Press Release Archive

2014.10.01 New Study Finds SF Bay Area's Economic Growth is Leaving Low-Income Communities Behind

Story Archive

Interfaith Lent Action for Hyatt Workers
(3-26-14).

As part of a collaborative Lent action since Ash Wednesday, the Interfaith Council has led community and faith members in a prayer vigil at Hyatt Santa Clara for the hotel to better treat their workers with dignity and respect. Each day, faith leaders send letters to Dania Duke to express to Hyatt management that they stand in solidarity with Hyatt workers and that they will continue to pray for the 40 days of Lent until hotel management recognizes the rights of the workers. The prayers are conducted from Monday to Saturday from 1-2 p.m., and the Council welcomes community members who are interested in praying for justice to partake in the vigil for the remaining weeks. Those who wish to participate will be provided with a candle and sign, which states you are praying for Hyatt workers. If you are interested in joining this powerful faith action, please contact Esha Menon at esha@wpusa.org, or call at 408-809-2127.

Good Jobs Build Strong Communities
(3-18-14).

On Saturday, March 14th over 80 community leaders and labor leaders came together to strategize on the ways in which we can transform Silicon Valley?s economy to an economy that works for everyone, including low-wage workers and working families. The day was filled with testimonies from worker leaders, who illustrated the mosaic of current struggles of low-wage work from different points of view. Non-profit leaders Sandy Perry of CHAM Deliverance Ministry, Raj Jayadev of Silicon Valley De-Bug, and Patrick Soricone of United Way Silicon Valley shared their perspectives on the importance of recognizing the intersectionality of worker rights to other issues such as transportation, housing, and the need for a safety net. A theme that emerged out of discussions was the emphasis on coming together out of ?our silos? and back into our communities to work for and with low-wage workers. Attendees left the Summit empowered, rejuvenated, and recommitted to a progressive, equitable vision of Silicon Valley that allows working people to not just scrape by but thrive in a more inclusive economy.

Rally to Protect Living Wage in San Jose
(12-12-13).

On Tuesday, December 17 the San Jose City Council will vote to modify the Living Wage Policy to exempt retailers at City Hall and the Convention Center.

San Jose shouldn't sacrifice the welfare of workers by paying poverty wages to facilitate development. Join workers, religious leaders and community members to defend the Living Wage Policy

When: Tuesday, December 17 at 12:30pm
Where: San Jose City Hall, outside the Rotunda

RSVP to organizeinscc@gmail.com or 408-606-2062

Community Builders' Holiday Party 2014
(12-6-13).

The 27th Annual Holiday Party
When: December 21, 2013, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Where: Santa Clara County Fairgrounds.

Begun in 1986 by labor activists who saw a need to share with those less fortunate around the holidays, more than 25,000 children have enjoyed a day of fun, food and gifts (see a slideshow of last year's party) provided by Working Partnerships' Community Builders program.

If you know of families with children in need, tell them they can get free tickets (required for admission) by:

Phone at (408) 809-2112
Online in English, Spanish and Vietnamese at http://www.hp13.org.

For questions, please contact holidayparty@wpusa.org.

Author of book on Vietnam's workers to speak Wednesday, Nov. 20 (11-15-13).
Dr. Gerard Sasges' book about the lives of workers in a Vietnam undergoing historic changes in the 21st Century -- It's a living: work and life in Vietnam today -- has been praised as "beguiling in simplicity, but epic in scope." Working Partnerships and South Bay First Thursdays, a monthly event series for those interested in Asian American and Pacific Islander issues, will host the author for a reading and discussion at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 20 in the Santa Clara Valley Labor Center's Hall A, 2102 Almaden Road in San Jose (map). RSVP here. Sasges, who was born in Canada and received his Ph.D. in history at UC Berkeley, lived in Vietnam for 10 years and based his book on more than 150 in-depth interviews with "the tea ladies, market vendors, and motorcycle taxi drivers who were a part of my every day." He is currently an assistant professor in the Department of Southeast Asian Studies at the National University of Singapore. The event is the fifth in the 2013 Working Partnerships Social Innovators Speaker Series, which is generously sponsored by PG&E as a forum for Silicon Valley leaders to hear from innovators in many sectors of society.


Fall has been busy season for our leadership development programs (11-14-13).
Fall has been a busy season for Working Partnerships' leadership development programs, which prepare progressives and people of color for leadership roles in Silicon Valley. Fourteen invited community activists from the government, nonprofit and labor sectors are in the home stretch of their Leadership Institute training, which concludes in December, and will join more than 300 other LeaderNet alumni. The Institute provides education and support that builds skills and develops strong strategic relationships. Eleven invitees -- including four elected officials, a union president and two small businessmen -- will finish their Values-Based Leadership training this weekend. Plumbers, Steamfitters & Refrigeration Fitters Local Union 393 has hosted the VBL training, which is co-sponsored by the South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council. Participants are entering the pipeline from grassroots to the halls of power. Guest faculty for the two programs has included Executive Director Derecka Mehrens, Research and Policy Director Bob Brownstein and Community Builders Director Steve Preminger of Working Partnerships, San Jose City Councilmembers Ash Kalra and Xavier Campos, Santa Clara County Supervisors Dave Cortese and Cindy Chavez (a former Working Partnerships executive director), Executive Officer Ben Field of the South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council, Fire Fighters Local 230 President Robert Sapien, San Jose State University faculty member and BAYMEC co-founder Wiggsy Sivertsen, retired San Jose State political science professor Terry Christensen and Teresa Castellanos of the San Jose Unified School District Board.


Supporting immigrant farm workers at Taylor Farms in Tracy (11-14-13).
Working Partnerships stood with immigrant workers at a rally at Tracy's Taylor Farms facility this morning to demand respect, living wages and affordable benefits. The workers, who are organizing with Teamsters Local 601, spoke of ongoing safety issues at the plant including fumes from strong chemicals used to clean machinery, being forced to work up to 18 hours a day and being afraid to report workplace injuries for fear of being fired. "Taylor Farms needs to know that the community will not stand for abuse, intimidation and harassment of its workers," said Lucia Gonzalez from Working Partnerships USA. According to workers at the rally, unfair labor practice charges have been filed with the National Labor Relations Board, and the union has asked to speak with Taylor Farms CEO Bruce Taylor in an effort to start a constructive dialogue.


Thank you for the success of Champions for Change (11-13-13).
Thank You! Our first annual Champions for Change fundraiser Nov. 11 was a huge success, and we are grateful to all of our sponsors as well as our Solidarity Circle family -- those of you who agreed to help sustain our work for the long-term. Find out more about our Solidarity Circle and how you can join today. With your on-going support we will continue the struggle for racial and economic justice for workers and communities of color in our Valley. As we celebrate Working Partnerships' 18th anniversary, we are looking to the future. Our movement is stronger than ever, and the challenges we face are great. Housing costs are the highest in the nation. Wages in some of the most prosperous industries in our region remain stagnant while CEO pay skyrockets. Tens of thousands of workers face uncertainty like never before because they can't find a full-time job. And while access to quality, affordable health care is now a reality for millions of workers, we are reminded of the millions more who will be left uncovered. We are up to meeting these challenges. In partnership with all who celebrated at Champions for Change with us, we plan to do our part to achieve real and lasting change in our community.


Working Partnerships' team smashes goal for health care contacts (11-13-13).
Working Partnerships surpassed its goal by a wide margin for its fall round of phone-banking and precinct walking to inform San Jose residents about the federal Affordable Care Act. Our crew contacted 6,676 voters in our project as part of the statewide California Calls coalition, easily beating its goal of 5,966. They won California Calls' Social Media Challenges three times against other teams from around the state by posting pictures from precinct walks, making a video about Obamacare and by posting on the topic of the California Dream. In addition to the informational contacts on health care, Working Partnerships' team was able to gauge local interest in affordable housing with 72 percent of the contacts saying government should invest resources in affordable housing and more than 1,000 saying they wanted to get involved in the affordable housing campaign.


Father Bill Leininger to be honored as 'Social Conscience Champion' at Champions for Change event (11-4-13).
Father Bill Leininger, a one-time farm worker turned priest, will be honored as "Social Conscience Champion" at Working Partnerships' Champions for Change fundraising event Nov. 12. Father Bill, as he is known to everyone, grew up amid the Santa Clara Valley orchards where he worked and organized his fellow workers in the 1940s. Ordained in 1956, he participated in demonstrations with Cesar Chavez that led to the creation of the United Farmworkers. He initiated what became the Bishop's Human Concerns Commission in the Diocese of San Jose. Today he does most of his work with the Interfaith Council on Economics and Justice. Champions for Change will be held from 6-8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 12 at the Triton Museum, 1505 Warburton Ave., in Santa Clara (map), and will feature refreshments and a brief awards program. Proceeds from the event will be used for Working Partnerships' projects to build power for the poorest and weakest in our community. For more information, email son@wpusa.org or call Son Chau at (408) 445-4569. Download a flyer here. To register and purchase tickets or sponsorships, go to tinyurl/champions4change.


Working Partnerships will honor Plumbers Local 393 as 'Social Activism Champions' (10-29-13).
The Plumbers, Steamfitters & Refrigeration Fitters Local Union 393 will be honored as "Social Activism Champions" at Working Partnerships' Champions for Change fundraising event Nov. 12. The union's members -- some of the most highly skilled in Silicon Valley who design, install and maintain complex systems for the delivery of pure water, industrial gasses and air in demanding environments such as hospitals and high-tech manufacturing -- have been labor movement pioneers in their concern for the welfare of the larger society. For example, even though its members enjoy good wages and benefits, the union was the first to support Working Partnerships' signature health care achievement, the Children's Health Initiative, which made Santa Clara County the first in the nation to ensure health coverage to even its poorest young people. The union was also one of the first to support the successful campaign to raise San Jose's minimum wage. Champions for Change will be held from 6-8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 12 at the Triton Museum, 1505 Warburton Ave., in Santa Clara (map), and will feature refreshments and a brief awards program. Proceeds from the event will be used for Working Partnerships' projects to build power for the poorest and weakest in our community. For more information, email son@wpusa.org or call Son Chau at (408) 445-4569. Download a flyer here. To register and purchase tickets or sponsorships, go to tinyurl/champions4change.


Halloween will be safer because of Safe From the Start glow necklaces (10-28-13).
Trick or treaters won't take to the streets until Thursday, but when they do, the goblins will be a little safer, thanks to Working Partnerships' Safe From the Start program. The annual Working Partnerships project recruits families to operate Halloween Safety Centers from their homes on Halloween night, which distribute glow necklaces to trick or treaters to make them more visible to traffic in the dark. A hundred fifty yard signs, which denote homes distributing the necklaces, were picked up Oct. 27 by participating families and more than 40,000 necklaces were distributed. The few remaining yard signs and necklaces that have been reserved will be delivered before darkness falls on Halloween night and the goblins hit the streets in force. Donate to support the program here.


Working Partnerships will honor Silicon Valley De-Bug as 'Cutting-Edge Champions' (10-21-13).
Silicon Valley De-Bug -- which evolved from temp workers writing about justice and economic issues among Silicon Valley's disaffected young people into an organization that did something about them -- will be honored as "Cutting-Edge Champions" at Working Partnerships' Champions for Change fundraising event Nov. 12. Described by the New York Times as "part alternative media, part community organizer, part youth center," De-Bug most recently played a critical role in last year's successful campaign to raise San Jose's minimum wage through its communications and social media work. Champions for Change will be held from 6-8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 12 at the Triton Museum, 1505 Warburton Ave., in Santa Clara (map), and will feature refreshments and a brief awards program. Proceeds from the event will be used for Working Partnerships' projects to build power for the poorest and weakest in our community. For more information, email son@wpusa.org or call Son Chau at (408) 445-4569. Download a flyer here. To register and purchase tickets or sponsorships, go to tinyurl/champions4change.


Register for 'Champions for Change,' Working Partnerships' benefit event (10-15-13).
Champions for Change, Working Partnerships' November benefit event, will honor Father Bill Leininger of the Interfaith Council on Economics and Justice and grassroots leaders from Silicon Valley De-Bug and Steamfitters & Refrigeration Fitters UA Local 393. The event will be held from 6-8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 12 at the Triton Museum, 1505 Warburton Ave., in Santa Clara (map). Proceeds will be used for Working Partnerships' projects to build power for the poorest and weakest in our community. For more information, email son@wpusa.org or call Son Chau at (408) 445-4569. Download a flyer here. To register and purchase tickets or sponsorships, go to tinyurl/champions4change.


Mountain View joins cities backing prevailing wage (10-9-13).
Mountain View's City Council took an important step toward restoring the Bay Area's middle class and economic prosperity when it voted 6-1 Oct. 8 to expand the city's prevailing wage policy to cover city-funded affordable housing developments. The overwhelming victory was another ripple from Working Partnerships' research and policy work on job quality and career pathways in the construction sector including our 2011 policy brief "Economic, Fiscal and Social Impacts of Prevailing Wage in San Jose, California" and the State Building & Construction Trades Council of California video based on it. Our policy brief showed how prevailing wage policies support local economies, allowing cities like Mountain View to hire local contractors and labor rather than having low-wage contractors and workers from other regions or even out of state successfully underbid for the work taking the economic benefits with them. "As the one city in Santa Clara County that has adopted housing impact fees, it just makes sense to me that we provide prevailing wages," said City Councilmember Margaret Abe-Koga. The new policy means that the construction workers employed in affordable housing projects will be able to live in Mountain View, said Vice Mayor Chris Clark. "I believe that affordable housing is a regional problem, not just a Mountain View problem. We should contribute to reducing the problem at the regional level. Paying prevailing wages is one way to do that."


Insight Center features Derecka Mehrens in video on how poverty should be measured (10-9-13).
Derecka Mehrens, Working Partnerships' executive director, is among the experts featured in a newly released video produced by the Insight Center for Community Economic Development discussing the failings of the Federal Poverty Level (or Line), better known as the FPL, as a useful or relevant economic measure. "Metrics matter in a deep way," said Mehrens, one of 70 organizational leaders from across the nation working on economic security issues, studies and advocacy convened by the Insight Center. "It's how we win." Long regarded by economists and and researchers as out of date, the FPL -- first published in 1965 -- remains in widespread use as a means of measuring income inadequacy and for determining eligibility for numerous government programs. The Insight Center published Measuring Up: Aspirations for Economic Security in the 21st Century documenting the FPL's shortcomings and advocating for a new metric in April. The report relied partly on interviews with Working Partnerships' Louise Auerhahn.


Interfaith Council asks for meeting about treatment of Marquez Brothers workers (10-7-13).
A delegation from the Interfaith Council on Economics and Justice including Dr. Stan Taylor, Father Bill Leininger and the Rev. John Freesemann delivered a letter Oct. 20 to the headquarters of Marquez Brothers International, the producers of Mexican-style dairy products, requesting to meet about treatment of the company's workers. The letter (full text here) requests a meeting "to discuss concerns from our community about the treatment of workers and labor practices at your Hanford plant and how we can work together to address them." The Interfaith Council, a project of Working Partnerships, is an association of faith leaders that educates and mobilizes the Santa Clara County religious community on social justice issues.


BAYMEC honors Working Partnerships' Steve Preminger with its 2013 'Friend' award (10-7-13).
BAYMEC, the Bay Area Metropolitan Elections Commission, an LGBT political action group, has honored Working Partnerships' Steve Preminger with its 2013 "Friend of BAYMEC Award." Preminger, director of Working Partnerships' Community Builders social service agency, was cited for "supporting the LGBT community through the times when anti-gay slurs were the norm, not the exception, comforted us during the AIDS crisis, helped fight to ensure our civil liberties and attended every BAYMEC dinner." The award is the latest of many for Preminger, who has devoted his career to social justice. He was honored in 2009 by His Holiness the Dalai Lama as one of 49 people around the world as an "Unsung Hero of Compassion" and in 2012 by the National Association of Social Workers with its "Stand Up for Others Award."


Halloween is coming, let's make it safe for kids (10-2-13).
Halloween offers a unique opportunity for children to get to know their neighbors, enjoy their community and be creative as they choose and design costumes. But it can also be one of the most dangerous nights of the year for pedestrians, especially children. Working Partnerships USA wants to make Halloween 2013 the safest ever by making our annual Safe From The Start program -- which provides glow-in-the-dark necklaces to make trick-or-treaters visible to motorists -- the biggest ever. Visit our Safe From The Start page to learn how you can sponsor or participate in this important program.


