Posted by: Gordon on 5/28/2015

Rev. Rodney Williams at McDonalds Protest in May

Flanked by other protesters, MORE2 co-chair Rev. Rodney Williams joined SEIU President Mary Kay Henry, and Rev. William Barber on May 20 in leading action at McDonald’s as part of the Fight for 15.

MORE2 co-chair Rev. Rodney Williams joined Rev. William Barber and SEIU President Mary Kay Henry May 20 in leading protest at McDonald’s as part of the Fight for 15. His organization is also helping to lead the fight for a minimum wage at home in Kansas City.
Posted by: Gordon on 5/20/2015
VOICE Buffalo leaders with Erie County executive at bill signing for conditional release board

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz signed the Conditional Release Program VOICE-Buffalo has been working for more than a year into law on May 12, with legislators Grant and Barbara Miller-Williams and leaders from VOICE-Buffalo in attendance.

Attaining social justice, change, and equality is synonymous with hard fought struggles that often seem endless while demanding commitment, hard work, unity, and action.

The lessons of community organizing have been captured by VOICE-Buffalo, a coalition of more than 45 organizations that celebrated a victory years in the making this May.

In 2005 Erie County government dismantled a probation program that granted conditional release to nonviolent inmates as a result of budget cuts. Nearly a decade later pastors and other leaders of VOICE Buffalo began work to reinstate the program.

Their move was one of compassion and justice as well as efficient government, since many inmates who would qualify for early release suffer from mental illnesses that could be better and more economically treated outside a prison setting.

The group had to work to organize the Republican-led county Legislature to vote in favor of the enabling legislation and develop a collaborative agreement with the Erie County Sheriff's office, which is investing $56,000 in the program (total cost to re-create the program is $150,000). After more than a year to advocate and educate the community, the county executive in May 2015 signed a law re-creating the parole board or conditional release commission into law. 

The program will provide an estimated 25 inmates with the opportunity to qualify for early release, in addition to assisting them with housing, job training and placement, mental health care, and drug addiction treatment during a one-year probationary period.

VOICE-Buffalo will establish its own committee to help and support parolees reintegrate into society.

“Whatever it may be, we will find service providers to help them and help the probation officer that is assigned to this group of releasees and who will work with them, especially those who are being released into the city,” VOICE-Buffalo president Pastor James Giles and Clergy Caucus member Rev. Daniel J. Schifeling told the Buffalo News.

About 35 percent of county inmates are suffering from mental illness, Schifeling told the paper.

Story by Elisabeth Roman (Elisabeth is a Chicago writer and president of the National Catholic Council for Hispanic Ministry)
Posted by: Gordon on 5/19/2015

MICAH and WISDOM leaders with Dep Secretary Victor Mendez

WISDOM organizer Stephanie Gyldenvand, leader Kathie Zoern, Deputy Transportation Secretary Victor Mendez andWISDOM-MICAH leader Lee Henderson-Tatum met in Milwaukee to talk transportation policy. 

At the end of April, Deputy Transportation SecretaryVictor Mendez met with leaders and staff from WISDOM in Milwaukee to discuss regional issues and the department's new Local Hire pilot project.
Posted by: Gordon on 5/18/2015

Brittini in Jefferson City with Bullhorn

Metropolitan Congregations United of St. Louis community organizer Brittini Gray (standing, with bullhorn) coordinated die-ins and other protests at the Missouri state capital this spring to advocate on a range of  issues. Her recent op-ed piece in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch is reprinted below. 

If we had been a region that cared about the education of Mike Brown as much as we cared about his death, Normandy schools would be a vibrant community center with wrap-around services for every child. Instead, in the year prior to his death, the Normandy school district was declared unaccredited and taken over by the state. Students transferred to districts all over the region in hopes of a better education. No aid was available and no one cried out.
Posted by: Gordon on 5/15/2015
Petitions handoff in DC
Donald Reed of United Congregations of Metro-East handed U.S. Department of Labor officials in Washington a stack of more than 5,000 letters and petitions asking for an update to federal contracting standards so more women and people of color can access good-paying jobs bankrolled by our tax dollars. 

In April leaders went to Washington to deliver more than 5,000 letters and petition signatures advocating to open more jobs on federal contracts to women and people of color by updating federal contract regs and enforcing existing policy.

“We got to meet with all the people we wanted to see and they came through,” said Donald Reed of United Congregations of Metro-East, East St. Louis, IL, who was part of the delegation.

The main goal of the trip was seeking to update federal contracting policy. Equal Employment Opportunity goals essentially mean government contractors' workforce must reflect roughly the participation rates of every sub-group  in the labor force, including women and people of color. Labor Participation Rate for people of color is estimated to have increased in the last 30 years, and yet the goal for minorities remains at 1980 rates for regions across the country.

During their visit, leaders laid out the case for advancing a regulatory update with a range of partners and officials in Washington. They also described some specific abuses that have flourished in the absence of an update and aggressive enforcement.

For example, Reed told officials at the Labor Department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs how general contractors had listed his wife’s certified minority business enterprise in their bids for federally-funded work, then neglected to give her any part of the job after their bid was accepted. His wife’s business was certified through a program that UCM’s 100 Ready Workers group worked to establish with the Illinois Department of Transportation that fosters entrepreneurship among minorities.

“That was just one issue that came up during a series of meetings over the three days that leaders were in Washington,” Reed said.

In addition to meeting with Labor and Transportation department officials the group also met experts from Center for Community Change, Economic Policy Institute, labor leaders and Congressional staff members. Others who went to Washington included leaders and staff from Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin as well as California leaders who participated remotely via Skype.

Illinois Legislature Considering Contracting Resolution
Irma Wallace and Sen. Manar testifying on jobs resolution

Meanwhile, Faith Coalition has had great success in Illinois' capital, where legislators in the state House and Senate are debating a resolution proposed by state Sen. Andy Manar, D-Springfield.

The resolution authorizes legislators to “respectfully but emphatically urge the President of the United States, the Secretary of the United States Department of Labor, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, and the members of Congress to update the regulations implementing Executive Order 11246, including the minority utilization goals [and]

urge the United States Department of Labor Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs to issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking providing guidance and regulations for implementation of Executive Order 11246, which accurately reflect the current state of the United States workforce."

Posted by: Gordon on 5/3/2015

Maximo Anguiano signs postcard to MI AG Bill Schuette for immigration reform

Maximo Anguiano, chair of the Civil Rights for Immigrants task force of Action of Greater Lansing, was one of many who signed postcards to Michigan AG Bill Schuette April 30 asking him to pull Michigan out of a lawsuit states filed to stop immigration reform. 

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