Election night was a body blow to our country, our movement and our values. Foundational commitments to opportunity, democracy, equity and fairness are in deep danger – and our communities are fearful about what is to come. We have already seen alarming spikes in hate crimes and racist attacks.
Like many people in this country and around the world, we’ve been grappling with what to say at such an extraordinary time in our history. Indeed, words cannot fully capture our pain, our fears, and our anger.
But this pain and grief sadly isn’t new. Immigrants have been resilient as Congress fails to fix our broken immigration system that rips thousands of families apart each year. Our Muslim brothers and sisters have been targeted and spied upon by our government for a generation. Our LGBTQ family continues to experience intense discrimination and persecution despite major advances in a short period of time. Black communities have stood firm in the face of state-sponsored violence for centuries.
We’re not here to tell you to be resilient. Our communities prove day in and day out that we’re resilient. But, we’re with you, and we're preparing to fight.
We must organize at a larger scale and more boldly than ever before. We must organize to bend the arc of history toward justice.
Last week, most of the Executive Directors of CPD’s network of 43 partners in 30 states gathered in Washington, D.C. for a three-day meeting to strategize about our collective path forward. Originally intended to serve as a stepping off point for moving an ambitious, coordinated set of federal demands, the meeting pivoted to provide space to process the moment we are in, share the pressing concerns of our constituencies, and brainstorm together what our shared priorities will be in the coming months and years.
Protecting the safety of our communities is paramount: of immigrants facing an uncertain future, of Black communities bracing for an increased level of both state-sponsored and individual violence, of Muslim communities facing a heightened level of surveillance and attack, of LGBTQ individuals who fear a rolling back of rights recently won.
We will protect our communities at the same time that we drive mass new organizing efforts to mobilize those most at risk to be at the forefront of a movement that makes clear this is our country.
We are also gearing up to resist the new order at every turn – to fight against the taking away of health insurance for millions who only recently won it; attacks on our social safety net – from food stamps to childcare subsidies; a new level of corporate influence in our lives and institutions; and a rollback of basic standards for workers on the job. Our partners, and their members, are energized and ready to take on this fight - in a more coordinated, more creative way than we have ever had to do before.
At the same time, we will not forget that we won real, high-impact victories at the local level – proving that our model of change, which works from the ground up, will become even more crucial in the next few years. Indeed, despite an ugly and terrifying Presidential election, at a local and state level we won game-changing victories that will improve the lives of millions of working families.
Thus, while we and our partners take a moment to regroup and to mourn this moment in our national history, we emerge ready to fight smarter, harder, and in a more coordinated way across the country. Our organizing works. We build community, and we build power. We increase opportunity, equity, and fairness. We re-vitalize our democracy, and we create opportunities for a new generation of dynamic leaders.
We will look to each of you in the coming months and years, to lend your support, energy, commitment, and creativity to our revitalized movement for change.
This month, Emeryville – a city known for its robust retail economy in the California Bay Area – became the third city in the country to advance comprehensive fair workweek policy. The unanimous vote will guarantee 4,000 people working in retail and fast food more input into their work hours, two weeks’ advance notice of their schedules, more opportunity for full-time work and an end to mandatory clopens – exhausting back-to-back closing and opening shifts.
This major step forward in the movement for a fair workweek was led by CPD affiliate Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) and Partnership for Working Families member the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE). At the center of the campaign, were working parents and students from Emeryville’s retail centers.
One working mom and ACCE member, Moriah Larkins, describes the importance of this policy change, “When I didn’t have a regular schedule, my supervisor would put me down for only 16 hours and then schedule me last minute. I had to scramble to find childcare for my baby, and I sometimes worked six days a week and didn’t see him. But now I work for a different company, have regular hours, can spend time with my son, and finish my nursing degree.”
Congratulations to working people in Emeryville who will now have wages and hours they can count on to plan ahead to pay the bills on time, care for their children, work a second job, attend college classes, and even rest.