San Jose minimum wage to rise January 1, Indexing protects value of low-wage earners' work (10-1-13).
San Jose's $10 hourly minimum wage will increase by 15 cents per hour Jan. 1, 2014 as a result of an increase in the cost of living as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI), the City of San Jose announced today. "CPI indexing is an extremely important feature of San Jose's ordinance because it means that the city's lowest-paid workers can afford the same lunch or gallon of gas next year that they can buy this year," said Derecka Mehrens, Working Partnerships' executive director. Cost-of-living increases have badly eroded the living standards of the nation's poorest workers. For example, the purchasing power of a worker governed by the federal minimum wage was at its peak in 1968, according to the CPI, when the federal minimum wage was $1.60 an hour. For that same worker to afford the basic necessities of life today, he or she would have to earn $10.69. The current federal minimum wage is only $7.25 an hour. The overwhelming success of San Jose's minimum wage initiative added momentum to movements elsewhere around the country to raise the wage as evidenced by a statewide increase in California's minimum wage enacted last week and pending federal legislation on the national minimum wage. "People have recognized what their legislators do not about how important the minimum wage is in protecting the value of their work," Mehrens said. "As our Life in the Valley Economy reports have documented, a growing number of middle-class employees are being forced into low-paying jobs and poverty as the rewards for hard work are siphoned off by those at the top."


Report examines how parents can best be champions for their children in dealing with institutions and professionals (9-20-13).
Working Partnerships has published a groundbreaking study examining how marginalized parents -- such as those who are low-income, immigrants,or of color -- can more effectively engage with the professionals and institutions that play such a critical role in their children's upbringing. The study project that produced the report, directed by Elly Matsumura, Working Partnerships' leadership development director and report co-author, addressed the severity and persistence of the poor and inequitable outcomes that these children experience in the daunting -- even intimidating -- environments of educational and health systems. The report reviews the extensive academic literature that establishes both the importance of parent engagement in improving children's educational and health outcomes and the ways in which traditional engagement models exclude marginalized parents. Two kinds of programs have shown powerful effects in addressing this inequity: those that train parents to provide supplemental health and educational activities at home and those that train parents to advocate for policy and system change. The report also spotlights another parent engagement approach not yet recognized in the literature, "parent championing:" when parents work individually with child-serving professionals to improve the professionals' interactions with their children. It proposes a program model for building parents' capacity for this powerful method of utilizing their own expertise in their children to improve those children's outcomes. This report was published with funding from FIRST 5 Santa Clara County in partnership with Healthier Kids Foundation Santa Clara County. Download a copy here.


Life in Silicon Valley: Where's the recovery? (9-19-13).
By Louise Auerhahn
Associate Policy Director

New data released today by the U.S. Census Bureau reveal that, three years after the official end of the Great Recession, recovery in Silicon Valley remains elusive. Although the tech sector is once again flying high with booming commercial real estate and impending IPOs, the "invisible majority" of non-tech workers in Silicon Valley have seen jobs slip away, incomes fall and poverty rise. The post-2008 economic recovery has produced record low numbers of jobs nationwide. In Silicon Valley, the employment rate -- residents age 16 and over who are employed -- dropped from 64.0% to 61.0%. Two factors combined to produce this decline: a rise in unemployment along with increasing numbers of people dropping out of the labor force. Illustrating the latter, labor force participation (which includes anyone who is either employed or looking for work) declined from 68.0%% to 66.8%. The Census Bureau's American Community Survey also provides unemployment rates for 2012. Unemployment in Silicon Valley was highest for African-Americans (14.3% unemployment) and Latinos (12.0% unemployment) and lower for Asians (7.5% unemployment) and whites (7.2% unemployment). Falling employment means falling income. Between 2008 and 2012, median household income (inflation-adjusted) declined by 3.6%. In 2012, 10.8% of Silicon Valley residents fell below the official poverty level, up from 7.8% in 2008. This represents the Valley's highest poverty rate in more than 12 years. Poverty rates were highest among Latinos (18.6%) and African Americans (16.2%) and lower among Asians (9.1%) and whites (6.1%). If we look more broadly at households earning below 200 percent of the federal poverty level -- a more accurate barometer of hardship in high-cost Silicon Valley -- we find that 24.5%, or nearly a quarter of all residents, fall below this line.
Housing shifts from homeownership to rentals, as rents increase: Silicon Valley's housing market over the past four years was characterized by a dramatic decline in homeownership: from 60.4% in 2008 to 56.1% in 2012. For those who remain in their homes, the median monthly housing cost for homeowners with mortgages has fallen considerably, from $3,332 in 2008 to $2,877 in 2012. However, the increasing numbers of renters are shouldering increasingly high rents. Median rent in 2012 was $1,566, up from $1,484 in 2008. Not surprisingly, many Silicon Valley households must stretch their budgets to afford these rents. Nearly half (48.0%) of all renters faced a "housing cost burden," defined as rents equal to 30 percent or more of their total household income. In 2008, in the midst of the Great Recession, the portion of rental households with an excessive housing cost burden was only 44.5%.
Big drop in private health insurance coverage; public coverage picks up (most of) the slack: Driven in part by the fall in employment, private health insurance coverage dropped precipitously from 77.2% of the population in 2008 to 71.8% in 2012. Over the same period, an increasing portion of Silicon Valley residents gained coverage through public health insurance, which reached 24.1% of the population in 2012, up from 20.7% in 2008. The increase in public coverage almost, but not quite, made up for the drop in private coverage. The net effect was a slight coverage decline from 89.5% to 88.1% of the total population which had some sort of health insurance. Among uninsured adults, 67.9% were employed or had worked in the past year, and 38.6% of uninsured workers were employed in service occupations. Latinos were by far the most likely to lack health insurance. Latinos make up half the county's total uninsured population and 22.2% of Latinos were uninsured. Among other racial/ethnic groups, uninsurance rates were 10.8% for African Americans, 9.0% for Asians and 6.5% for whites.
Widening income inequality puts the brakes on recovery: With three years of economic recovery under our belts, why are Silicon Valley's middle and working classes stuck in recession mode? One piece of the puzzle lies in the rapid growth of income inequality. An analysis released last week of 100 years of IRS data found that since 2009, the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans have captured an unprecedented 95% of all income gains. In 2012, the total share of income going to the top 1% reached its highest point since 1928. In Silicon Valley, extreme inequality has manifested itself in homeless encampments springing up in the shadow of venture capital wealth, and less visibly, in the loss of homeownership, the erosion of living standards, and the proliferation of precarious, low-wage jobs. Early next year, Working Partnerships' Life in the Valley Economy 2014 (LIVE) report will assess progress and challenges in Silicon Valley since the Great Recession. To receive a copy of the LIVE report or an invitation to our 2014 Silicon Valley Solutions Summit, email lauerhahn@wpusa.org.


Two young San Jose artists' work chosen for anti-smoking poster designs (9-6-13).
Two young San Jose artists -- Christian Furuta, an Evergreen Valley College student, and Mimi Truong, a junior at Pioneer High School -- are winners of Working Partnerships' anti-smoking poster contest to promote awareness of the city's outdoor smoking ordinance among young people and communities of color. Furuta's oil painting of a smoker being reduced to a skeleton and Truong's pencil drawing of a smoker taking a drag on a cigarette have been reproduced on posters that will be distributed to apartment and condominium complexes. Outdoor common areas of these residential areas as well outdoor dining areas and service lines are where the ordinance forbids smoking. Their works were chosen by a vote of visitors to MACLA, the Movimeiento de Arte y Cultura Latino Americana, which displayed entries by young artists from across the city in August. Click here to see Christian Furuta's poster in detail and here to see Mimi Truong's. See a slideshow of the exhibition here. Funding for our San Jose Fresh Air project was provided by The California Endowment. Furuta, 20, said he has been drawing all his life and did animation while a student at Mount Pleasant High School. He's enrolled in several art courses at Evergreen. "I love how much you can express yourself, " he said. "I've never really liked any type of smoking or anything related to drugs, and this contest gave me a chance to express what I think about smoking." Truong, 16, said she's completely self-taught, beginning with stick figures in the third grade. Her school work crowded out her drawing time until her friends encouraged her to continue. "I thought this contest would be cool because I'm against smoking," she said, "but I had no idea that I would win." Major funding for the project was provided by The California Endowment.


Labor in the Pulpits supports immigration reform at Labor Day weekend religious services (9-3-13).
With immigrant workers squeezed on one side by a poor economy and on the other by unscrupulous employers willing to threaten them with deportation over complaints of mistreatment, speakers from the Interfaith Council on Economics and Justice fanned out to Silicon Valley religious services over the Labor Day weekend to call for comprehensive immigration reform. The Interfaith Council is a project of Working Partnerships. Christians, Muslims, Jews and Buddhists shared messages about immigration and labor based on the values of justice their faith traditions share and for which the labor movement has fought. Our local Labor in the Pulpits program has historically been one of the nation's largest. Volunteer speakers spoke to more than 40 South Bay congregations at 56 services Friday, Saturday and Sunday and more than 13,000 commitment cards were distributed for worshipers to sign and return.


Black Panther founder Bobby Seale says voting rights remain central civil rights issue (9-3-13).
Speed quoting documents ranging from California's gun laws to the Declaration of Independence, Bobby Seale recounted his role in America's Civil Rights Era before a crowd of more than 400 at San Jose State University on Aug. 29. The nation's central civil rights issue -- protecting the right to vote -- has remained the same since he founded the Black Panther Party in the 1960s, Seale said. Then-FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover called the Black Panthers "the greatest threat to internal security of the country" after it began a free breakfast program for school children. The crowd was the largest in the four-year history of the Working Partnerships Social Innovators Speaker Series, which features prominent thinkers and doers from many sectors of society. The university's MOSAIC Cross Cultural Center partnered with Working Partnerships in hosting the event. The Social Innovators Speaker Series is generously sponsored by PG&E. See a slideshow of the event here. We will have video up soon.


Volunteer speakers to urge immigration reform at Labor Day weekend religious services (8-29-13).
On the one weekend of the year when the well-being of those who work for wages is held up as a national concern, the annual Labor in the Pulpits program will focus this Labor Day on Santa Clara County's immigrant workers, who are the most vulnerable to abuse and exploitation in our economy. "Squeezed on one side by an economy pressing down on everyone's wages and benefits, and squeezed on the other side by unscrupulous employers willing to threaten workers with deportation if they complain about dangerous working conditions or being cheated out of pay, the treatment of immigrant workers is a stain on the moral underpinnings of our society" says Derecka Mehrens, Working Partnerships' executive director. The Interfaith Council on Economics and Justice, a project of Working Partnerships that frames social justice issues in moral terms, will advocate for comprehensive immigration reform in mosques, temples and churches this weekend throughout the county as an important part of the solution to this enormous national problem. Protestants will speak to Catholics and Muslims will speak to Jews about the common values of justice that all faiths share and which the labor movement has fought for. Our local Labor in the Pulpits has historically been one of the nation's largest. Volunteer speakers will carry the immigration reform message to more than 40 South Bay congregations at 56 services Friday, Saturday and Sunday including Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish and Christian groups. More than 13,000 commitment cards have been distributed for worshipers to sign and return.


Hyatt workers get support of Santa Clara City Council (8-21-13).
With local hotel workers and members of the Interfaith Council on Economics and Justice looking on, the Santa Clara City Council unanimously approved a resolution Aug. 20 that, in effect, supports the union organizing effort at the Hyatt Santa Clara. The resolution supports an agreement reached earlier this summer between the national Hyatt chain and UNITE HERE, the union representing housekeepers and other hotel workers, for the local Hyatt. Santa Clara workers lost their union representation in 2005 after Hyatt purchased the property from the Westin chain. The national agreement in July ended a national boycott of most Hyatt properties but not Santa Clara. The Interfaith Council, a project of Working Partnerships, has been steadfast in its support of the workers through frequent demonstrations, prayer vigils and visits to local Hyatt management. Subsequent to Hyatt's purchase of the hotel, work quotas were increased, workers reported injuries and two housekeepers were fired when they protested a humiliating poster put up by management that superimposed their faces over pictures of bikini-clad women. See a slideshow of an Interfaith Council prayer service for Hyatt workers in 2011 here.


Justice Summer graduates second class of community organizers (8-20-13).
Ten participants graduated Aug. 16 from our second annual Justice Summer training program for aspiring community organizers. Their 39 hours of classroom training and more than 36 hours of field experience over eight weeks included a bus trip to California's Central Valley to support workers' union organizing efforts at the Marquez Brothers' dairy processing plant, educating more than 300 Sunnyvale residents about a fee to support the city's affordable housing program and participating in a voter registration drive that added more than 300 new voters to the rolls. Several participants overcame significant obstacles to complete their training including severe illnesses in their families, maintaining low-wage jobs and college course loads. In reflecting on her experience for a program evaluation, one participant said, "It's a program that opens your eyes to all the other processes that go into community organizing. You will learn that it is not only about leafleting and mobilizing out in the streets but that there is so much more that goes into launching a campaign and achieving a goal. You will learn that results are hardly ever instant, and you will come away with a better appreciation of how important it is to surround yourself with an effective team that is as committed and as passionate about the issue." See a slideshow of the graduation event here and pictures from the class' trip to the Marquez Brothers plant here.


Alabama nonprofit leader touts benefits of service-learning projects for students (8-20-13).
Stephen Black, founder of Impact Alabama -- that state's first nonprofit organization dedicated to developing and implementing service-learning projects for college students -- says such programs are essential in building a united community from the diverse and segregated groups in which most Americans live. The grandson of the late Civil Rights hero and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black, spoke Aug. 16 to an invitation-only luncheon hosted by Working Partnerships. Black said the experience that students gain in working with Impact Alabama's initiatives to improve vision care for poor children, help low-income families prepare tax returns and other projects creates an empathy for others that too many Americans fail to appreciate. Thousands of students at Alabama universities, colleges and community colleges have worked with Impact Alabama since its founding in 2004. Although Black is now a Birmingham lawyer and member of the University of Alabama faculty, he grew up in New Mexico. His family moved there from Alabama following his grandfather's stands as a Supreme Court justice that desegregated public schools and gave African Americans in his native state the right to vote.


Derecka Mehrens named Working Partnerships' executive director (8-8-13).
Derecka Mehrens, who has led Working Partnerships as interim executive director since April, was named executive director today by the board of directors. Board President Enrique Fernandez announced her appointment in a letter to Working Partnerships' friends and funders saying the board had sought a candidate who would continue the organization's "bold initiatives to broaden democratic participation and protect and expand the middle class. We found this candidate in Derecka Mehrens." Mehrens succeeds Cindy Chavez, executive director since 2009, who last week won election to the Santa Clara Board of Supervisors. "I'm in awe of my predecessors in this position -- Amy Dean, Phaedra Ellis Lamkins and Cindy Chavez -- but also tremendously inspired by what they achieved," Mehrens said. "The challenge, which I'm eager to accept, is to lead Working Partnerships USA in a way that accelerates the momentum they created toward building a better, more just society." Read more about Derecka here.


Sunnyvale residents discuss affordable housing fee (8-1-13).
More than 40 Sunnyvale residents attended a July 31 informational community meeting on the proposed Sunnyvale Housing Impact Fee, which would be used to help create affordable housing. Median rents in Sunnyvale are about $2,100 a month. Working Partnerships, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and MidPen Housing co-sponsored the meeting at the Fair Oaks Plaza Senior Housing Development. Working Partnerships will host a training session at 5:30 p.m. Aug. 8 for residents on how to prepare testimony before government bodies, and the Sunnyvale City Council is expected to take up affordable housing at its Aug. 13 meeting.


Black Panther founder Bobby Seale to address students about evolution of social movements (7-31-13).
Bobby Seale, founding chairman of the Black Panther Party in the 1960s and now an entrepreneur-activist helping low-income communities of color, will be the next Working Partnerships Social Innovators Speaker Series speaker at an Aug. 29 event at San Jose State University. Seale's 6 p.m. speech in the Umunhum Room of the Student Union will commemorate the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech in Washington, D.C., and will cover the evolution of American social movements, drawing from his own controversial experiences in the Civil Rights Era as well as current events such as the Trayvon Martin killing in Florida and San Jose's successful minimum wage campaign. The university's MOSAIC Cross Cultural Center is partnering with Working Partnerships in hosting the event. The Social Innovators Speaker Series is generously sponsored by PG&E.


Modesto responds to immigration reform appeal (7-29-13).
Immigration reform advocates organized by Working Partnerships USA as part of our work with the Santa Clara County Coalition for Comprehensive Immigration Reform helped with a July 28 voter registration and education drive in Modesto on the impact elections have on reforming our broken immigration system. "The petition cards people filled out showed how caring and engaged people were about immigration reform," said Sidney Li, a Working Partnerships intern. "The overwhelming support from all the people I met exemplified how strongly the Modesto community felt about this issue. Almost everybody I came across was eager to fill out a card even as they were rushing to mass." Fifty new voters were registered and more than signed 325 post cards urging Modesto Congressman Jeff Denham to continue his support for immigration reform. The coalition includes Justice For Immigrants, People Acting in Community Together, Mi Familia Vota Modesto, Latinos United for a New America, Service Employees International Union United Service Workers West Sacramento and United Food and Commercial Workers Local 5.


