wilkinson, pastor of Trinity Emmanuel Presbyterian Church: “We conclude from our experiences that only systemic change will bring about the society that our faiths call us to establish,” he said.

Among the issues under discussion already, faith leaders from urban and suburban congregations are set to advocate for new resources to deal with homelessness, elevating a debate that has focused on what happens next at a county parking garage that became a de facto shelter and is now scheduled for closure according to sponsoring committee member Marv Mich. Later this week, the committee will meet to set the date for its first public issues assembly.

“Our faith communities can be very much involved in the problem-solving process in the Rochester area," Carlos Garcia, executive director, Partners in Restorative Initiatives told a local TV news reporter. “We are deliberately multiracial, urban-suburban, multi-denominational, nonpartisan, diverse, and grassroots focused. Our strength comes from our numbers and from the commitment of our members to achieving social justice in our lifetime.”

Leaders from 13 congregations and one Service Employees International Union local came together to found Roc/ACTS Sunday. In addition to the TV news report, coverage of the event included a public radio story and a newspaper story in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.
Posted by: Gordon on 5/5/2014

CTA Blue Line workers

Photo of Blue Line repairs from Chicago Transit Authority via Flickr

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