Texas IAF Leads on Living Wages

1508 - CMA - Texas Observer - Press Conference on WagesCOPS / Metro Alliance, Austin Interfaith and Border Interfaith & EPISO are at the forefront of public sector living wage fights in San Antonio, Austin and El Paso.

After increasing the wages of the lowest paid workers for Alamo Colleges, COPS / Metro quickly turned its focus to wage increases for the lowest paid workers of Bexar County and the City of San Antonio.  Thanks to COPS / Metro’s hard work, both entities are expected to vote in support of increasing the wages of their lowest paid workers to $13 / hour in early September.  Leaders also expect that Bexar County Commissioners will vote to establish a wage floor of $9.50 / hour for contracted workers, boosting their bottom wage by $2.25 / hour.

In Austin, the local IAF organization helped form a Living Wage Stakeholder Group which recommended that the City of Austin increase their lowest wages to $13.03 / hour for adult full-time, part-time and temporary workers.  Austin Interfaith leaders are urging the council to adopt this proposal; council will vote on the proposed increase in early September.

In El Paso, leaders of Border Interfaith and EPISO succeeded in getting El Paso County Commissioners to increase the wages of their lowest paid workers by 50 cents to $10 / hour.  Commissioners have pledged to work with the organization to increase wages even higher over the next two years.  The City of El Paso has followed suit, raising the wages of their lowest paid to $10.35 / hour.

In Dallas, Skill QUEST — the long-term job training program created by Dallas Area Interfaith —  celebrated its 400th graduate.  Leaders are working to expand the impact of Skill QUEST by leveraging additional public sector dollars into the job training program.  Skill QUEST is one of six IAF labor market intermediaries working to train people out of poverty and into living wage careers.

[Photo Credit: Maria Luisa Cesar, Texas Observer]

Texas Cities Leading the Way on Living WagesTexas Observer

Skill QUEST Curbs Dallas Poverty by Helping Workers Move Into New Careers, Dallas Morning News

Luckless at Capitol, Wage Advocates go Local, Texas Tribune


Texas IAF and Allies Kill Anti-Sanctuary City Bills

1503 - Texas IAF - Immigration TestimonyLeaders from Texas IAF organizations across the state drove into Austin for the bi-annual legislative session to fight Senate bill 185, which would have outlawed sanctuary cities in Texas and threatened local efforts to build better relations between police and communities.  The intervention of Texas IAF leaders and allies succeeded in killing the bill.

In photo, Fr. Carlos Zuniga of Valley Interfaith and Rev. John Ogletree of TMO testify before the Senate Subcommittee on Border Security.

Texas IAF Leverages $5 Million for Job Training

Following up on its $5 million win from the last legislative session in 2013, Texas IAF leaders 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, Project ARRIBA, VIDA, Project QUEST, SkillsQuest and Capital IDEA-Houston can apply again for these funds, to expand the training they already offer.

Texas IAF Fights Anti-‘Sanctuary’ Senate Bill 185

Texas IAF faith leaders across the state arrived at the Capitol to fight Senate Bill 185, which would outlaw sanctuary cities in Texas and threaten local efforts to build better relationships between police and communities.  Sponsored by State Senator Charles Perry, from Lubbock, the bill would prohibit cities from forbidding police to enforce immigration laws.

Click on testimony and press below:

Reverend John Ogletree of First Metropolitan Church and TMO

Reverend Carlos Zuniga of St. Pius X Catholic Church and Valley Interfaith

South Texas Groups to Oppose ‘Show Us Your Papers’ LegislationRio Grande Guardian

Religious Leaders Urge Senators to Protect Local CommunitiesNetwork of Texas IAF

Texas IAF Calls on White House to Halt Deportations of Unaccompanied Children

Asserting that anyone under 18 should have an attorney and never be subjected to expedited processing, hundreds of bishops and clergy from every major religious denomination in Texas denounced proposed changes to the Trafficking Victims Act of 2008 and called on the White House for a better approach to the humanitarian crisis at the border.

In El Paso, San Antonio, Houston, Austin, Fort Worth and Dallas, religious leaders preached about the crisis at the border, organized relief efforts and held press conferences reminding the White House and Congress of the Judeo-Christian admonishment for nations to “not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner or the poor (Zechariah 7:10).”

Texas IAF organizations are spearheading an effort to ensure that the 2008 Trafficking Victims Protection Act not be weakened, that expedited deportations of children be halted and that religious congregations be granted access to attend to the spiritual needs of the children currently detained in detention facilities.  [In photo, El Paso Catholic Bishop Mark Seitz delivers joint statement.]

Border Interfaith & EPISO (El Paso):

Univisión El Paso
El Diario

COPS / Metro Alliance (San Antonio)

San Antonio Express News
Univisión San Antonio

TMO (Houston):

Houston Chronicle

Allied Communities of Tarrant (Fort Worth):

Fort Worth Star Telegram

Dallas Area Interfaith:

Dallas Morning News
New York Times

Austin Interfaith:

FOX 7 News
Time Warner Cable News
Austin American Statesman
Telemundo Austin
Univisión Austin

Texas IAF Reconstitutes Job Training Fund (ACE)

1308 - TT - ACE Funding RestoredTexas IAF leaders were successful in transforming the JET Fund, “which gave nonprofits $10 million starting in the 2010-11 biennium to support career training programs for low-income students” into the Texas Innovative Adult Career Education (ACE) Grant program.  “The ACE grant program will award about $5 million under a similar model to nonprofits for the next biennium. It will be administered by Austin Community College, which will step into the comptroller’s office’s current oversight role….