Partnership for Working Families' handbook is guide to creating quality construction careers (7-26-13).
As the Bay Area's construction industry revives in the economic recovery, it's necessary to ensure that the newly created jobs create real career opportunities for low-income people. Using the Construction Careers model developed by the Partnership for Working Families -- of which Working Partnerships USA is a founding member -- communities across the United States have leveraged more than $100 billion in public construction to do just that. Now the Partnership for Working Families has released its Construction Careers Handbook, a guide to creating programs that increase access to family-supporting, long-term construction careers for low-income workers, women, veterans and workers of color, who too often hold low-wage and temporary jobs. The programs described in the handbook include Working Partnerships' Apprenticeship Program (read more about it here) and our Green Pays contractor standards for training and wages. You can also listen here to a July 24 radio interview featuring Kathleen-Mulligan Hansel discussing the new Construction Careers Handbook as a tool to help low-income workers.


Join us in July 24 national day of action to raise the federal minimum wage (7-23-13).
Working Partnerships is joining in a coalition of groups across the country on Wednesday, July 24 that will be participating in a national day of action to spread awareness about the Fair Minimum Wage Act, which would increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10. If passed, more than 30 million workers across the country would receive a raise in pay. Last year, with your help, we were able to raise the minimum wage in San Jose. Now we are calling on you to help us engage social media users on Twitter and Facebook to spread awareness of the Fair Minimum Wage Act and to encourage them to sign a petition of support. Raising the federal minimum wage would not only benefit working families, but it would generate revenue for the economy as a whole. According to the Economic Policy Institute, raising the minimum wage to $10.10 will generate $30 billion in economic activity and create 140,000 new jobs over three years. Here's how you can help: 1. Sign the petition! Click here to tell the House and Senate to raise the minimum wage. 2. Tweet, Facebook and Vine! We need your help to increase awareness about the nationwide efforts to raise the Federal Minimum Wage. On Wednesday July 24, please post on your Facebook pages and Twitter feeds photos, videos and messages of support with the hashtags #RaiseTheWage and #SJdidit. Make sure to follow Working Partnerships on Twitter @wpusanews and Facebook to receive pictures and fun facts that you can share and retweet throughout the day. Let's take what we made happen in San Jose across the nation ... let's #RaisetheWage. #SJdidit.


MACLA will exhibit anti-smoking posters Aug. 2 during 'First Fridays' art walk downtown (7-15-13).
A selection of the best entries by young artists in Working Partnerships' anti-smoking poster contest will be displayed at MACLA, the Movimiento de Arte y Cultura Latino Americana, Friday, Aug. 2, the monthly South FIRST FRIDAYS self-guided tour of San Jose art galleries and museums (download the tour map here). The winning poster, as chosen by public voting during the exhibition, will be used in signage that Working Partnerships will produce and distribute to apartment and condominium complexes for posting in non-smoking areas. The contest is a part of our San Jose Fresh Air project to promote awareness and compliance with San Jose's outdoor smoking ordinance among young people and communities of color. The ordinance bans smoking in outdoor common areas of apartment and condominium complexes, outdoor dining areas and in outdoor service lines -- all areas where non-smokers can't avoid harmful second-hand smoke. Here's a slideshow of our Anti-Tobacco Organizing Committee collecting cigarette butts from downtown parks to be used in their own art display. Major funding for the project was provided by The California Endowment.


Ex-NLRB Chair: Unions a 'vital element of democracy' that could do more to stand up for workers (7-2-13).
The United States is approaching its first Labor Day since 1935 without a functioning National Labor Relations Board to enforce its labor laws. As regrettable as that is, said former NLRB Chair William Gould -- now a Stanford law professor -- speaking to the Working Partnerships Social Innovators Speaker Series on June 27, it's also regrettable that the labor movement is not doing all it could to stand up for the welfare of working Americans (watch a one-hour video of his talk and Q&A here). "The labor movement is such a vital element of democracy," said Gould, appointed to the board by President Bill Clinton. "There are a number of things labor is not doing -- or should do more of." Among them is taking advantage of his board's 1996 ruling that allows unions to provide free legal assistance to non-union workers in the midst of organizing campaigns. "Why aren't the unions diving in there?" Gould asked. "Next time a guy has a problem at the plant -- we'll represent you in arbitration. This will drive the employers crazy. Unions haven't made use of our 1996 ruling. It's amazing. Unions should be doing this." He also suggested following the example of the Service Employees International Union in assisting employee groups at non-union companies like Walmart to "be a listening post and perhaps -- the verdict is not yet in -- be a building block for more full-fledged organizing." The five-member NLRB is currently not functioning because of a federal court ruling that President Barack Obama's three recess appointments to the board last year were unconstitutional, meaning there is not a quorum to do business. The U.S. Supreme Court announced earlier in June that it would hear the Obama Administration's appeal. The Social Innovators Speaker Series is generously sponsored by PG&E. Individual event sponsors for Gould's speach were the Asian Law Alliance and the law offices of Samuel R. Swift.


Justice Summer begins with bus trip to support Hanford dairy workers (6-25-13).
Working Partnerships' second Justice Summer "boot camp" for aspiring community organizers opened June 22 with a bus trip to Hanford to support workers' union organizing efforts at the Marquez Brothers' dairy processing plant (slideshow here). The all-day trip took 22 people from San Jose to meet with the Hanford workers to learn about their struggle for livable wages, freedom from intimidation, clean and safe working conditions, to visit the plant to get a taste of the tight security there -- doors and gates were locked as the Justice Summer participants arrived -- and then pass out informational leaflets at three local supermarkets. Justice Summer participants will work on action projects 4-8 hours a week through the summer for hands-on experience in building skills for engaging in community justice and connecting with organizers, allies, mentors and professional contacts plus 39 hours of classroom training. Download a flyer and an application, or for more information, call (408) 445-4568 or email justicesummer@wpusa.org.


Netroots Nation panel discusses San Jose minimum wage victory (6-21-13).
Led by moderator and Working Partnerships board member Dorian Warren, a four-member panel dissected last fall's victorious campaign that raised San Jose's minimum wage by 25 percent on the opening day of Netroots Nation. In describing the diverse community and labor coalition Working Partnerships helped build to support the ballot initiative, Cindy Chavez, the organization's executive director, also said that hindsight proved that what she thought might be an impediment to victory -- a large number of progressive issues on the ballot -- proved to be a campaign asset. "We had Measure A (a county sales tax to support children's health care), Prop 30 (a state tax increase) and Prop 32 (a state measure to limit union political activity) as well as the minimum wage," Chavez said. "Strategically that's a no-no. But we won all of them because we made the moral justice argument and voters responded. That's the happiest election day I've ever had, and that includes when I was running." The panel also included Ben Field, executive officer of the South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council, who talked about why unions rallied around a social justice issue even though most of their members earn much higher wages; De Anza College teacher Nicky Gonzalez Yuen, who is taking the minimum wage campaign to Oakland and Berkeley; and San Jose State student Elisha St. Laurent, one of the originators of the campaign who reached out early for support from the labor community. Here's video of the panel, and you can see more pictures of the event here.


Working Partnerships to play key role on minimum wage panel at Netroots Nation (6-15-13).
Working Partnerships board member Dorian Warren, assistant professor of international and public affairs at Columbia University and a specialist in the study of inequality and American politics, will moderate a June 20 panel on the successful San Jose minimum wage campaign at Netroots Nation, the annual progressive political convention being held this year in Silicon Valley. Headlined "Harnessing the Power of Young Communities of Color: The Success Story of San Jose's Minimum Wage Increase," the panel will include Cindy Chavez, Working Partnerships executive director now on leave to run for the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors; Ben Field, executive officer of the South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council; Nicky Gonzalez Yuen, political science instructor at DeAnza College; and Elisha St. Laurent, a former San Jose State University student and campaign organizer. Working Partnerships was a leader in the community-labor coalition that won a 25 percent in the city's minimum wage last November, and was instrumental in building support in the LGBT and non-profit communities, among young people and people of color. Register for Netroots Nation here.


Affordable housing press conference precedes victory at City Council (6-5-13).
Following a June 4 press conference supporting restoration of San Jose's affordable housing program convened by Working Partnerships, the City Council voted 8-2 to study a residential impact fee as part of the solution to the program's loss of funding due to the state's closing of local Redevelopment Agencies and other factors. See NBC Bay Area's coverage here and a slideshow of the press conference here. Derecka Mehrens, Working Partnerships interim executive director, said the organization identified nearly 4,000 active San Jose voters who consider affordable housing an important issue and are willing to vote and work in favor of it. The local coalition turned out 60 supporters at the City Council meeting. That strong show of public support surfaced during Working Partnerships' outreach with the California Calls coalition, which is building a statewide base of voters who support long-term tax and fiscal reforms. The work has also identified strong support for targeting state educational funds to the poorest school districts. "We are here because the residents of San Jose and the organizations at this press conference realize that our community's affordable housing program is in dire shape and needs to be revived," Mehrens said, referring to the loss of $40 million once generated each year by the Redevelopment Agency. Shiloh Ballard, vice president of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, composed of officials and senior managers of the valley's largest companies, told the press conference that affordable housing is necessary to support the economy in San Jose, which has the nation's highest rents. "We have an imbalance of supply and demand and the market doesn't supply lower-income housing," she said, "so the government needs to step in and providing housing for lower-income families." Also supporting affordable housing at the press conference were Larry Stone, an affordable housing developer as well as Santa Clara County Assessor; Poncho Guevara of Sacred Heart Community Service and Larry Zwick of the Housing Trust of Silicon Valley.


Sign up for 'boot camp' for young, new community organizers (5-31-13).
You stand up when you see something wrong. Everywhere you look you see how the world could be better. You know your community needs you, and you're ready to step up. Working Partnerships' Justice Summer is for you. Justice Summer is a leadership boot camp for new community organizers 18 to 35 years old that will: 1) build your skills for engaging in community justice, connect you with organizers, diverse allies, friends, mentors and professional contacts you won't meet anywhere else, help build the winning campaign to increase the supply of low-income housing in the nation's 10th-largest city and provide an action internship of 4-8 hours every week. Download a flyer and an application and apply by Thursday, June 6 to receive registration preference for this invaluable training for those with a passion for social justice and able to commit to an action internship, all training dates and a June 21 trip to Hanford to protect workers' rights. For more information, call (408) 445-4568 or email justicesummer@wpusa.org.


Energy efficiency panel, labor law events highlight Social Innovators' June schedule (5-29-13).
A lunchtime panel discussion on energy efficiency and equity and a dinner talk by esteemed labor law expert William B. Gould IV are the June events on Working Partnerships' Social Innovators Speaker Series. Working Partnerships and the American Leadership Forum -- Silicon Valley (ALF), co-chairs of the Green Pays Collaborative, are co-sponsoring the energy panel to learn about local opportunities and challenges in California's multi-billion-dollar energy efficiency sector. This intimate event at 11:45 a.m. Wednesday, June 19 at 2102 Almaden Road, Suite 110, San Jose (map) will feature a roundtable discussion with Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese, Jessica Halpern-Finnerty of the Donald Vial Center on Employment in the Green Economy at UC Berkeley, Barry Cinnamon of Cinnamon Solar and an ALF senior fellow, Louise Auerhahn, associate policy director at Working Partnerships USA, and Chris Block of ALF. A light luncheon will be served. Register here. Gould, emeritus Charles A. Beardsley Professor of Law at Stanford Law School, will speak at a 6 p.m. dinner Thursday, June 27, in Hall A of the Santa Clara Valley Labor Center, 2102 Almaden Road in San Jose (map). His new book, A Primer on American Labor Law, Fifth Edition, is an accessible guide to labor law for nonspecialists who want to learn more about their rights in the workplace. Topics in this edition include unfair labor practices, collective bargaining, pension reform in the public sector, Americans with Disabilities Act and sexual orientation, among others. Gould has been a strong voice in worker-employee relations for more than 40 years, was a chairman on the National Labor Relations Board and is a prolific writer. The first 25 RSVPs will receive a copy of the book. The Social Innovators Speaker Series is generously sponsored by PG&E. For more information about the series, visit our Social Innovators Speaker Series page.


Immigration reform push offers opportunity to fix workplace safety laws (4-26-13).
Sixteen months after immigrant worker Raul Zapata was buried alive at a Milpitas construction site that authorities had declared dangerous, the revived immigration reform movement offers an opportunity to bring much-needed changes to worker protection laws. That was the message delivered today by Doug Bloch, Teamsters Joint Council 7 political director, at Working Partnerships' observance of the 26th annual Workers' Memorial Day. While the annual observance is about remembering those who've lost their lives on the job, Working Partnerships' breakfast event this year built from that to focus on the California workers most vulnerable to workplace exploitation -- immigrants -- and a briefing on legislation intended to strengthen immigrant protections. As outlined by Maria Noel Fernandez, Working Partnerships associate director of organizing and civic engagement, exploitation of immigrant workers is rampant because they are threatened with deportation by employers who hired them in willful disregard of their status because it gives the employer leverage over workers. The exploitation includes refusing to pay employees for work, refusing to pay overtime or provide breaks, refusing to provide safe working conditions and relies on threats to those who complain even though labor laws make the employer practices illegal. Three bills pending in the California Legislature would address these abuses. AB 263 would make it a crime for an employer to engage in immigration-related retaliatory practices such as threatening to call federal immigration authorities to check on employees who complain about not being paid. AB 524 would clarify that a retaliatory threat to contact immigration authorities is a form of extortion. And SB 666 would revoke the business license of an employer who retaliates against employees. See a slideshow of the briefing here.


Working Partnerships and MACLA announce student art contest to choose design for anti-outdoor smoking poster (4-23-13).
A talented local middle or high school student's art work will become the design of an anti-smoking poster to be made available to San Jose apartment and condominium complexes in an art contest sponsored by Working Partnerships and MACLA, the Movimiento de Arte y Cultura Latino Americana. MACLA will display entries all day Aug. 2, the monthly South FIRST FRIDAYS self-guided tour of San Jose art galleries and museums, so that the public can vote on its favorite. Working Partnerships created the contest as a part of its San Jose Fresh Air project to promote awareness and compliance with San Jose's outdoor smoking ordinance among young people and communities of color. The ordinance bans smoking in outdoor common areas of apartment and condominium complexes, outdoor dining areas and in outdoor service lines -- all areas where non-smokers can't avoid harmful second-hand smoke. The contest winner's poster will be used in signage that Working Partnerships will produce and distribute to apartment and condominium complexes for posting in non-smoking areas. Working Partnerships has publicized the contest in local schools, but anyone 19 or younger is eligible to enter. Posters must include drawn images, contain no gang-related material and no violence. Creativity and how well the anti-smoking message is conveyed count as much as artistic talent. Contact Leila McCabe for more information at leila@wpusa.org. Major funding for the project was provided by The California Endowment.


Mobbed again: Anti-smoking smart mob erupts at San Jose State's Earth Day celebration (4-23-13).
As hundreds of San Jose State students streamed through the campus pedestrian intersection of the Paseo de San Carlos and the Ninth Street Plaza where the university's Earth Day San Jose celebration was being held, the sounds of drums and guitar music broke through the lunchtime chatter. Singers and dancers -- including a giant frog -- converged on the plaza. It was the latest "smart mob" performance of "Don't Smoke So Close to Me" by Working Partnerships' Anti-Tobacco Organizing Committee, part of our Fresh Air Campaign to remind the public to comply with San Jose's recently adopted outdoor smoking ordinance. The ordinance bans outdoor smoking in dining places, service lines and common spaces at condo and apartment complexes where the second-hand smoke endangers non-smokers. See a slideshow of what happened here. Major funding for the project was provided by The California Endowment.


Bill Moyers' Silicon Valley inequality video hits top 5 of his show's most viewed (4-17-13).
After only a week online, the combined viewership of the two versions of "Moyers & Company's" coverage of Silicon Valley economic inequality rank as the fifth most-seen video in the public television show's 15-month history. The coverage was produced with Working Partnerships' assistance and based on years of research contained in our periodic Life in the Valley Economy (LIVE) reports. "These videos are popular because they tell the truth about our economy," said Derecka Mehrens, Working Partnerships' interim executive director. "Wall Street and the well-to-do feel an economic recovery, but Bill Moyers and our LIVE reports look at the economy from the perspective of people working and trying to survive in it, and they know America's poor and middle class are being left out." First posted online April 10 as a 6-minute video report called "Homeless in High Tech's Shadow" and then repackaged at 13 minutes with an essay by Moyers entitled "The United States of Inequality," broadcast nationally April 15, nearly 70,000 combined views have been recorded on Vimeo. The show does not release its broadcast or online viewer figures, said Lauren Feeney, who produced and edited the initial report, but "this is comparing a video that's been live for a week to videos that have been live for over a year."