More than 500 elected officials have signed on to an open letter to fight back against hate and anti-Muslim bigotry, and to affirm their commitment to tolerance and inclusion. In the letter, elected officials pledge to stand in solidarity with Muslims, those perceived to be Muslims, immigrants and people of color. The American Leaders Against Hate and Anti-Muslim Bigotry Campaign, launched earlier this fall by Local Progress and YEO Action, seeks to lift up a collective narrative that hate has no place in our communities and that our local leaders believe that everyone has a right to worship, dress and speak without fear.
In the face of hateful rhetoric in 2016 electoral cycle, we believe that elected officials have a critical leadership role to lay in building trust and tolerance, in addition to condemning acts of violence and hateful speech directed towards members of the Muslim community, or against those perceived to be Muslim. In the coming weeks, many signatories will be introducing resolutions to further affirm their city's commitment to diversity and to the safety and protection of all constituents.
The Center for Popular Democracy would like to thank everyone who made October’s 2016 joint CPD-ACCE gala a huge success! Over 175 guests packed the room at Impact Hub in Oakland to support CPD and ACCE and to celebrate this year’s inspiring honorees: Laphonza Butler, president of SEIU Local 2015, Guillermo Mayer, president and CEO of Public Advocates, and John Avalos, San Francisco District 11 board of supervisors members and Local Progress board chair.
We would like to give a special shout out to our major sponsors, CFT, Josh Pesdchtalt, SEIU Local 2015, SEIU International, Susan Sandler and Steve Phillips, Rigo Valdez of UFCW 770, and the San Francisco Foundation. Your support ensures that the values of equity, opportunity and a dynamic democracy become national priorities.
We want to send another round of thanks to this year's amazing honorees, all of our generous event sponsors, and of course, the wonderful guests who made the evening such a huge success.
CPD partners are undeterred by the Supreme Court’s recent failure to uphold the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program, and are not waiting for the results of the election to plan out our federal strategy to push for comprehensive immigration reform. Earlier this month, nearly 40 staff and member leaders from the growing Make the Road family of organizations gathered at Bailey Farms Retreat Center in Ossining, New York to learn together, conduct strategic scenario planning around the outcome of the upcoming election, and develop an ambitious timeline of joint tactics to push for Immigration Reform at the federal level.
The retreat brought together the long-standing organizing powerhouse Make the Road New York, and its newly launched sister organizations Make the Road Pennsylvania, Make the Road New Jersey and Make the Road Connecticut. Informed by the experiences of community members in New York City, Long Island and smaller immigrant dense cities in PA, NJ, and CT, as well as the immigrant rights agendas of other national entities like United We Dream, the Fair Immigration Reform Movement and the Movement for Black Lives, the group worked together to understand how their local base-building and alliance building efforts could align to create more support for Comprehensive Immigration Reform in Congress and the Executive Branch come next January.
Participants also enjoyed building relationships across state lines and came away excited about the potential of creating a multi-state power block for immigrant justice. In November, at a post-election CPD gathering, representatives of the group will share their insights with other CPD partners, and learn from the efforts of other groups with similar goals elsewhere in the country. Si Se Puede!
You too can visit Bailey Farms for your next retreat or training event. Our goal is to create a center that is ideally suited for strategic inspiration and planning, a site to offer organizer and leadership trainings, short-term residencies for organizers and leaders, and a safe space to strategize and plan. Learn more about Bailey Farms.
In mid-November the Center for Popular Democracy will release a report that looks closely at how much money key cities and counties invest in policing and incarceration versus how much they choose to invest in education, housing, services for youth and children, and transportation. The report will elevate examples of community groups engaging in dynamic campaigns to re-think state and city investments, and rethink what safety looks like.
The report analyzes the municipal budgets of New York City, Chicago, Detroit, Contra Costa County, Minneapolis, Orlando, Baltimore, Atlanta and St. Louis to uncover how much taxpayer money is going to fund often inhumane and constantly ineffective policing and incarceration practices. The report also details examples of communities and organizations developing effective alternatives to policing and explores extensive research that suggests long-term investments in youth development, employment, mental health services and transformative justice practices are in fact more effective at decreasing crime and increasing the wellbeing and vitality of communities.
