In a budget process that "devolved into a clash of wills," according to the Houston Chronicle, TMO clergy and leaders leveraged a major wage win for workers: $14 per hour for 3,000+ of the lowest paid employees in the Houston Independent School District, employees who keep children safe, nourished, and schools clean.
In testimony to the HISD Board, Deacon Sam Dunning, Director of the Office of Peace and Justice in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston argued: "A budget is a moral document...it is time to treat all workers with dignity."
Rev. Carissa Baldwin-McGinnis of Northside Episcopal Church argued, "There is a price to be paid for allocating funds that is not equitable to all classes and that price will be paid by your hourly workers and their family members... in the form of hunger, inadequate housing, anxiety, fear and stress." Rev. Jimmy Grace of St. Andrew’s Episcopal, Rev. Darrel Lewis of New Pleasant Grove Baptist, Rev. Jacqueline Hailey of New Hope Baptist, Rev. Rhenel Johnson of St. Andrew's UMC and Chava Gal-Orr from Temple Sinai spoke at Board meetings and press conferences as well.
This spring, TMO was part of a delegation of 300 Texas IAF leaders that called on state legislators to increase spending in public education in order to retain the talent upon which public schools rely. After passage of HB3, which put millions of dollars into public schools across the state, TMO leaders worked locally to make sure Houston Independent School District used its funds for the lowest paid workers.
[Photo Credit: Top photos from footage by Univision]
Houston ISD Trustees Approve $1.9 Billion Budget, Houston Chronicle
Video of clergy statements [first skip to 14:33 and then to 19:05]
TMO leaders held a press conference on Tuesday, June 18th at the Houston Independent School District (HISD) Administration Building to stand with workers in HISD. With the lowest paid workers being paid $12 per hour, and with $136 million additional dollars flowing into the school district, the time to stop perpetuating poverty in the district is NOW. TMO is calling for a starting wage of $15, and we need your support. Leaders have started a petition calling for a raise in wages to $15 an hour for the lowest paid workers. Petitions are being circulated and signed in member institutions with hundreds of signatures already obtained.
Rev. Jacqueline Hailey and Rev. Darrell Lewis (bottom photos) also spoke in front of the school board at the most recent HISD budget hearing asking for starting wages to be raised to $15 per hour. Leaders are continuing to schedule meetings, call and write to board members to directly advocate for the raising of wages for workers and support staff before the Board’s vote on Thursday, June 27th.
[Photo Credit: Top photos from footage by Univision.]
TMO and Texas IAF Leaders Push Legislative Committee to Delay Vote on Extreme Payday Lending Proposal
Rev. Darrell Lewis from The Metropolitan Organization (TMO) and Rev. Olin Knudsen from Dallas Area Interfaith (DAI) testified before the House Pensions, Investments & Financial Services Committee to oppose House Bill 3292. Both pastors argued that payday loans are immoral and spoke of how predatory loans trap families in their congregations in vicious cycles of debt.
House Bill 3292 Fact Sheet, Texas Fair Lending Alliance
After a morning briefing on school finance, the Texas Innovative Career Education (ACE) program and other issues -- including healthcare, payday lending, and infrastructure in the colonias -- leaders were honored for their establishment of noteworthy labor market intermediaries, including Capital IDEA-Houston. Immediately afterward, they convened on the South Capitol steps. Legislators representing districts from across the state stood in solidarity with leaders and pledged to continue working for investments in people.
In photo above, the Rev. Dr. Rhenel Johnson is accompanies by TMO leaders and leaders from sister organizations, including Dallas Area Interfaith (DAI), San Antonio (COPS/Metro), Central Texas / Austin Interfaith, West Texas Organizing Strategy (WTOS), El Paso's Border Interfaith & EPISO, and the Rio Grande Valley (Valley Interfaith).
After the press conference, leaders broke out into smaller delegations to meet with legislators representing their geographic regions.
Organizations Call On State Legislators to Support Adult Education, Univision 62 [Spanish video]
In the face of constituent stories about bayou flooding, DACA, the need for mental health facilities and the power of Capital IDEA, candidates for federal, state and county office made public commitments on mental health, infrastructure/flooding mitigation, public education, immigration and more.
In Congressional District 29 & County Precinct 2...
250 leaders packed the parish hall at St. Leo the Great Catholic Church for a nonpartisan accountability assembly with candidates for CD 29 and Harris Co. Precinct 2. DACA recipient Ms. Puente shared that as a student and nearing young professional, she relies on DACA to live outside of the shadows, an essential element for a bright and successful future. Impressed with Ms. Puente’s story, and others like hers from Assumption Catholic Church, All Saints Catholic Church, and St. Andrews Episcopal Church, candidates committed to fight for a pathway for DREAMers at the federal level.