Moyers: Wealth-driven government paralysis threatens well-being of ordinary Americans (4-15-13).
Television journalist and commentator Bill Moyers blames "people so high up the ladder they can't even see those at the bottom" for the growing economic inequality that stands between millions of ordinary people and achieving the American dream. Moyers focused his full hour "Moyers & Company" public TV show last weekend on the current economy, but the centerpiece was his 13-minute essay and report entitled "The United States of Inequality," which grew out of a visit to Working Partnerships to examine Silicon Valley poverty. "A petty, narcissistic, pridefully ignorant politics has come to dominate and paralyze our government, while millions of people keep falling through the gaping hole that has turned us into the United States of Inequality," Moyers said in his commentary, which detailed a U.S. tax system that redistributes resources to the wealthy, stranding the poor and middle class. "Warren Buffett, the savviest capitalist of them all, may have written this era's epitaph: 'If there was a class war, my class won.'" The show is the most recent example of a growing news media focus on Silicon Valley's economic dysfunction as embodying the elements plaguing the economy nationally. Cindy Chavez, former Working Partnerships executive director, Russell Hancock, president and CEO of Joint Venture Silicon Valley, and Associated Press reporter Martha Mendoza are interviewed in the Moyers report. Mendoza read our Life in the Valley Economy 2012 (LIVE) report last month and decided to investigate further, prompting additional media interest. The LIVE reports, a series published by Working Partnerships looking at the Silicon Valley economy from the perspective of the people who live in it rather than from Wall Street's point of view, are based on continuing research by lead author Louise Auerhahn, Working Partnerships' associate policy director.


Derecka Mehrens named Working Partnerships' interim executive director (4-11-13).
Derecka Mehrens today assumed the role of interim executive director of Working Partnerships USA, Silicon Valley's unique social change nonprofit, replacing Cindy Chavez, who has taken an unpaid leave of absence to run for a seat on the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors. "I'm excited to lead an organization that I'm so passionate about and humbled to be following in the footsteps of a leader like Cindy," said Mehrens, who has been on Working Partnerships' senior staff since 2008 as organizing director. "This is a time of opportunity for Working Partnerships as we drive innovation on projects ranging from national health reform to obesity and nutrition, government fiscal reform, transportation and equitable land-use policy." Mehrens led development of Working Partnerships' organizing and campaign strategies that have won policies to improve the lives of workers and their families, including the recent minimum wage increase in the City of San Jose. She is recognized statewide for engaging low-income communities of color on critical public policy issues such as budget and fiscal reform, and community organizing to improve worker health and safety and increase economic opportunity. She led a non-partisan voter registration and turnout effort in Santa Clara County that added more than 14,000 voters to the rolls in 2012. Mehrens, fluent in Spanish, graduated with a triple major in Sociology, History and International Studies and a minor in Peace Studies from the University of Oregon and is the mother of two small children.


'Moyers & Company' to air report on Silicon Valley inequality (4-10-13).
The story that Silicon Valley's families are getting poorer even as the region supposedly is leading a national economic recovery has been picked up by Moyers & Company, the Public Affairs Television show hosted by Bill Moyers. This weekend's show -- check local listings, they vary by cable system -- is scheduled to include a report including interviews with Working Partnerships and Associated Press reporter Martha Mendoza, who broke the story last month. Martha had read our Life in the Valley Economy 2012 (LIVE) report and decided to investigate further. You can see a 6-minute preview of the Moyers report online. The sudden news media attention on the economic health of Silicon Valley's working families can be traced to years of economic research by Louise Auerhahn, Working Partnerships' associate policy director and lead author of the LIVE reports. Download a copy of the 144-page LIVE report. See a slideshow of our work with Moyers & Company in producing their report, including a visit to a homeless encampment in San Jose.


Working Partnerships co-sponsors free tax preparation and filing day (4-3-13).
Working Partnerships is co-sponsoring a free tax preparation and filing day for families and individuals with less than $51,000 in income through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program of State Controller John Chiang. If you qualify for the help, an appointment is required. Just call (408) 371-2902 to reserve your time between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday, April 6 at the Santa Clara Valley Labor Center, 2102 Almaden Road, Hall A (map). For tax preparation and filing help you'll need to bring a photo ID, a Social Security card or tax ID number for each family member, all earnings statements (W2 forms, 1099 forms, Social Security income statement, etc.), a copy of your prior year tax return, a voided check, and documentation of tuition fees and expenses and child care expenses. Other co-sponsors include the State Controller's Office, Congressman Mike Honda, Assemblymember Paul Fong and Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County. If you can't attend or want more information, call the State Controller's Office at (213) 833-6010.


Puget Sound SAGE cites Working Partnerships' report in living wage push at Sea-Tac Airport (4-2-13).
Working Partnerships led the 1998 campaign to implement a living wage policy at San Jose International Airport for city contractors in 1998, and 10 years later we won an extension to all SJC workers after releasing a 28-page report, Building a Better Airport, citing the benefits. Those were two important steps in improving the health and welfare of a large group of workers while encouraging the retention of an experienced, well-trained workforce that enhanced airport safety, security and customer service. Now Puget Sound Sage, based in Seattle, is building on our work with a report of its own, Below the Radar: How Sea-Tac Airport's substandard working conditions hurt our region and how other major airports changed course toward growth and prosperity. Louise Auerhahn, Working Partnerships' associate policy director, helped edit Sage's report, which quotes Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly letter to the San Jose City Council in support of the living wage. The goal is for Seattle-Tacoma Airport to become the fifth major West Coast airport, along with San Jose, San Francisco, Oakland and Los Angeles, to implement a living wage policy.


Interfaith Council's foot washing ritual promotes immigration reform (3-28-13).
Demonstrating the humility and respect for our fellow humans that it advocates in our nation's treatment of immigrants, a clergy delegation from the Interfaith Council on Economics and Justice, a project of Working Partnerships, performed the ancient ritual of foot washing for immigrant workers today in downtown San Jose. Comprehensive immigration reform is a national issue and subject of Congressional debate. Although practiced by many faiths in the Middle East, the Interfaith Council's foot washing event fell on Maundy Thursday, the day in Christian tradition that Jesus washed the feet of his disciples before his arrest and crucifixion. It was held in the Plaza de César Chávez, named for the founder of the United Farm Workers, who championed the rights of immigrant workers in agriculture. The Interfaith Council's event was held in coordination with partner events in San Francisco, held by the Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights and Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice at the regional office of U.S. Immigration Customs and Enforcement, and in San Diego, held by the Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice San Diego and San Diego Immigrant Rights Consortium at St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral. Here's a slideshow.


St. Patrick's Day 'smart mobs' promote San Jose's outdoor smoking ban (3-18-13).
A Working Partnerships-organized "smart mob" struck San Jose twice on St. Patrick's Day, and more are on the way. It's all part of our project to remind the public to comply with San Jose's recently adopted outdoor smoking ordinance, which bans tobacco use in areas such as dining places and common spaces at condo and apartment complexes where the second-hand smoke endangers non-smokers. "Smart mobs" are groups of people who assemble suddenly in public places for coordinated events that convey social messages. Ours sang and danced an anti-smoking song performed to live accompaniment at the Santana Row shopping mall and in the outdoor courtyard of the San Pedro Market bar downtown. Our young performers -- the Anti-Tobacco Organizing Committee -- composed their own lyrics to the tune of The Police's 1980 hit "Don't Stand So Close to Me" called "Don't Smoke So Close to Me." Major funding for the project was provided by The California Endowment. Here's a slideshow of what happened. Stay tuned for our video still to come.


'Moyers & Company' picks up on LIVE reports, will focus TV story on Silicon Valley getting poorer (3-18-13).
The story that Silicon Valley's families are getting poorer even as the region supposedly is leading a national economic recovery continues to spread. Cindy Chavez, Working Partnerships' executive director, was interviewed at length over the weekend by a crew from Public Affairs Television's "Moyers & Company," hosted by Bill Moyers. Chavez discussed how the Valley's poor and middle class have been left behind by a recovery that has lifted the value of Silicon Valley's high-tech companies like Apple and Google (we will post the broadcast time as soon as available). The sudden news media attention on the economic health of Silicon Valley's working families, which includes coverage of San Jose's new $10 minimum wage, can be traced to years of economic research by Louise Auerhahn, Working Partnerships' associate policy director, and our biennial Life in the Valley Economy (LIVE) reports, of which Auerhahn is lead author. But the LIVE reports didn't go national until the Associated Press published Many left behind as Silicon Valley rebounds. Working Partnerships also provided assistance to Moyers' crew in interviewing residents of one of San Jose's largest homeless encampments. See a slideshow here.


Chavez calls for 'courageous conversations' to make the change Silicon Valley needs (3-12-13).
Cindy Chavez, Working Partnerships' executive director, told a national audience today on Huffington Post Live that "We have to have courageous conversations that are going to be painful and not always going to be collaborative" if Silicon Valley is to become the community we want it to be. She was interviewed a day after San Jose's new minimum wage of $10 an hour, which Working Partnerships helped win, took effect and in the wake of a slew of national news stories about how the Valley's poor and middle class are being left out of the economic recovery. Working Partnerships' Life in the Valley Economy (LIVE) reports have been documenting the growing economic inequality here since 2007, most pointedly last October. Chavez used the minimum wage battle as an example of the kind of "courageous conversations" that produce real change, because charitable contributions are not sufficient to accomplish the task. "We have to not be conflict averse," she said. "We have to be willing to say this is what the world could look like if we took this bold step. It's not just raising the minimum wage in San Jose. It's raising the minimum wage in the state of California. It's raising the minimum wage nationally. It's recognizing, frankly, that we don't have minimum wage jobs anymore, that 31 percent of all the jobs in this Valley pay less than a living wage." In response to a viewer question that outsourcing of jobs had increased local poverty, Chavez said that was only a part of the problem. "If you look at the top 20 largest occupations in Silicon Valley," she said, "seven of them pay less than a living wage, meaning less than $15 an hour. That's one problem. We've lost a lot of middle class jobs to other parts of the country or other parts of the world. That's a second problem. A third problem is that the average rent is between $1,600 and $2,000 a month. To buy a house is $550,000. When you look at what it takes to sustain a family just to keep a roof over their heads, this is a very challenging place to live and work."


Celebrating San Jose's minimum wage increase (3-11-13).
With a downtown press conference March 11 as San Jose's higher minimum wage took effect, Working Partnerships Executive Director Cindy Chavez told the cheering crowd at Philz Coffee that it's time to spread the new minimum beyond San Jose. "Working Partnerships is exploring ways to make this happen throughout California," Chavez said. Following the minimum wage victory in San Jose, which 60 percent of voters supported, President Barack Obama took up the cause and mentioned it in his State of the Union speech last month, saying "We know our economy is stronger when we reward an honest day's work with honest wages," which echoed the rationale of the local campaign Working Partnerships helped lead. Philz hosted the press conference because it was one of the small businesses that backed the $2 increase to $10 an hour backed by 60 percent of the voters last November. Its owner, Nick Taptelis, Ben Field of the South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council and Scott Knies of the San Jose Downtown Association also praised the increase and promoted San Jose as a better place to work and shop because of it. See a slideshow of the event here. Press coverage: San Jose minimum wage workers get hefty raise, KGO-TV; Philz Coffee already hiring after San Jose minimum wage increase, Silicon Valley Business Journal; Starving and homeless skilled workers in Silicon Valley amidst billionaires, The Examiner; Low-wage workers turning to voters for pay raises, Los Angeles Times; Student class project leads to San Jose minimum wage jump, KTVU.


Community Budget Working Group digs deeper into San Jose budget (3-8-13).
Nearly 30 members of the Community Budget Working Group began digging into the San Jose city budget Thursday night in a downtown meeting at the Biblioteca Latinoamericana. The group, convened by Working Partnerships for the first time six years ago, was created to open up a tightly controlled city budget process by training city residents in government budgets and ensuring their priorities would be effectively presented to the City Council. Over its history the Group has made millions of dollars in budget recommendations that were adopted preserving critical services and quality jobs. Participants at Thursday's meeting briefed on where we are in the budget process -- the next budget takes effect July 1 -- and covered issues ranging from public safety to senior services. There were also small group discussions on key neighborhood issues and possible solutions.


Working Partnerships escorts intimidated workers to legislative hearing (3-6-13).
The threat can be as straightforward as telling a worker he will be fired or as thinly veiled as a reminder that the worker is paid in cash and there's no way to verify withheld wages. But whatever form it takes, immigrant workers across Silicon Valley face retaliation from employers if they complain about abuses in the workplace. Working Partnerships' staff accompanied three workers -- whose identities we are protecting -- to Sacramento today where they testified at a hearing of the Assembly Labor Committee about abuses ranging from under-payment for work to denial of breaks for lunch or use a restroom. "After I complained about not getting to eat, my boss said if I complained to the government, he could flip things around for me," said a construction worker we will call Jose. "'It won't be the company that suffers,' he told me, 'It will be all of you (meaning he and his fellow workers)." Working Partnerships' Derecka Mehrens, who accompanied the workers to the hearing, said "Immigrant workers are particularly vulnerable to intimidation and retaliation on the job from employers willing to maximize profits at their expense. Dealing with retaliation is critical when protecting workers' health and safety of because anti-retaliation laws are not strong enough. " Jose said he hopes his testimony "will make it safe for people in the shadows to come out and talk about problems on the job."


Young Workers Advisory Council convenes (2-26-13).
Working Partnerships convened the inaugural meeting of its Young Workers Advisory Council on Tuesday with a welcome from City Councilmember Ash Kalra. The council, which was formed to address social and economic justice issues, will be tackling two projects to start: an informational campaign about San Jose's new outdoor smoking ordinance and following up on the success of the city's new minimum wage campaign in which voters approved a 25 percent increase in last fall's election. Dennis Raj of the South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council briefed the group on how they can be involved in the rollout strategy for the minimum wage, which will include an event with the San Jose Downtown Association on March 11, the day the increase takes effect.


Get moving to the Silicon Valley Transportation Choices and Healthy Communities Summit (2-15-13).
Are you tired of sitting in traffic with no real alternatives? Are you stuck on slow and unreliable transit service? Do you feel unsafe or uncomfortable walking or bicycling in your community? If so, make sure to attend the first-ever Let's Get Moving, Silicon Valley Transportation Choices and Healthy Communities Summit from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23 at Luther Burbank School, 4 Wabash Ave., San Jose (map). The Summit aims to create greater awareness and foster deep community engagement in transportation and land use planning processes. We'll provide interactive workshops and trainings and provide opportunities to connect with advocacy organizations and advocates from across the Bay Area. Find out about plans and proposals taking place this year in your city and how you can get involved and make an impact. Click here for more information and to register. Download a flyer in English or Spanish. Speakers will include Dwayne Marsh, Senior Advisor, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; Susan Stuart, Health Planner, Chronic Disease & Injury Prevention, Santa Clara County Public Health Department; Councilmember Ash Kalra, City of San Jose, District 2; Rod Diridon, Executive Director, Mineta Transportation Institute; and many more. The summit is sponsored by: Working Partnerships USA, TransForm, SCC Public Health Department, Sierra Club, Loma Prieta Chapter, Mineta Transportation Institute, Greenbelt Alliance, VTA, Silicon Valley Community Foundation, The Health Trust, Urban Habitat, Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition, SPUR San Jose, Silicon Valley Independent Living Center, Safe Routes to Schools National Partnership, Mountain View Chamber of Commerce, De Anza College Institute for Community and Civic Engagement.


Author Saul Singer: Support for immigration helped make Israel an economic power (2-6-13).
American-Israeli journalist Saul Singer opened the fifth year of the Working Partnerships USA Social Innovators Speaker Series today by bemoaning the United States' reluctance to welcome immigration. "Every other country in the world envies the United States' status as a magnet for immigrants and what that does for its economy," Singer told a luncheon audience at Working Partnerships' offices (see a slideshow of the event here). Currently an adjunct senior fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute in Jerusalem and a columnist and editorial board member of The Times of Israel, Singer is co-author of the New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel's Economic Miracle. The book credits Israel's welcoming immigration policies and willingness to support the assimilation of newcomers, in part, to its success in fostering more start-up companies than nations like Japan, China, India, South Korea, Canada and Great Britain. Along with immigration, Singer credits mandatory service in the Israel Defense Forces, in which junior officers call superiors by their first names and in which unit leaders can be ousted by a vote of the troops, for fostering the necessary risk-taking and entrepreneurialism necessary for the small country's high-tech success. The Social Innovators Speaker Series is generously sponsored by PG&E, and Singer's appearance was supported by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. For more information about the series, visit our Social Innovators Speaker Series page.