The United States, at the federal, state and local level, has invested trillions of dollars in police, jails and weapons targeted at low income communities, while neglecting to invest in the education, employment or health of these same communities. The United States spends $100 billion annually on policing alone — this despite a steady decline in crime rates. Due to shrinking state and local governments, more spending on policing and incarceration means fewer resources for other public safety strategies that are better for communities.
According to our research municipalities are spending anywhere from 12-60 percent of their general operating funds on policing and corrections. In Baltimore, more of the city’s general operating funds go to policing than education, health and re-entry services combined. This trend has manifested across the country at different levels of government. For instance state spending on higher education rose by less than 6 percent between 1986 and 2013. But corrections spending jumped by 141 percent.
The report is part of CPD’s ongoing work in partnership with a number of its community-based affiliate organizations, which pushes for divestment from the criminalization of Black and brown communities and investment in policies and strategies that instead make communities safe. In addition to the report we will be hosting a webinar sharing the findings and the inspiring work of communities across the country to re-think safety and well-being.
On Thursday, October 6, the Center for Popular Democracy (CPD) and our allies in the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools brought together over 100,000 parents, students and educators who “walked-in” at over 2000 schools in over 200 cities to demand “The Schools All Our Children Deserve”. CPD partner organizations and allies participated to demand that public schools be improved not closed, resourced not failed.
Many were “walking in” for community schools and for an end to privatization, others for early childhood and bilingual education and school revenue-related issues. In Baltimore our partner, Maryland Communities United, raised up the demand for state funding to transform schools into community schools where half of the student population live in poverty. Parents and community members gathered early in Gilmor Homes, a public housing project in West Baltimore (once home to police victim Freddie Gray), to walk their kids to school at Gilmor Elementary, a new community school.
After school, teachers, students, parents and community members gathered for a rally in Arundel Elementary-Middle in the Cherry Hill neighborhood in south Baltimore. Arundel was one of four participating schools in the community. The event included a student book giveaway and the gift of a necessities closet for school families, both sponsored by the Baltimore Teachers Union.
Other participating CPD partners include, Wisconsin Jobs Now (WJN), Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), Arkansas Community Organizations (ACO), One Pittsburgh, Texas Organizing Project (TOP), NJ Communities United and Make the Road CT. Read more about our partners' experiences below!
ACO: Members participated in a Walk-in at Franklin Elementary in Little Rock, AR. Franklin Elementary has been mentioned in the press as a school that could be shuttered soon. Franklin is important to the neighborhood surrounding it - it serves as a polling place, health clinic and generations of our members' children and grandchildren have attended the school. School staff, students and community members rallied together and toured the school.
WJN: The greatest highlight of our walk-in at Auer Avenue School was when we were talking about the importance of supporting Auer and public schools in general to a 70 year old grandmother dropping off her grandson. She instantly got out of the car, grabbed a sign, and stood with us. She also began to talk to other parents about increasing their presence in the schools. It was a reminder that people of all ages are truly concerned about education and schools.
TOP: Alliance/AFT, NEA Dallas, and other partners with the Our Community, Our Schools (OCOS) coalition in Dallas celebrated the progress being made at Dallas ISD’s first pilot community school, John Neely Bryan Elementary, and showed their support for public education with a walk-in. A half hour before school started, parents and volunteers greeted students and motivated them as they walked into the school. Shortly after classes started, event participants and volunteers handed free books to students.
One Pittsburgh: Folks in Pittsburgh walked-in at Crescent Early Education Center. The atmosphere was energetic with over 50 parents and and teachers gathered outside Crescent. Erica Winstead, a One Pittsburgh parent of a two-year old, spoke emphatically about the valuable early education that her son receives at Crescent. Erica called on all parents to get involved in the movement. Parents like Erica felt empowered by standing together with teachers making the same demand - that all of our children deserve to succeed.
ACCE: In California, activists walked-in with United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) members, parents, students and community allies taking the fight out into the communities with Community Walks at over 100 schools. The groups knocked on doors and talked with voters and parents about Community Schools and about two urgent measures on the ballot in November, one for school funding and one for bilingual education.