Said Minerva Camarena-Skeith, a representative of Austin Interfaith, the nonprofit that helped found Capital IDEA with business community members and advocates for public funding: “It still gives these job-training programs the opportunity to apply for these $5 million, and also be able to leverage more city and local funds.”

[Photo Credit: Callie Richmond, Texas Tribune]

Job Training  Program Adjusts Amid Funding Cuts, Texas Tribune
Governor Signs Bill: $5 Million for Adult Career Training, Network of Texas IAF Organizations

Governor Signs: $5 Million for Adult Career Training

A bill advocated by the Network of Texas IAF organizations (NTO) has been signed by Gov. Perry and is expected to fill high-demand, high-wage jobs in Texas. HB437 will move the successful JET Program’s Launchpad Fund to a new college home under the name ‘Texas Innovative Adult Career Education Grant Fund’.  The legislature also budgeted $5 million for the Fund to invest in high-skill training over the next two years.

“This legislation represents one of the best investments Texas can make in its people,” said Sister Pearl Caesar, Executive Director of Project Quest in San Antonio.  “The Network of Texas IAF Organizations and its allies are developing the workforce that our 21st century economy demands and that its business community deserves.”

The ‘Texas Innovative Adult Career Education Grant Fund’ continues the Launchpad Fund (NTO initiated the process to establish the fund in 2009) which provides state grants to innovative workforce intermediaries that partner with community colleges, public technical institutes and businesses.  The workforce intermediaries develop the capacity of under-educated and under-employed adults through certified training.   With the support of wrap-around services, graduates obtain a certificate or associate degree and move out of poverty and into family-wage jobs with benefits and a career path.

NTO, and its legislative allies, passed the bill with overwhelming bipartisan support in the Texas House and Senate.  Texas Senators Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, Kel Seliger, and Leticia Van de Putte, plus Representatives John Davis, Sylvester Turner and Mike Villarreal all played critical roles.

Community colleges cite the Texas IAF workforce intermediaries as valuable partners in improving rates of retention and graduation among non-traditional students.

The Network of Texas IAF Organizations (NTO) consists of twelve IAF organizations that have advocated for changes that strengthen Texas for over 30 years.  Among other things, NTO was responsible for the creation of six workforce intermediaries that trained 11,000 workers for hard-to-fill positions.

Press Contacts:   Minerva Camarena Skeith 512-912-7913

                                    Mike Phillips 210-254-0745

Austin & Dallas IAF Leaders Neutralize Threat to Living Wage Ordinance

Sheets’ decision to focus on other legislation pleased Austin Interfaith, a coalition of congregations and social justice groups that has been pushing for the living-wage requirement. At the organization’s request, members of its Dallas-area counterpart and representatives of the Dallas affiliate of the Workers Defense Project met with Sheets, asking him to drop his legislation and citing, among other reasons, a desire for local control in such matters, said Kurt Cadena-Mitchell, an Austin Interfaith leader.

“I think we have a very balanced approach that is good for the city, the taxpayers, companies and contractors,” said Bob Batlan, a member of Temple Beth Shalom and Austin Interfaith involved in the living-wage discussions. “I’m pleased that (Sheets) recognizes the balanced approach.”

Legislator Backs Off Bill to Ban Living Wage RequirementAustin American Statesman

Network of Texas Organizations Fights for Medicaid Expansion

“The Network of Texas Organizations, convened 200 leaders from various faith traditions on the steps of the Capitol to call on Gov. Rick Perry and the Texas Legislature to expand Medicaid.

Religious leaders and clergy from throughout the state gathered at the north entrance the Capitol to rally in support of Medicaid expansion” not just once, but twice.

Weeks later, leaders joined “hundreds on the front steps of the Capitol.”  Willie Bennett, along with 45 other Dallas Area Interfaith leaders, turned up for the march that snaked down Congress Avenue and up to the Capitol.  Bennett reported that more than 3,000 individuals and 38 institutions had signed up in favor of Medicaid expansion” by that time.

“Anderson and her 66-year-old mother, Martha Anderson, were among about 60 Tarrant County residents who gathered at the St. Andrews United Methodist Church in Fort Worth … for the 200-mile bus trip to Austin. The trip was organized by the Allied Communities of Tarrant (ACT)” in coordination with the Network of Texas Organizations, including Austin Interfaith, The Border Organization, EPISO, Border Interfaith, TMO, WIN, WTOS, Valley Interfaith and COPS / Metro Alliance.

[Photo Credit: Tamir Kalifa, Texas Tribune]

Interfaith Groups Rally for Medicaid Expansion, Texas Tribune
Faith Leaders Rally at Capitol for Medicaid, KXAN
Faith Leaders Rally for Bipartisan Support for Medicaid Expansion, Texas Observer
Death, Taxes, God and Medicaid, San Antonio Express-News
County Judges, Clergy Rally in Favor of Expanding Medicaid, Dallas Morning News
Rally at Capitol Urges Texas to Spend More on Medicaid, Star Telegram
Interfaith Groups Rally for Medicaid Expansion, The Monitor
El Paso Group Joins Others to Urge Expansion of Medicaid, El Paso Times
Protesters March on Texas Capitol for Expanded Medicaid, Star Telegram
Hundreds March to Capitol to Show Support for Medicaid Expansion, Dallas Morning News