Working Partnerships participates in Job Corps' Groundhog Job Shadow Day (2-1-13).
San Jose's top-ranked Job Corps program is the most comprehensive and effective job training and educational program in the county, providing more than 2,000 hours in community service training last year to local students. As its contribution to the Job Corps, Working Partnerships Executive Director hosted Marisol Medina on Feb. 1 as part of Groundhog Job Shadow Day. Marisol, who plans a career as a medical technician, spent most of her day observing Chavez as she went through her daily routine of meetings, phone calls and the other work of a nonprofit executive.


Community Budget Working Group convenes for sixth consecutive year (1-31-13).
Working Partnerships convened its unique Community Budget Working Group on Jan. 31 for the sixth year in preparation for San Jose city budget season. Bob Brownstein, Working Partnerships' policy and research director, presented a city budget outlook for the coming cycle to the core group of community leaders who will form the group's steering committee before a discussion of the crucial steps to further engage residents to ensure the next budget reflects the community's values and priorities. The Community Budget Working Group trains people how to understand and analyze city budgets, develop alternatives based on their own values and priorities rather than accepting those proposed by government bureaucracy, and to effectively advocate for themselves at forums and meetings where budgets are decided. Since it was first convened in 2007, the group has saved millions in city services including public safety, libraries and senior programs. To join us at our Feb. 14 meeting or to get more information, please call Maria Noel Fernandez at (408) 269-7872 or email her at maria@wpusa.org.


Thousands turn out for 26th Holiday Party (12-24-13).
Thousands of kids and their families turned out on a rainy Saturday for the 26th annual Working Partnerships USA Community Builders Holiday Party at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds. Begun in 1986 by labor activists who saw a need to share with those less fortunate around the holidays, more than 25,000 children have enjoyed a day of fun, food and gifts at this annual holiday tradition since its beginning. Working Partnerships is still collecting donations toward the $60,000 budget for the party at which every child gets a visit with Santa and a gift (take a look at this year's slideshow. You may make a tax deductible contribution to Working Partnerships online here or mail a check to 2102 Almaden Road, Suite 107, San Jose CA 95125.


Contribute to our Holiday Party Toy Drive (12-4-12).
Working Partnerships needs your help to make the holidays a celebration for everyone by volunteering and/or donating in support of our 26th annual Holiday Party on Saturday, Dec. 22 at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds. As many as 8,000 children in need will enjoy an afternoon of entertainment, food and gifts (see a slideshow of last year's party here) provided by Working Partnerships' Community Builders program. You can help by 1) Making a tax deductible contribution to Working Partnerships USA toward our $60,000 budget for the event. Donate online here or mail a check to 2102 Almaden Road, Suite 107, San Jose CA 95125 and attend our 2012 Holiday Toy Drive celebration from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 11 (here are scenes from last year's benefit party). Donors will receive an email with more information about location, 2) Volunteering to be a Santa's helper, game operator or any of the dozens of positions we have available for the Holiday Party on the afternoon of Dec. 22, 3) If you know of families with children in need, tell them they can get free tickets (required for admission) by phone at (408) 269-7872 or online in English or Spanish at www.holidayparty2012.org. For more information, email steve@wpusa.org or call (408) 269-7872.


Working Partnerships contributes to first national report on domestic workers (11-27-12).
After two months' work conducting more than 150 surveys in Spanish, Tagalog and English, Working Partnerships contributions to the first national survey of domestic workers in the United States were published today as part of "Home Economics -- The Invisible and Unregulated World of Domestic Work." Working Partnerships was the project anchor -- supported by Somos Mayfair -- in Santa Clara County, one of 14 regions making up the national survey. The full report was published by the National Domestic Workers Alliance, Center for Urban Economic Development, University of Illinois at Chicago. The report found that: 1) Domestic workers earn substandard pay and enjoy little economic mobility or financial security, 2) Formal employment contracts are rare in the industry and where they do exist, employers frequently violate them, 3) Domestic work can be hazardous even though employers think of their homes as safe, and 4) Domestic workers who encounter problems feel vulnerable to stand up for themselves, especially live-in workers and undocumented immigrants. Read the New York Times coverage of the study here and download your own copy here.


Working Partnerships prevailing wage study basis of new California construction trades video (11-27-12).
Working Partnerships' 2011 economic policy brief, "Economic, Fiscal and Social Impacts of Prevailing Wage in San Jose, California," serves as the basis for a 10-minute online video -- Right the First Time -- produced by the State Building & Construction Trades Council of California documenting how prevailing wage policies support local economies. Working Partnerships' study compared two library projects in Santa Clara County -- the Mitchell Park Library in Palo Alto built without prevailing wage and the Gilroy Public Library built with prevailing wage -- in a paired case study on the impacts of prevailing wage. Gilroy's library cost less per square foot, $326 to $430. And 71.2 percent of the total project value of Gilroy's library went to local contractors while only 11.7 percent of Palo Alto's expenditures remained in the local community. Download Working Partnerships' full report in PDF format here. Click on the image above to view the video.


The Healthy Communities Forum: Making 'mixed-use' development work (11-16-12).
"Mixed-use" development projects -- those that combine residential and retail uses in one project -- are a key feature of the recently updated San Jose General Plan, the long-term guide for development of the city. But what are the best strategies to facilitate successful mixed-use developments, which cluster jobs and residences within convenient reach of mass transit, so that San Jose's future growth is equitable, sustainable and healthy? Join us from 5:30-8 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 28 at the next event in Working Partnerships Social Innovators Speaker Series, the Healthy Communities Forum on mixed-use development to hear a panel of developers discuss the challenges and opportunities that exist for creating successful developments and how we can make our communities economically, environmentally and socially healthier and more resilient. The forum will be at Working Partnerships USA, 2102 Almaden Road, Hall A, San Jose (map). Free and open to the public, the forum will include dinner, a panel discussion with Joe Head, president of SummerHill Land; Randol Mackley, senior vice president of SRS Real Estate Partners; Drew Hudacek, chief investment officer of development properties at SARES-REGIS Group; and Chris Neale, vice president of The Core Companies; and a question-and-answer session. For more information, go to our Social Innovators Speaker Series page. RSVP here. Download a flyer. The Healthy Communities Forum is organized by Working Partnerships and the Sierra Club Loma Prieta Chapter and is generously supported by the Silicon Valley Community Foundation.


'Call to Action' builds on momentum of historic election victories (11-13-12).
So what do you do after a hard-fought election campaign in which you helped win historic victories on health care, the minimum wage, education and equal access for working people to the public square? Party? If you're Working Partnerships, you go to back to work on movement building that will make lives better for the poor and people of color in Silicon Valley. Just four days after the Nov. 6 general election, Working Partnerships convened an all-day "Call to Action" leadership development event that drew 55 attendees and a group of 15 mentors and leaders to prepare for the future (slide show here). The event covered topics from government budgeting to community organizing to finding your passion and niche in the progressive movement and included mentorship/workshop opportunities on social media, understanding rules of procedure in meetings, creating inclusivity and the roles of boards and commissions in developing leadership. Working Partnerships would like to thank presenters and mentors Michele Bertolone, communications consultant; Clark Williams, community organizer; Nicky González Yuen, political science professor; Esau Herrera, school board member; Rick Callender, Santa Clara Valley Water District; Tamon Norimoto, government relations representative for PG&E; Chris Block, CEO of the American Leadership Forum-Silicon Valley; Wiggsy Sivertsen of the Bay Area Municipal Elections Committee, an LGBT political action group; the Rev. Jethroe Moore, president of the San Jose/Silicon Valley NAACP; Dave Cortese, Santa Clara County Supervisor; Dr. Michael Chang, founder of the Asian Pacific American Leadership Institute at DeAnza College; California Assemblymember Nora Campos; Reymundo Espinosa, CEO of the Gardner Family Health Network; Eddie Garcia, chief of staff to the president of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors; Kathleen King, executive director of the Santa Clara Family Health Foundation; Van Thi Le, small business owner and trustee of the East Side Union High School District; and Rufus White, youth advocate and retired electrical engineer.


Working Partnerships wins historic health care, minimum wage victories (11-7-12).
Working Partnerships played a leadership role in the victory of two ballot measures in yesterday's elections that will help Silicon Valley's working families: 1) We saved the health coverage of 12,000 children in Santa Clara County and protected the safety net with the passage of Measure A, a sales tax measure that will provide $120 million in funding to the Children’s Health Initiative (CHI) over the next decade and protect the safety net. CHI is our signature health policy achievement, and when it was enacted 11 years ago, our county became the first in the nation to ensure health coverage to virtually all its children. And 2) We won a raise for 40,000 of the lowest-paid workers in San Jose with the passage of Measure D, which boosts the city’s minimum wage from $8 to $10 an hour. Not only will this help thousands of poor families survive in one of America’s most expensive cities, but it will provide a boost of $71 million to the local economy as these workers buy food, clothes and shelter for their families. Passage of these two important measures achieves two of the solutions recommended for saving Silicon Valley’s middle class in Working Partnerships’ Life in the Valley Economy report published Oct. 3. You can download a PDF copy of the full report here or obtain a hard copy by emailing lauerhahn@wpusa.org. In both of these campaigns Working Partnerships provided strategic advice, research and policy development support, recruited and organized volunteer phone bankers and precinct walkers, and helped educate the public. But we did not work alone. We worked for two years on Measure A with the Valley Medical Center Foundation, Santa Clara Family Health Foundation, the Health Trust, Center for Employment Training and the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors following the narrow defeat of a 2010 funding measure at the polls. New funding was needed to replace expired start-up funding from several foundations, which had aided the program in its first decade. Working Partnerships was a key member of the Raise the Wage San Jose coalition for Measure D, which included the South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council, the Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Silicon Valley, United Way Silicon Valley, Next Generation Bay Area, Sacred Heart Community Service, the Campus Alliance for Economic Justice at San Jose State University, Silicon Valley De-Bug, Step Up Silicon Valley, PACT, Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County, the Interfaith Council on Economics and Justice, Center for Employment Training, Organization United for Respect at Walmart, the Community Homeless Alliance Ministry, Pride@Work and the Silicon Valley Chapter of the NAACP. We also thank the National Employment Law Project.


Election culminates unprecedented GOTV effort (11-5-12).
In registering more than 14,000 new voters for the 2012 elections, Working Partnerships' civic engagement work this year did far more than just expand the number of voices that can be heard in our democracy. We went the extra mile to ensure that new voters actually participated in the fundamental act of democratic society: voting. Although turnout results won't be known until after the election, here is a statistical view of what we did in our three voting-oriented civic engagement programs: Lead the Vote 2012 1) Tri-lingual team (English, Vietnamese and Spanish), 2) Registered 14,315 voters, primarily young Vietnamese and Spanish-speaking voters, 3) Mailed reminders to vote to more than 30,000 18-24-year-old voters in Santa Clara County. Spanish- and Vietnamese-speaking voters were received reminders in their own language (4,500 mailers in each language), 4) Contacted 3,500 voters by phone or in person with how-to-vote information 5) Reminded 1,500 voters to vote by phone or in person. California Calls 1) 85-member bilingual team (English and Spanish), 2) Phone-banked for five weeks and precinct-walked for two weeks in support of Proposition 30 and against Proposition 32, 3) 21,000 phone contacts, 4) 3,800 door contacts. Vietnamese Voter Project 1) Bilingual team (English and Vietnamese), 2) Phone-banked for five weeks in support of Proposition 30 and against Proposition 32, 3) 10,700 phone contacts, 4) 2,300 GOTV re-contacts.


Working Partnerships gives out 50,000 necklaces to keep trick-or-treaters safe at Halloween (11-1-12).
Nearly 50,000 trick-or-treaters in Santa Clara County were protected Halloween night by glow necklaces distributed by Working Partnerships' Safe From the Start program. We are the county's largest distributor of safe Halloween supplies in the 13th year of the countywide effort. More than 150 families recruited by Working Partnerships received yard signs that marked their homes as Halloween Safety Centers as well as the glow necklaces they distributed free to trick-or-treaters to make them visible to motorists during their haunting rounds. Rescue Air Systems Inc. was the title sponsor of the 2012 "Safe From the Start" program (a full list of sponsors is available on Working Partnerships' "Safe From the Start" web page. View a slideshow from one of our Halloween Safety Centers.


Working Partnerships gives out 50,000 necklaces to keep trick-or-treaters safe at Halloween (10-29-12).
Working Partnerships USA distributed 50,000 glow necklaces Oct. 28 to families hosting Halloween Safety Centers this year, making us the largest distributor of supplies in the 10th year of the countywide Safe From the Start program. More than 150 families recruited by Working Partnerships received yard signs that mark their homes as Halloween Safety Centers as well as the glow necklaces they will distribute free to trick-or-treaters to make them visible to motorists during their haunting rounds Halloween night. Rescue Air Systems Inc. is the title sponsor of the 2012 "Safe From the Start" program (a full list of sponsors is available on Working Partnerships' "Safe From the Start" web page. View a slideshow of our Halloween safety kick-off party.


We will distribute 50,000 glow necklaces Sunday to make Halloween 'Safe From the Start' (10-26-12).
Working Partnerships USA will distribute 50,000 glow necklaces Sunday, Oct. 28 at its 10th annual Halloween Safety Center Kick-Off party to help make the season's special night for children safe in Santa Clara County. Working Partnerships is the largest distributor of glow necklaces in the county at Halloween. About 150 families recruited by Working Partnerships to host Halloween Safety Centers will attend Sunday's kick-off between 1 and 4 p.m. to pick up their supplies of glow necklaces and special Halloween Safety Center yard signs. On Halloween night (Wednesday), these families will host Halloween Safety Centers in their neighborhoods to give trick-or-treaters the glow necklaces that make them more visible to motorists as they head out on their haunting rounds. Rescue Air Systems Inc. is the title sponsor of the 2012 "Safe From the Start" program (a full list of sponsors is available on Working Partnerships' "Safe From the Start" web page.


Working Partnerships registers 14,000 voters (10-22-12).
When the Nov. 6 presidential election is held in Santa Clara County, the electorate will include more than 14,000 new voters registered by Working Partnerships USA. Lead the Vote 2012, Working Partnerships' voter registration project, turned in more than 600 registration cards on the Oct. 22 deadline to complete nine months of registration work conducted under a contract with the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters. "About 40 volunteers worked on at least part of Lead the Vote 2012," said organizer Jamie Chen, who was in charge of the tri-lingual team. "The key to our success was finding the right people who could take rejection, weren't bothered by talking to strangers and who were persistent." Most of the new voters are young people from Latino and Vietnamese immigrant families. They were among the demographic groups targeted by the Registrar of Voters because of their historically low election turnout rate. Part of the project is an educational campaign designed to address the reasons for low voter participation including lack of information on how, when and where to vote, family unfamiliarity with the voting process and not being provided information in their family's native language. The Lead the Vote 2012 team will spend the time between now and the election calling new voters and encouraging them to exercise their right.


Faith delegation's march for minimum wage hike halted by locked doors at Chamber of Commerce (10-10-12).
A delegation of San Jose faith leaders and young people was turned away from the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce today where they had planned to speak to the business organization's officials about the Chamber's opposition to raising the city's minimum wage (see a slideshow of the event). Personnel inside the building locked the Chamber's doors as the delegation approached. The marchers carried a banner with a quote from a radio interview in which Chamber CEO Matt Mahood said "The Chamber does not think it is government's place to mandate to the private sector what the average minimum wage should be." They left a clock at the Chamber's door with an attached note to Mahood saying there was still time to change his mind and support a fair wage for San Jose's lowest-paid employees who work hard and play by the rules. Measure D, which would raise San Jose's minimum wage from $8 to $10 an hour, is on the Nov. 6 ballot. The group had walked five blocks from San Jose's First Christian Church where they had held a "Faith Out Front" liturgy in support of Measure D. It was organized by Working Partnerships USA as one of a series of statewide events coordinated by Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE), of which Working Partnerships is an affiliate. CLUE's events also publicized two statewide issues on the November ballot critical to California's working families: support for Proposition 30, which would raise the state sales tax to support education, and opposition to Proposition 32, which would weaken organized labor's ability to politically represent workers and the poor.