CPD partner Worker’s Defense Project (TX) celebrated a win for workers this month, after Austin City Council passed a bill to authorize a fast-track permitting process in the city. In order for developers to qualify for fast tracking, they must pay construction workers a living wage, provide OSHA basic safety training and workers compensation insurance.
Austin is one of the country’s fastest growing cities, but it is also one of the most economically segregated cities in the country. We are delighted that, with these new protections, workers will not only take home more money but also be more protected in the event that they are injured on the job. Read more about the win here.
We are proud to join Cities for Citizenship in celebrating its two-year anniversary this September. As a result of Cities of Citizenship, more than 10,000 eligible immigrants are on track to become American citizens, while more than 65,000 have been connected with naturalization resources and more than 5,000 have attended financial empowerment classes.
Cities for Citizenship (C4C) is a collaboration co-chaired by the mayors of Chicago Los Angeles, and New York City with support from the National Partnership for New Americans (NPNA) and CPD. As a core partner of this program, CPD provides regular technical support and policy advice, assistance with organizing strategies, best practices from other cities, communications and press strategy support, and planning and implementing C4C events and activities.
The bipartisan effort joins 26 mayors across the U.S. committed to building economically robust and welcoming cities for the 8.8 million Legal Permanent Residents, or green card holders, eligible for citizenship. Research by the Urban Institute and supported by NYC’s Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs and Citi Community Development shows that the U.S. is missing out on billions of dollars in tax revenues and earnings due to this naturalization gap. Cities for Citizenship enables cities to expand naturalization and financial capability programs, as well as access to legal assistance, microloans and financial counseling. The benefits of naturalization include higher earning potential for new citizens, increase voting and political participation, improved connections between communities and local services, and reduced deportation rates.
Since the program’s launch, 10,000+ individuals have pursued citizenship/initiated the citizenship process; 6,000+ individuals received legal assistance/referrals; 5,000+ individuals have attended financial empowerment classes; 900+ individuals have participated in 1-1 financial coaching sessions; 12,000+ have received information on the fee waiver, financial counseling, and/or citizenship microloan assistance; and outreach has been conducted in more than 15 different languages, including Amharic, Arabic, Armenian, Chinese, Creole, Farsi, French, Ilocano, Khmer, Korean, Laotian, Mandingo, Punjabi, Romanian, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Tagalog, Twi, Ukrainian, and Vietnamese.
This month, the program also released a toolkit “10 Strategies to Help Cities Launch and Strengthen Citizenship Initiatives.” Stay updated and follow the initiative on Twitter with #Cities4Citizenship.
It’s been a banner month for the Fair Workweek movement. In the same week that Seattle City’s Council unanimously passed the country’s second comprehensive set of scheduling protections, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced support to pass a similar law for fast-food workers. The City Council is pledging to pass legislation by year’s end, with the potential to affect more than 65,000 New Yorkers in years to come.
New York City is the birthplace of the Fight for $15 movement and, over the past few years, Mayor de Blasio has championed a number of worker-friendly policies, ranging from paid sick days to parental leave.
But working people need both $15 and a fair workweek for a stable paycheck. Higher wages can be washed away when you don’t get enough hours – and, for many, those hours change from week to week with little advance notice. Those working in fast food, retail, and across the service industry have long said hours are just as important as wages, and policymakers are increasingly listening to their calls.
As Mayor de Blasio and 32BJ SEIU President Héctor Figueroa said in a recent op-ed, “Treating workers with respect and fairness — and giving them the chance to pursue the American dream — lifts up all our communities, our city, and our country.” A coalition is growing to win a fair workweek for NYC’s fast food workers – led by 32BJ SEIU, along with Center for Popular Democracy partners New York Communities for Change and Make the Road New York.
New York City is the largest city to take up the cause, but it won’t be the last. After winning $15, it is clear that the movement for just hours is taking off to ensure that working families have the wages and hours they need to thrive.