In Congressional District 7...
and joined by leaders from Faith City Church, Chapelwood United Methodist Church and Memorial Drive United Methodist Church, Congregation Beth Israel hosted a nonpartisan accountability assembly with 125 TMO leaders and candidates for CD 7. After hearing how the nearby bayou had wrecked surrounding neighborhoods during Hurricane Harvey, flooding for the third time in 3 years, candidates committed to championing Harvey recovery by bringing local, county, state, and federal entities together with TMO to expedite mitigation projects for this area.
In State House Districts 146 & 147...
nearly 100 TMO leaders from St. James’ Episcopal Church, Pilgrim Congregational UCC and Trinity East United Methodist Church assembled at St. James’ Episcopal to secure commitments from candidates for State House Districts 146 and 147. Mr. DuPont, a TMO leader and member of St. James’ Episcopal Church, expressed the need for more funding and oversight for mental health facilities in the area. The candidates agreed to work with TMO on understanding and improving these housing and mental health facilities.
In State House District 139...
close to 100 TMO leaders from Hope Episcopal Church and Santa Monica Catholic Church assembled at St. Andrew’s UMC to secure public commitments from state house district candidates to work with them on flood mitigation, infrastructure, public school, and immigration. Capital IDEA graduate, and Registered Nurse Tanesha Brown, shared how she went from making minimum wage to nearly six figures following her graduation from Capital IDEA. In emotional testimony, she thanked TMO and Capital IDEA for changing her life. Both candidates agreed to fight for $5 million dollars at the state level for Capital IDEA funding.
Since the JET Fund was established in 2009, at the urging of the Texas IAF, the state supported IAF-affiliated labor market intermediaries that navigated more than 800 lower-income, nontraditional students through community college.
The Adult Career Education (ACE) Grant program, the effort’s most recent permutation, now faces an uncertain future. In efforts to slash the state budget, Texas legislators are moving to eliminate all “special item” expenditures, even those that pay for special programs at colleges, over and beyond the normal higher education funding formulas.
“It has nothing to do with our program or the effectiveness of it,” said Elizabeth Valdez, lead organizer for The Metropolitan Organization in Houston.
A recently-released gold-standard study established that the Texas IAF’s flagship program, Project QUEST, was the only program in the nation to demonstrate sustained, sizable and statistically significant gains. In photo, a Project QUEST-supported student works with a patient.
[Photo Credit: William Luther, San Antonio Express News]
Senate Resolution, Senate of the State of Texas
Escalating Gains: Project QUEST’S Sectoral Strategy Pays Off, Economic Mobility Corporation
Study Affirms Project QUEST Achievements, San Antonio Express-News
Texas Job Program Shows Unusually Strong, Lasting Gains, Study Finds, Austin American Statesman [pdf]
40 TMO leaders and Capital IDEA graduates joined over 200 Network of Texas (NTO) IAF organization leaders at the Texas state capital to talk to our state representatives and senators about restoring full funding of the Texas Innovative Adult Career Education Fund (ACE Fund). Our delegation met with 20 legislators and/or their staffs asking them to support the ACE fund at its full $5 million, and also supporting bail reform, local control, and opposing ant-immigrant legislation.
At a pre-election accountability assembly attended by 600 TMO leaders
at New Pleasant Grove Baptist Church, top mayoral candidates mostly agreed to support TMO's inequality agenda, which included police staffing, road improvements and wages. All except one candidate pledged $1 Million out of the City budget for expansion workforce development program Capital IDEA-Houston.
Costello Highlights City's Budget Woes at TMO Forum, Houston Chronicle [pdf]
Exigen Respuestas de Candidatos a Alcadia, Univision
Following up on its $5 million win from the last legislative session in 2013, Texas IAF leaders - including several from TMO - succeeded in ensuring that the Adult Career Education (ACE) Grant program (and its $5 million in funding) stayed on the Texas budget. This means that Texas IAF workforce development programs like Capital IDEA-Houston, Project ARRIBA, VIDA, Project QUEST, SkillsQuest and Capital IDEA of Austin can apply for these funds to expand the job training they currently offer.
Capital IDEA-Houston, founded by TMO, is an integral strategy to train people out of low-wage employment and into living wage careers.
TMO Lyons parents won an 8-1 school board vote against proposed boundary changes to their school. The changes would have sent students from one of the top ranked schools in the state to one ranked in the lowest 18% statewide. Parents signed up 600 petitioners opposed to the change to convinced board members this was a bad idea.
Rosa Rivera told board members, "We want you to listen to us. Don't move our children." Demonstrating that the voices of organized parents get heard, the board rejected the the proposed plan.