Chamber gets huge contributions to beat down minimum wage (10-5-12).
The San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce is raising big money to beat back the popular movement to raise the city’s minimum wage. Campaign reports filed today show that 15 contributors -- led by $155,000 from the National Restaurant Association -- have poured $270,000 into Chamber coffers to keep the minimum wage at $8 an hour for the July 31-Sept. 30 reporting period. That's an average contribution of $18,000 against Measure D, which is on the Nov. 6 ballot. "The bulk of our support is coming in the form of volunteers who are spending their time contacting voters to educate them about Measure D," said Cindy Chavez, executive director of Working Partnerships, a leader of the coalition supporting a $10 minimum wage. "They're people who believe in their hearts that if you work hard and play by the rules, you deserve to earn a fair wage." San Jose Residents for Raising the Minimum Wage reported contributions of $68,000 in what has been seen from the start as a David and Goliath battle. A minimum-wage worker in San Jose does not earn enough at a full-time job to afford the city's average rent of $1,800 a month, much less pay for food, clothes and other necessities to support a family.


Minimum wage increase would help stop middle-class decline, Ro Khanna says (10-3-12).
Decrying what he described as "substituting economic ideology for pragmatism," former Obama administration economic official Ro Khanna called for progressive Americans to restore a role for government in the economy to rescue the dwindling middle class. "Since (first U.S. treasury secretary) Alexander Hamilton in 1791, government has played an important role in the American economy," Khanna said. "Our progressive vision is the Founders' vision." Khanna spoke at the Oct. 3 Life in the Valley Economy 2012 Summit (slideshow here), which marked the release of Working Partnerships USA's Life in the Valley Economy (LIVE) report, the unique view of Silicon Valley's economy from the perspective of working people. This year's LIVE report subtitled "Saving the Middle Class: Lessons from Silicon Valley-2012," documents an ominous decline in Silicon Valley living standards, where median household income (adjusted for inflation) has fallen 19.5 percent in 11 years during what is supposed to be an economic recovery. One in four local families fell below the self-sufficiency level in 2000, according to the LIVE report; last year one in three families fell below self-sufficiency. "To stabilize the economy and rebuild a secure middle class, the public sector must play a key role," the report says. "This is not a question of 'more government' or 'less government:' every government action or inaction affects the economy in some way." Khanna said "Figuring out the challenge of the middle class is really the challenge of the country," citing San Jose's Measure D -- which would raise the city's minimum wage to $10 an hour if approved in the Nov. 6 election -- as an immediate step toward improving economic conditions for ordinary people as yet untouched by recovery. "We have grown a culture of lack of respect for workers." The report includes a list of solutions for the problems it identifies in Silicon Valley. Khanna, who was a deputy assistant secretary of commerce, is a Fremont lawyer who recently published Entrepreneurial Nation: Why Manufacturing is Still Key to America's Future.


Life in the Valley Economic Summit will look at local economy from middle-class perspective (9-28-12).
Working Partnerships USA will launch its periodic, unique Life in the Valley Economy (LIVE) report at a Wednesday, Oct. 3 Life in the Valley Economy 2012 Summit featuring keynote speaker Ro Khanna, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce in the Obama administration. "The LIVE report's significance is that it looks at Silicon Valley's economy from the viewpoint of the parent who just dropped the kids off at school and now is rushing to work, not as seen by a banker watching stock market trends on a smartphone," said Cindy Chavez, Working Partnerships executive director. "This is the perspective that's ignored by the business press and many Silicon Valley elites." In offering this important perspective from the high-tech region heralded as the leader of America's economic recovery, the LIVE report is a glimpse into the future of the nation's middle class, which is shrinking in Silicon Valley even as recovery drives stocks and home prices upward. The LIVE Report will discuss solutions that are being proposed or tested in our region.


Life in the Valley Economic Summit panels will discuss solutions to Valley's inequality (9-26-12).
Working Partnerships USA's Life in the Valley Economy 2012 Summit on Wednesday, Oct. 3 not only will document the rise of income inequality in Silicon Valley that threatens our economic recovery but will focus on policy solutions that can be implemented. Two panels -- "Good Jobs Now" at 9:15 a.m. and "Building the Future" at 10 a.m. -- will discuss these solutions immediately preceding former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce Ro Khanna's keynote address to the summit. Good Jobs Now panelists 1) Carole Leigh Hutton, United Way Silicon Valley, 2) Neil Struthers, Santa Clara & San Benito Building & Construction Trades Council, and 3) LaVerne Washington, AFSCME Local 101. Building the Future panelists 1) Rene Santiago, Deputy County Executive, County of Santa Clara, 2) Shiloh Ballard, Silicon Valley Leadership Group, 3) Kris Stadelman, NOVA Workforce Investment Board, and 4) Supervisor Dave Cortese, County of Santa Clara. The event in the chambers of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors marks the release of Working Partnerships USA's pioneering economic report, Life in the Valley Economy, which will analyze the state of Silicon Valley's economy from the perspective of those in the middle and working classes.


Lilly Ledbetter talks with Cindy Chavez about her battle for pay equity (9-24-12).

Lilly Ledbetter of Alabama, namesake of the famous Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, described the discrimination she faced and the legal hurdles she had to overcome to address it in a Sept. 21 conversation with Cindy Chavez, Working Partnerships executive director. You can see a video of there conversation here. At the beginning of her 19-year career as a night manager at the Goodyear tire plant in Gadsden, Ala., she told Chavez that wives of the men she supervised would not take her phone calls because they didn't believe their husbands worked for a woman. By her retirement in 1998, she discovered she was being paid far less than men at the plant doing the same job and she filed a federal suit. The U.S. Supreme Court rules against her in 2007 -- not because of an absence of discrimination -- but because it said her suit should have been filed within 180 days of her first discriminatory paycheck even though she had no way of knowing she was underpaid. Congress passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act in 2009, which reset the 180-day statute of limitations clock each time a company continued its underpayment with a new paycheck, and it was the first law signed by new President Barack Obama. Ledbetter, whose book about her ordeal, Grace and Grit, was published earlier this year, was interviewed by Chavez at a book signing hosted by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 57 at San Jose's Hayes Mansion conference center.


Census report on local economy confirms declines for Silicon Valley's poor & middle class (9-20-12).
The median income of Santa Clara County families fell by 3.2 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars last year -- more than twice the national decline -- to its lowest point in more than 11 years, according to U.S. Census figures released today. Today's census data confirm widening income inequality in Silicon Valley traceable to a decline in the well-being of poor and middle-class families. This decline will be the topic of Working Partnerships USA's Life in the Valley Economy 2012 Summit on Wednesday, Oct. 3, at which former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce Ro Khanna will give the keynote address. The event in the chambers of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors marks the release of Working Partnerships USA's pioneering economic report, Life in the Valley Economy, which will analyze the state of Silicon Valley's economy from the perspective of those in the middle and working classes. The census report on Santa Clara County says the inflation-adjusted median household income fell from $87,529 to $84,895 from 2010 to 2011 and by 22 percent since 2000 and the home ownership rate fell for the fourth straight year to 56.7 percent.


Ro Khanna, former Obama economic official, will be keynote speaker for LIVE Report event (9-19-12).
Ro Khanna of Fremont, who recently completed two years' service as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce under President Barack Obama, will give the keynote address Wednesday, Oct. 3 at the Life in the Valley Economy 2012 Summit in the chambers of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors. Khanna, an economics graduate from the University of Chicago and a graduate of Yale Law School, is currently an attorney who specializes in representing high-tech companies. He is the author of the recently published Entrepreneurial Nation: Why Manufacturing is Still Key to America's Future. The event marks the release of Working Partnerships USA's pioneering economic report, Life in the Valley Economy, which is being published in the midst of a presidential campaign focused on how to recover from the worst economic recession since the 1930s. Popularly known as the LIVE Report, this fourth installment in a series dating to 2007 analyzes the state of Silicon Valley's economy from the perspective of those in the middle and working classes. In offering this important perspective from the high-tech region heralded as the leader of America's economic recovery, the LIVE report is a glimpse into the future of the nation's poor and middle classes and will offer solutions to the widening economic inequality that threatens the local economy.


Help San Jose's new outdoor smoking ordinance make our city healthier (9-19-12).
The City of San Jose recently implemented an ordinance banning smoking in certain outdoor places to protect non-smokers from the hazards of second-hand smoke. But the ordinance will only be effective if we all take responsibility to inform and educate others. The ordinance bans smoking: 1) in outdoor dining areas, 2) in outdoor service lines, such as at ATMs or ticket booths, and 3) in outdoor common areas of apartment and condominium complexes. How can you help? Post signs at your business if it includes one of the amenities listed above and courteously remind friends or customers if they light up illegally. You can obtain no smoking signs from Breathe California by calling (408) 999-0500 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays. If you'd like a copy of the ordinance, email CityClerk@sanjoseca.gov or call the City Clerk at (408) 535-1260. Download an informational presentation about the ordinance here. If you would like to partner in an upcoming public educational effort about the ordinance, please contact Working Partnerships USA at (408)269-7872. This message was made possible by funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.


New national economic reports foreshadow release of Life in the Valley Economy 2012 (9-12-12).
Working Partnerships USA's pioneering economic report, Life in the Valley Economy 2012, is scheduled for release in early October in the midst of a presidential campaign focused on how to recover from the worst economic recession since the 1930s. Popularly known as the LIVE Report, this fourth installment in a series dating to 2007 analyzes the state of Silicon Valley's economy from the perspective of those in the middle and working classes who work here. More details about this report and the event that showcases its release will be made public in coming days. In offering this important perspective from the high-tech region heralded as the leader of America's economic recovery, the LIVE report is a glimpse into the future of the nation's poor and middle classes, who were the subjects of national reports released earlier this week. The Washington, D.C.-based Economic Policy Institute on Tuesday released the 12th edition of "The State of Working America" documenting the decline of wages for most Americans over the past decade. This decline was confirmed today by the U.S. Census Bureau's report on income, poverty and health insurance, which found that government support has been essential for most Americans' survival in our troubled economy. The LIVE Report will examine how many of these issues are playing out in Silicon Valley and will discuss solutions to income inequality that are being proposed or tested in what is widely considered the nation's exemplar of an economic meritocracy.


Muslims, Jews and Christians answer call to be a 'Voice for the Voiceless' over Labor Day (8-30-12).
The Interfaith Council on Economics and Justice, a project of Working Partnerships, will mount a massive outreach effort to Silicon Valley faith congregations over the Labor Day weekend to urge actions that give a "Voice to the Voiceless" in our society. Those actions include registering to vote and voting their conscience regarding an increase in the minimum wage. "All of our diverse faith traditions exhort us to engage as good citizens," Interim Director Elisa Koff-Ginsborg said of the Interfaith Council's 14th annual Labor in the Pulpits program. "Our vote is therefore an expression of our faith. Because our faith traditions also teach us not to exploit the poor, we are sharing information about opportunities we can support as an expression of our faith, such as supporting an increase in the San Jose minimum wage or ensuring essential state services." The program is the largest of its kind in the nation, involving about 70 volunteer speakers at more than 145 services in over 40 faith communities. Jews, Muslims and Protestants will speak to Catholics, Catholics will preach to Protestants and Jews, Buddhists will speak in synagogues and labor leaders will speak in their own houses of worship. Together, they will reach out to tens of thousands of worshipers in English, Spanish and Vietnamese during Christian, Jewish and Unitarian services Friday-Sunday, Aug. 31-Sept. 3. Speakers will share stories of minimum wage workers who make only $8 an hour, which means less than $17,000 a year for a full-time worker. Worshipers will have the opportunity to learn more about how to help minimum wage workers and also to register to vote.


'Justice Summer' graduates 13 community organizers following action to raise minimum wage (8-25-12).
Working Partnerships "Justice Summer" graduated 13 new community organizers Aug. 24, completing more than 100 hours in training for each of them. View a slideshow of the graduation ceremonies including a picture of each graduate here. "Justice Summer" is the newest in a wide offering of training programs offered by Working Partnerships including the Leadership Institute for new grassroots leaders, Values-Based Leadership for aspiring elected officials, Boards and Commissions training for aspiring or newly appointed members of those bodies, and HEAL (Health, Education And Leadership), a workplace health and safety training program for grocery workers. The training included participating in an action Aug. 23 in support of the ballot measure to raise San Jose's minimum wage at a barbecue fundraiser for the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce's ChamberPAC, which is raising $1.5 million to oppose giving a raise to the city's poorest workers. View a slideshow of the ChamberPAC action here.


Working Partnerships' experts give equal voice
to working families at economic summit (8-17-12).

When the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors convened its Economic Summit last week focused on contributing to jobs in the county, Working Partnerships' green jobs and health care experts were on key panels giving an equal voice from the perspective of Silicon Valley's working families. Louise Auerhahn, our associate policy director and lead author of our periodic Life in the Valley Economy report, which examines the Valley economy through its impact on working families, focused on sustainable transportation projects, which are poised for major expansion in San Jose. The extension of Bay Area Rapid Transit trains to San Jose, now under construction, and the future arrival of high-speed rail will mean a $450 million redevelopment of the Diridon Station area. "If it's done right, it really has a triple bottom line," Auerhahn said, citing construction and maintenance jobs, reduction in greenhouse emissions and supporting business development. "Engage workers and communities in the build-out of transportation to make sure it's being done right, to really focus on job creation and business development. Emphasize local hiring from the surrounding communities." Research and Policy Director Bob Brownstein, who co-chairs the county's stakeholder committee preparing for the implementation of national health reform and a key figure in the creation of our Children's Health Initiative, spoke about the health sector's potential for providing substantial numbers of quality jobs. "Jobs should be available in new types of services induced by federal health reform like health navigators and health coaches," Brownstein said. "Other areas with potential include health prevention programs and new forms of housing with medical services on site for people who have chronic health issues."


Help shape our local health policy at Working Partnerships' Community Health Forums (8-13-12).
Working Partnerships would like to enlist your help in making our community a healthier place to live at our Community Health Forums. Here's your chance to learn about the health effects of obesity and sugary drinks and shape future policy proposals to address them (download a flyer). There are three upcoming forums:

  • Noon-1:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 15 -- at the Asian Americans for Community Involvement, 2400 Moorpark Ave., Suite #210, San Jose (map).
  • 7:30-9 p.m. Monday, Aug. 20 -- at the Santa Clara Valley Labor Center, 2102 Almaden Road, San Jose (map).
  • 6-8 p.m. Monday, Aug. 27 -- at Los Altos United Methodist Church, 655 Magdalena Ave., Los Altos Hills (map).
Please RSVP to Anna@wpusa.org or (408) 269-7872. Healthy snacks and refreshments will be provided. The Community Health Forums are made possible in part by funding from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


With Working Partnerships' help, downtown gets its medical center (8-10-12).
When the for-profit HCA Healthcare Corp., announced in 2004 that it would close its 324-bed San Jose Medical Center, Working Partnerships recognized the decision as the health crisis for downtown residents that it was. The Gardner Downtown Health Center that formally opened Aug. 9 (read the San Jose Mercury News story here), represents the biggest step so far in the community's response -- a response in which Working Partnerships played a key role. HCA planned to sell its three-block long site on Santa Clara Street for a hefty profit as soon as it could get the land rezoned -- leaving downtown without any medical infrastructure -- until Working Partnerships and other community organizations stepped in to help the Coalition for a Downtown Hospital fight for a replacement facility. Working Partnerships won a seat on the Stakeholder Advisory Committee charged with developing recommendations on the San Jose Medical Center site and led the fight that blocked HCA from gaining veto power over the committee. In March 2008, after 18 months' work, the City Council approved the committee's recommendations to require completion of a health care implementation plan before the San Jose Medical Center site could be rezoned. The plan required expansion of primary care and urgent care services downtown, a financing plan for these services and creation of a joint task force to identify a viable hospital site for the downtown area. The new health center will fill the health care gap until 2015 when a permanent $50 million three-story clinic is scheduled for completion next door.


Hundreds kick off campaign to raise San Jose's minimum wage (8-4-12).
More than 200 people signed in July 31 to kick off the Raise the Wage San Jose campaign to boost the city's minimum wage from $8 to $10 an hour. Working Partnerships is a leader in the community coalition supporting the Nov. 6 ballot measure that would directly benefit 40,000 minimum wage earners in the city and indirectly boost the pay of thousands more low-wage workers. Santa Clara County Tax Assessor Larry Stone and Carole Leigh Hutton, president and CEO of United Way Silicon Valley, were among those who spoke to the crowd endorsing the minimum wage increase. "We all know $8 is not enough," said Cindy Chavez, Working Partnerships' executive director. "Ten dollars is not enough, either. But we've got to start somewhere."


Second class of former inmates graduates from pre-apprentice construction training (7-24-12).
The second "Skills to Succeed" class pre-apprenticeship trainees for construction careers drawn primarily from among former inmates graduated June 23 in ceremonies in the chambers of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors (slideshow of the ceremonies). Launched as a pilot project two years ago by Working Partnerships in a unique partnership with building trades unions and work2future, Silicon Valley's Workforce Investment Board, the training prepares students -- primarily women and people of color -- to enter the construction trades, gives them a taste of work experience and leads directly to placement in jobs with a wages and benefits sufficient to support a family and a dream (you can read feature story based on the year's previous class here and see a video on the program shot by KGO-TV here). Working Partnerships' Steve Preminger and Louise Auerhahn have worked with the class on money management, how to open a bank account and other basic survival skills in the world beyond prison walls. Other course topics include how to present yourself in an interview, effective communications and teamwork.


Community Budget Working Group celebrates 5 years of successes (7-23-12).
The Community Budget Working Group -- convened by Working Partnerships in 2008 to open the City of San Jose's tightly controlled budget process to true citizen participation -- celebrated its fifth anniversary June 18 with a party at Emma Prusch Farm Park (slide show here). Assemblymember Jim Beall congratulated the group, led by former City Councilmember Forrest Williams, on a list of significant accomplishments including: setting an example for the city to follow by holding budget meetings in every council district and increasing the opportunities for input, developing the framework for an $11 million proposal in 2009 offered by five councilmembers to stave off cuts, forming a partnership in 2010 with leaders at community centers slated for closure and successfully advocating to keep them open and successfully advocating for maintaining and restoring critical services like libraries, public safety and transportation for senior meal programs. Bob Brownstein, Working Partnerships' research and policy director, was honored for his work in developing curriculum for training community members in how to understand and analyze government budgets.


Minimum wage kickoff event is 6 p.m. July 31 (7-12-12).
Enthusiasm is high, and the proposal to raise San Jose's minimum wage from $8 to $10 is on the ballot. Now it's time to push the campaign across the November finish line and win a truly important victory for the working families of San Jose. Raise the Wage San Jose, the coalition of which Working Partnerships is a founding member, will hold its kick-off event for the fall campaign at 6 p.m. Tuesday, July 31 in Hall A of the South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council building at 2102 Almaden Road (here's a map). Come, bring a friend, bring family and let's get down to work to make San Jose a better place to live, work and play. Please RSVP to mail derecka@wpusa.org.


'Justice Summer' organizer trainees join in Los Angeles Walmart protest (7-9-12).
Working Partnerships' "Justice Summer" leadership boot camp for 16 new community organizers got off to a rousing start this month. Leaving San Jose at 3:30 a.m., a full busload from Working Partnerships joined with other activists to journey to Chinatown in Los Angeles and swell a crowd of 10,000 marching in opposition to a Walmart now under construction there (see a slideshow of the trip here). The marchers included union members, Walmart workers and small business owners and employees in Chinatown who oppose the big box chain's treatment of its employees. The L.A. protest was by far the largest of rallies and town halls in several U.S. cities that weekend in advance of Walmart's 50th anniversary July 2.


Novelist Jody Meacham interviewed by NAACP president Jeff Moore about Civil Rights Era in the South (6-29-12).
Jody Meacham, Working Partnerships' communications coordinator, was interviewed by the Rev. Jeff Moore, president of the Silicon Valley-San Jose NAACP, on June 28 about Meacham's first novel, Through the Heart of the South, a semi-autobiographical story about the first year of school integration in a small North Carolina town. They shared their common experiences of growing up in the pre-Civil Rights Era South and discussed the issues around the end of racial segregation raised in the novel. Before joining Working Partnerships, Meacham was a journalist, including 15 years at the San Jose Mercury News. View a slideshow of the event here. The series is generously sponsored by PG&E. The Silicon Valley-San Jose NAACP and United Labor Bank were event sponsors.


Community Budget Working Group wins budget battle to open libraries (6-20-12).
With the passage of the City of San Jose’s 2012-13 budget Tuesday, services that the Community Budget Working Group has long advocated have finally been restored. Most notably, the budget funds the opening of San Jose’s four recently-constructed libraries and one new community center, which have sat empty since completion. In addition, the Community Budget Working Group highlighted the devastating impact of cuts in transportation for seniors seeking senior meal programs in March. After two Councilmembers made formal proposals for restoration, the City Manager was directed to provide cost estimates for restoration. Subsequent estimates showed minimal cost of less than $300,000, and this important service was restored in the final budget. Working Partnerships USA has convened the Community Budget Working Group every year since 2008 to open up the city’s tightly controlled budget process to the full participation and priorities of its residents. As well as its success in winning these service restorations, it has prevented numerous previous cuts to public services by identifying millions of dollars budget savings that were subsequently adopted. One area the Community Budget Working Group will continue to advocate for is to increase hours of branch libraries, which were cut two years ago and have been high on the Community Budget Working Group’s agenda ever since. This article illustrates the support the Community Budget Working Group has garnered and the saliency of the issue in San Jose.


Justice Summer: Sign up for leadership 'boot camp' for new, young community organizers (6-15-12).
You stand up when you see something wrong. Everywhere you look you see how the world could be better. You know your community needs you, and you're ready to step up. Working Partnerships' Justice Summer is for you. Justice Summer is a leadership boot camp for new community organizers 18 to 35 years old that will:

  • Build your skills for engaging in community justice
  • Connect you with organizers, diverse allies, friends, mentors and professional contacts you won't meet anywhere else.
  • Help win the campaign to raise San Jose's minimum wage.
  • Provide an action internship of 4-8 hours every week.
Download a flyer and an application and apply by Friday, June 22 to receive registration preference for this invaluable training for those with a passion for social justice and able to commit to an action internship, all training dates and a June 30 trip to Los Angeles for a massive action against Walmart. For more information, call (408) 269-7872 or email justicesummer@wpusa.org.


Lead the Vote 2012 wraps up enormously successful registration campaign (6-7-12).
Working Partnerships’ Lead the Vote 2012 team closed the books on an enormously successful campaign to bring new young voters of color into America’s democratic process following Tuesday’s primary elections. Before the work was complete, our 25-member trilingual Lead the Vote 2012 team attempted to contact all the county’s 17,000 Latino and Vietnamese youth between the ages of 18 and 24 by phone, mail or in person to register those not eligible to vote, educate them about the electoral process and encourage them to vote. The team was funded by the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters to increase voter participation among low turnout demographic groups. Over the course of its work this spring, Lead the Vote 2012:

  • Registered more than 3,800 voters.
  • Registered voters at all but one college campus in the county.
  • Visited student groups like MEChA (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán, a Latino student organization) and the Vietnamese Student Association to do voter registration and education.
  • Conducted voter education at four high schools, all community colleges and at local events such as the Univision Health Fair for a total of over 25 presentations in the community.
  • Had 1,200 face-to-face conversations with young voters about the importance of voting June 5.
  • Sent out two bilingual (Spanish/English and Vietnamese/English) mail pieces to 7,000 young people in Santa Clara County targeting San Jose, Milpitas, Santa Clara and Sunnyvale, the cities with the highest concentration of young people in the Vietnamese and Latino communities.
  • Poll checked in 20 precincts on election day, re-visiting many of its former contacts.
  • Delivered more than 20,000 registration cards to community centers, student groups, schools and other locations to increase accessibility to voter registration.
  • Partnered with Asian Americans for Community Involvement, the NAACP, Next Generation Bay Area and the Silicon Valley Independent Living Center to promote voter registration and participation.

The work was featured in TV and radio stories broadcast in three languages. Most recently, KQED-TV, one of the nation’s largest and most influential public television stations, produced a segment on our voter turnout phone banking as part of a longer story on the impact of the Asian vote in the 2012 elections. See slideshows of some of the team's work here and here.


Novelist Jody Meacham: Progress and procrastination on Civil Rights (6-4-12).
Jody Meacham, Working Partnerships' communications coordinator, has published his first novel, Through the Heart of the South, a semi-autobiographical story about the first year of school integration in a small North Carolina town. He will speak about the book, the history behind it and his observations on civil rights progress in the United States on at 6 p.m. Thursday, June 28 in Hall A, South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council, 2102 Almaden Road (map). Space is limited. RSVP by June 21 to Son Chau at (408) 269-7872 or email son@wpusa.org. Download flyer. Before joining Working Partnerships, Meacham was a journalist, including 15 years at the San Jose Mercury News.


Working Partnerships' Cindy Chavez challenges grads to conquer 'courage gap' (5-24-12).
Working Partnerships Executive Director Cindy Chavez challenged San Jose State University's sociology majors on May 24 to be brave in confronting the world and creating social change. "The biggest challenge you will face in your life is the 'courage gap,'" she told those receiving bachelors and masters degrees from the university's Department of Sociology. Chavez also recognized the department's students who made history this spring through a class project to raise San Jose's minimum wage. Students of Professor Scott Myers-Lipton devised a petition drive to place an initiative on the November ballot boosting the minimum wage from $8 to $10. Though several San Jose City Councilmembers oppose the increase, the overwhelming success of the petition drive forced the Council to unanimously approve its submission to a public vote. Working Partnerships joined with other community, labor and faith groups to support the students' efforts and helped turn out more than 400 supporters at the May 22 meeting when the proposal was approved for the ballot.


We're one step closer to raising San Jose's minimum wage (5-23-12).
San Jose is a November vote away from a precedent-setting $2 increase in our minimum wage to $10 an hour. On May 22, San Jose City Council – after more than two hours of testimony with 400 supporters in the audience – submitted the minimum wage initiative to the voters (slideshow here). Many of the council members oppose the measure, but a successful petition drive forced them to put it on the ballot. Working Partnerships USA is honored to play a leadership role in this historic effort to raise the wage, working tirelessly throughout the petition process that got the issue on the ballot, training advocates, providing research support and assisting with legal issues. Proponents turned in 35,000 signatures, double the amount required. "This will do nothing but drive the economy here," said Alexandra Dorian, owner of Emile's restaurant, who said she already pays her employees above the proposed minimum. Tens of thousands of people in our community – particularly women and people of color – will get a raise if the measure passes in November. It is precedent-setting initiative that will make a loud, proud statement by the voters of America’s 10th-largest city that we value people first. It will make San Jose the largest city in the United States to set its own minimum wage, a critical step if cities are to break the shackles that tie their lowest-paid residents to wage levels of rural areas where costs of living are much cheaper. And it will tie the minimum wage to inflation so the poor don’t have to repeatedly fight an uphill battle for fairness as their costs of living rise faster than their pay. Go to www.raisethewagesj.com to donate to the campaign.


Lead the Vote team signs up voters before registration chance melts away (5-18-12).
Lead the Vote 2012 -- Working Partnerships' drive to register young Latino and Vietnamese voters -- pushed a successful campaign beyond its goals May 18 with an ice cream event at the San Jose Flea Market designed to highlight the voter registration deadline by not letting the opportunity melt away. Three days before the May 21 deadline for the June California primary, the number of new voters we registered surpassed 3,600. Here's a slideshow of the event. "Voices can't be heard at the ballot box if voters' names aren't in the registration books," said Cindy Chavez, Working Partnerships' executive director. Young people and immigrant communities vote at some of the lowest rates in Santa Clara County. Working Partnerships' Spanish- and Vietnamese-speaking Lead the Vote 2012 team worked under a grant from the Registrar of Voters to register at least 3,500 new voters, educate them about the importance of the electoral process and encourage them to vote.


Join us for the Equal Voice Online Convention at noon Sunday (5-15-12).
Make sure the Equal Voice for America's Families 2012 National Family Platform reflects the issues important to you by participating in the first online Equal Voice national convention at noon Sunday, May 20. Working Partnerships is hosting a participation event in our boardroom at 2102 Almaden Road in San Jose (map), or you can participate on your computer at home by going to www.equalvoice2012.org/USA and logging in through your Facebook or Twitter account. Visit the website now to be sure your computer is ready and for instructions on how to participate and vote. Earlier this month Working Partnerships helped families under attack by the stressed economy and government's responses to it develop the platform that represents the issues of most concern to them by filling out online surveys. Sunday, through internet technology, families across the nation will come together to discuss the issues facing America's families and how to make the American Dream achievable for all. The more voices we have, the stronger our message will be, so tell or email your friends about the Online Convention, too.


Lead the Vote 2012 shifts to motivation, education phase (5-7-12).
Lead the Vote 2012, Working Partnerships' drive to register young Latino and Vietnamese voters, reached its goal of 3,500 new voters and moved into its motivation and education phase with a May 7 event at San Jose State University. The event was less than a month before the June 5 California primary, which will be the state's first conducted under the "top two" system. Educating new voters about changes in the electoral system, the more practical aspects of voting such as how to find the proper polling place as well encouraging new voters to participate in the democratic process is what Lead the Vote 2012, funded by the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters, is about until the election. Working Partnerships project is part of a larger effort targeted at five "traditionally underrepresented groups" identified by the registrar including immigrant communities, low-income communities, 18-24 year-olds, seniors and the disabled.


Working Partnerships helps push minimum wage increase closer to enactment (5-4-12).
San Jose City Council accepted the certification of a petition drive May 1 to place a $2 increase in the city's minimum wage on the ballot, a huge step for the city's lowest-paid workers and the precedent it could set as the largest U.S. city with a minimum wage. The city will now prepare a report on the effects of the increase, and Working Partnerships turned out dozens of speakers to demand that staff produce a fair report based on sound research that includes how this increase will benefit working families and the overall economy, not one framed solely by business interests on alleged job losses. As we reported in our April newsletter, Working Partnerships responded quickly when the San Jose State University students who initiated the minimum wage campaign sought our help as San Jose's leading advocate for everyday people. We helped train advocates on the issue, provided research support and assisted with legal issues. The petition drive produced nearly double the required 19,000 signatures to get on the ballot.


Construction job training program targeted at previously incarcerated women (5-3-12).
Are you a woman who has previously been incarcerated? Do you want to build a new career where you can work hard, advance and earn a good income and benefits for yourself and your family? Would you like to learn the skills needed to launch a well-paying career in construction? Working Partnerships' Apprentice Readiness Program is now accepting applications for its summer class, which starts May 29 (download flyer). There is a required orientation May 8 or May 11. We have special spots available for women who have previously been incarcerated and are ready for a fresh start in an exciting new career in the construction industry (read about our spring class and see a video of KGO-TV's news coverage here). There is no cost to students for this intensive career training program and successful graduates will have the opportunity to apply directly to participating union construction employers and begin a three- to five-year paid apprenticeship. To apply, call Louise Auerhahn at (408) 269-7872 x576 or email lauerhahn@wpusa.org.


Take this online survey to shape Equal Voice for America's Families 2012 National Family Platform (4-24-12).
Make sure the Equal Voice for America's Families 2012 National Family Platform reflects the issues important to you by taking 10 minutes online to complete the Equal Voice for Families survey in English or Spanish by Tuesday, May 1. Families are under attack by the stressed economy and government's responses to it. Working Partnerships USA is helping the Marguerite Casey Foundation develop the platform so that the issues of most concern to families -- based on what families themselves say they want and need -- are heard. Millions of Americans will vote on the platform online May 20 during the Equal Voice National Convention. The more voices we have, the stronger our message will be, so tell or email your friends about the survey, too.


San Jose's minimum wage petition qualifies for November ballot (4-24-12).
The petition drive to raise San Jose's minimum wage achieved its goal April 24 when the city clerk's office verified 19,500 names, more than needed to win a place on the November ballot. That means the proposed wage hike from $8 to $10 goes to San Jose City Council on May 1, which can either raise the wage on its own or pass the two bucks to voters in the fall. But certification of the petition means the Council cannot block the increase. "Raising the wages of the lowest-paid workers of one of the nation's most expensive cities has broad public support, which the City Council should respect by enacting the increase on its own," said Cindy Chavez, Working Partnerships' executive director. Working Partnerships USA is joining with labor and other community organizations including the South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council, the Campus Alliance for Economic Justice, Sacred Heart Community Service, Next Generation Bay Area, the Silicon Valley-San Jose NAACP and Pride at Work in supporting the minimum wage increase by helping train advocates, providing research support and assisting with legal issues. More information is available at www.raisethewagesj.com.


Progressive reforms the source of American exceptionalism, not its downfall, ex-Obama adviser says (4-22-12).
Comparing conservative opposition to progressive reforms that helped build a strong American middle class to greyhounds being forced to race at dog tracks, former White House adviser Van Jones told a San Jose audience April 21 that "It's time to stop chasing the bunny. You're never going to catch that bunny" (see a slide show of the event). Jones, author of the newly published New York Times bestseller Rebuild the Dream, told an invitation-only audience at the Working Partnerships USA Social Innovators' Speaker Series that challenging the constitutionality of federal health care reform's individual mandate is an example of conservatives running full circle around this metaphorical dog track to attack a concept they developed. The liberation of women, development of labor unions and the Civil Rights Acts of the 1960s are what make America exceptional, Jones said, and it is the conservative attack on these societal changes during a recession that endanger to the prosperity of American society. Jones' speech at the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 5 in downtown San Jose was the fourth event of the 2012 Social Innovators Speaker Series, which is generously sponsored by PG&E. Mike Fox Sr., the A. Philip Randolph Institute and the Silicon Valley-San Jose NAACP were event sponsors.


Working Partnerships kicks off second phase of Lead the Vote 2012 (4-19-12).
County Supervisor Ken Yeager and Working Partnerships' Cindy Chavez kicked off the educational phase of Lead the Vote 2012 on April 19 with a party for volunteers at Working Partnerships office (see a slide show of the event here). Funded by the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters, Working Partnerships has registered 3,300 voters toward its goal of 3,500 young Spanish- and Vietnamese-speaking voters for the June 5 primary as part of a county effort targeted at five "traditionally underrepresented groups" including immigrant communities, low-income communities, 18-24 year-olds, seniors and the disabled. Volunteers recruited and organized by Working Partnerships have: 1) Distributed more than 20,000 blank registration cards in Spanish, Tagalog, Vietnamese, Korean and Chinese to community organizations, unions, food pantries, high schools and student groups at local colleges and to our partners; 2) Visited campuses at San Jose State, San Jose City, Mission, Gavilan, Evergreen, West Valley, Santa Clara, Heald and the National Hispanic University; and 3) Made more than 20 presentations at community events, to student groups and in classrooms to educate voters on the new top two primary system, where to find poll information, that you need to re-register when you move, that you must sign your name when you get your ballot the same way as when you registered or your vote doesn't count, and that there's an election June 5.


Construction trades graduation ceremonies for previously incarcerated women (4-18-12).
Graduation ceremonies for the first class of nine women -- all of whom previously served time behind bars -- to complete a unique pre-apprenticeship training program in the construction trades were held April 18 at the Santa Clara County Building in San Jose. The 160-hour program was offered by Working Partnerships USA, Roofers and Waterproofers Local 95 and partly funded by the Santa Clara County Office of Women's Policy and union construction firms. Launched as a pilot project two years ago by Working Partnerships in a unique partnership with building trades unions and work2future, Silicon Valley's Workforce Investment Board, the training prepares students -- primarily women and people of color -- to enter construction trades, gives them a taste of work experience and leads directly to placement in jobs with wages and benefits sufficient to support a family and a dream.
Read the rest of this story here. Watch KGO-TV's news feature here


County Supervisor Ken Yeager, Working Partnerships' Cindy Chavez kick off educational phase of Lead the Vote 2012 (4-18-12).
With voter registration efforts among young Spanish- and Vietnamese-speaking voters in high gear, Santa Clara County Supervisor Ken Yeager and Cindy Chavez, executive director of Working Partnerships USA, will kick off the education phase of Lead the Vote 2012 with a special event Thursday, April 19. This phase of Lead the Vote 2012 will involve educating newly registered voters on why their vote matters and changes to voting rules that will be in effect for the June 5 California primary elections. Refreshments will be served at the event, which begins at 3 p.m. in the Working Partnerships boardroom, 2102 Almaden Road in San Jose (map). Funded by the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters, Working Partnerships is engaged in a project to register and educate 3,500 young Spanish- and Vietnamese-speaking voters as part of a larger effort targeted at five "traditionally underrepresented groups" including immigrant communities, low-income communities, 18-24 year-olds, seniors and the disabled.


Chavez lends a hand to BART extension to San Jose (4-16-12).
When ground was broken April 12 to finally bring BART to San Jose, Cindy Chavez was there with her shovel to lend a hand. Chavez, Working Partnerships' executive director, worked on this key 10-mile expansion of rapid transit into Santa Clara County as chair, vice chair and board member of the Valley Transportation Authority between 1999 and 2006. With Working Partnerships she has a different role regarding BART. She is the leader of an organization that works on transportation and land-use planning projects from the perspective of how they can be designed and built to improve the lives of working families and enabling community participation to avoid the adverse affects of large infrastructure projects on neighborhoods. The groundbreaking was made possible after the Federal Transportation Administration approved $900 million toward the $3.2 billion project, which has twice been supported by county voters in the form of sales tax increases.


City Council unanimously approves restrictions on outdoor smoking (4-10-12).
Public health won a unanimous decision April 10 when the San Jose City Council voted 11-0 to restrict outdoor smoking through an ordinance supported by Working Partnerships and several allies. In order to protect city residents from the hazards of second-hand smoke, the ordinance would ban smoking in outdoor dining areas, in lines where people wait for service and in the common areas of multi-family residences. Father Bill Leininger, whose father and two sisters died of smoking-caused lung cancer, was treated last year for vocal chord cancer that his medical caregivers attributed directly to second-hand smoke. "If smokers want to die from cancer, amen to that," the priest told the City Council. "I don't want to be killed by it." Elisa Koff-Ginsborg, Working Partnerships associate director of community education, asked the Council to approve the ordinance because there is no safe level of second-hand smoke and because it disproportionately affects people of color and low incomes. Working Partnerships thanks the Menthol Flavored Tobacco Prevention Project, Breathe California, the Santa Clara County Public Health Department and the Silicon Valley-San Jose NAACP for their work in support of the ordinance. Working Partnerships was funded by the Santa Clara County Public Health Department to educate and inform the public in San Jose about the proposal.


Cindy Chavez: Inequality endures because those who suffer from it are excluded from power (4-6-12).
"Who gets what and why," was the way former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, now a public policy professor at UC Berkeley, framed the university's April 4 "teach-in" on economic inequality. President Obama recently said that "inequality is the central issue of the economy." Working Partnerships USA, whose mission is helping "everyday people to participate and win in developing a fair and free society," fights for equality, responded Executive Director Cindy Chavez, who participated on the teach-in's panel. She cited the organization's support for raising San Jose's minimum wage and opposition to an illegal effort to cut city worker's retirement benefits. "It's time to change the tune," she said. "In our battle against inequality, we have to make sure we are part of making the rules. He or she who governs the rules, rules the table. Period." The minimum wage campaign was begun by San Jose State University students who work at minimum wage jobs yet can't make ends meet. Rather than appeal to a San Jose City Council that has been indifferent to low-wage workers, the students inspired a community petition drive to submit a $2 minimum wage increase directly to voters, and the drive produced nearly double the required signatures. The same City Council approved a ballot measure to cut city pension benefits rather than negotiate changes with workers, which the California Attorney General and the State Legislative Counsel have said is unconstitutional. Now the issue of whether the Council's measure gets on the ballot is tied up in court. "I think there's a lot of hope," Chavez said. "Don't be afraid to get in the game. We are about making an equitable, prosperous society and changing the rules so the prosperity can survive."


Outdoor smoking restrictions come before City Council on April 10 (4-6-12).
The San Jose City Council is scheduled to vote Tuesday, April 10 on an ordinance that would put some outdoor areas off-limits to smoking. "This ordinance would improve the overall health of San Jose residents by protecting them from the hazards of second-hand smoke," said Cindy Chavez, executive director of Working Partnerships USA. "There is no safe level of second-hand smoke, and it's impossible for non-smokers to avoid this hazard in many outdoor venues." The ordinance would ban smoking in outdoor dining areas, in lines where people wait for service and in the common areas of multi-family residences. Second-hand smoke has been shown to cause several types of cancer, heart disease and problems for children. About 46,000 Americans die each year just from the heart disease linked to such smoke. Read the op-ed published April 6 in the San Jose Mercury News by the Rev. Jeff Moore, president of the Silicon Valley-San Jose NAACP here. Working Partnerships has been funded by the Santa Clara County Public Health Department to educate and inform the public in San Jose about the proposal.


Rep. Eshoo urges Silicon Valley to 'lean forward' to lead national recovery (4-4-12).
Silicon Valley's economy is recovering strongly and leading the nation, but there needs to be more public investment in areas such as transportation infrastructure to keep the region internationally competitive, U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo said April 3. Eshoo, who represents San Mateo and northern Santa Clara counties and serves as the ranking member of the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, spoke at the third event of the 2012 Working Partnerships USA Social Innovators Speaker Series (you can see a slideshow of the event at the United Food and Commercial Workers here). She criticized members of Congress who forced the United States to the brink of default last summer during the debate to raise the nation's debt ceiling and predicted economic and social decline if the national partisan divide can't be overcome. This is the fourth year of the Social Innovator Speaker Series, which is generously sponsored by PG&E.


Santa Clara County ranked as California's 2nd healthiest (4-4-12).
Santa Clara County has been ranked as the second healthiest California county in which to live, according to the annual ranking study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute published April 4. Working Partnerships has provided technical assistance to regional coalitions across the country that have been funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to pursue policy or systems change to improve the social determinants of good health. In addition, Working Partnerships developed and successfully advocated for the Children's Health Initiative, implemented in 2001 and now called Healthy Kids, which made Santa Clara County the nation's first to provide health care coverage to all its children. The study, which was first published in 2010, makes clear that the healthiest counties tend to have higher education and income levels, and better access to doctors, nutritional foods and recreation opportunities.


Honoring Cesar Chavez, March 31, 2012 on what would have been the labor leader and civil rights activist's 85th birthday (3-31-12).


Working Partnerships joins campaign to raise San Jose's minimum wage (3-29-12).
The idea to raise San Jose's minimum wage -- hatched last year by four students working their way through college -- has turned into a ballot petition signed by nearly 35,000 voters, far above the 19,200 signatures required. With the submission of those petitions March 29 for city certification, Working Partnerships USA is joining the campaign to push the minimum wage measure to victory in the November general election. We will help train advocates, provide research and assist with legal issues. "It's time San Jose got a raise," Cindy Chavez, Working Partnerships' executive director, told a student rally before they submitted their petitions (see slide show of the rally and the students delivering their petitions to City Hall here). The campaign to raise San Jose's minimum wage from $8 to $10 an hour was originally the project of students in San Jose State sociology professor Scott Myers-Lipton's class who are working minimum-wage jobs. In January they launched a petition drive that gathered enough momentum to surpass the threshold necessary to send the proposal to voters. "Working Partnerships is about equipping everyday people to participate and win in creating a fair and free society," Chavez said. "That means helping the lowest-paid among us earn wages that allow them to live decent lives in our community."


Cindy Chavez of Working Partnerships honored by California Assembly (3-26-12).

Cindy Chavez, Working Partnerships executive director in red jacket, is presented her California Assembly Woman of the Year Award for District 23 by (L-R) Assemblymembers Nora Campos and Connie Conway, Speaker of the House John Perez and Asemblymember Holly Mitchell.


Working Partnerships' Preminger wins national social work award (3-23-12).
Steve Preminger, director of Working Partnerships' Community Builders program and a long-time Bay Area community organizer, has been named winner of "Stand Up for Others Award" by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW). "This recognition is well deserved," said Cindy Chavez, WPUSA's executive director. "Steve has touched the lives of hundreds and hundreds of families in need, and we are all grateful for the respect and attention he has shown to each person." This is the second major award in recent years for Preminger, who is the organizer of Working Partnerships' annual Holiday Party, which serves thousands of children each December, and who works most of the year aiding union members in financial need. In 2009 he was honored as one of 49 individuals from around the world as an "Unsung Hero of Compassion" by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The latest award will be presented at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 29 at the Martin Luther King Library during the celebration of NASW Social Work Month.


Budget priorities ignore public's real needs (3-23-12).
The San Jose City Council voted March 20 to restrict service restoration to a severely limited set of priorities from Mayor Chuck Reed despite the availability of funds. Ignoring public pleas to restore public safety, libraries and senior services backed by a supportive memo from Councilmembers Xavier Campos, Kansen Chu and Ash Kalra, the Council voted 5-4 to stick with Reed's plan. It is based on a projected surplus of $10 million for the coming fiscal year but a projected shortfall in FY 2012-14. Framing the debate with overly conservative budget projections, however, has resulted in unnecessary essential service cuts, Bob Brownstein, Working Partnerships' policy and research director, told the Council. The current surplus was originally an $80 million shortfall when the Mayor was trying to build support to declare a "fiscal emergency" several months ago. Despite budget shortfall projections exceeding $100 million over the past five years, San Jose has underspent its budgets by $105.5 million since 2007 and will have unspent funds again in October when the annual "excess fund balances" are revealed, Brownstein said. "There are risks if you don't spent money," Brownstein said, arguing excess fund balances should be targeted to restoring public safety services, which are currently under study for further cuts. The popular and enormously successful Children's Health Initiative, pioneered by Working Partnerships, is slated to receive full funding in the upcoming budget.


U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo to speak on Silicon Valley's role in U.S. economy (3-20-12).
U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo of San Mateo County will speak about Silicon Valley's role in U.S. economic development in the third event of the 2012 Working Partnerships USA Social Innovators Speaker Series. The event will be at 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 3 at the UFCW5 Hall, 240 S. Market St. (map) in San Jose. Space is limited. Please RSVP by March 27 to Kara Mooneyham at (408) 269-7872 or email kara@wpusa.org. Eshoo served 10 years on the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors before being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1992. In Washington she has focused on issues dear to Silicon Valley. She is the ranking member of the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, which has primary jurisdiction over the Internet and telecommunications. Since 1995 she has served on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which handles legislation affecting health care, the environment, telecom and high tech, bioterrorism, interstate commerce and consumer protection. She is co-chair of the Congressional Internet Caucus. This is the fourth year of the Social Innovator Speaker Series, which is generously sponsored by PG&E.


Chavez on distinguished UC Berkeley panel on economic inequality April 4 (3-14-12).
Working Partnerships Executive Director Cindy Chavez will participate along with some of the nation's top thinkers, including former U.S. Labor Sec. Robert Reich, in a discussion of the causes of growing economic inequality in the United States, consequences of this trend and efforts to counter it at UC Berkeley. The "Income Inequality Teach-In" is sponsored by the UC Berkeley Labor Center and will be held from 1-5 p.m. Wednesday, April 4, in Lewis Hall, UC Berkeley (map). Moderated by Steven Pitts of the UCB Center for Labor Research and Education, other panelists include Berkeley economist Emmanuel Saez and Paul Pierson of the university's political science department, Stephanie Luce of the City University of New York's Murphy Institute and Charlie Eaton of Re-Fund California.


Construction trades training for previously incarcerated women provides preparation for a real future (3-9-12).
As a single mother of two, Jamie Hoffman's chances of carving out a decent life in Silicon Valley for her struggling family on $8 an hour at the pizza place were not good to begin with. Then her boss found out she had served time for a felony, and her chances instantly shrunk to zero. Temporarily. Five weeks into an eight-week pre-apprenticeship training program that Working Partnerships offers with Roofers and Waterproofers Local 95 and partly funded through the Santa Clara County Office of Women's Policy, Hoffman's chances are the best they've ever been.

Read the rest of this story here. Watch KGO-TV's news feature here


City Council ignores audit, legal risk and puts pension changes on ballot (3-6-12).
The San Jose City Council voted 8-3 on March 6 to put a pension reform proposal on the ballot. In doing so it ignored calls from state legislators to delay because of misleading and frequently changing city projections and it ignored two state legal opinions that the ballot proposal is unconstitutional. "Forty years after Watergate, some people have still learned nothing. The truth arises slowly, but the truth does prevail," warned Bob Brownstein, Working Partnerships' policy director, about sending the measure to voters. Called unconstitutional by the state attorney general's office and the state legislature's counsel, the June ballot measure may eventually cost the city more money than would be saved by the pension changes it would impose if those opinions are upheld in court. The city and its employee unions have been negotiating pension changes since last spring because of a consensus that the current retirement plans are too expensive. But the Council has been simultaneously pursuing Mayor Chuck Reed's public ballot alternative, and his projections of enormous future city obligations are at least double documented numbers. A day before its vote, a coalition of South Bay legislators called for a delay until a state audit could produce reliable figures. The Joint Legislative Accounting Committee voted 10-3 March 7 to expedite an audit so that voters will have accurate information when they go to the polls. Only Councilmembers Ash Kalra, Kansen Chu and Xavier Campos voted against the ballot measure.


'Good Jobs, Green Jobs' conference features Working Partnerships expert (3-6-12).
When hundreds of business, labor, environmental, elected and community leaders gather March 15 and 16 in Los Angeles for the 2012 Good Jobs, Green Jobs Western Regional Conference, Louise Auerhahn of Working Partnerships will be speaking on two important panels. Auerhahn, Working Partnerships' associate policy director and an expert on the green economy, will participate in a March 16 morning panel discussion on Labor and Community: Building Green Pathways into Construction Careers" and a discussion that afternoon on "High Road Agreements: Creating Economic Opportunity through Energy Efficiency." Auerhahn is the lead author of Working Partnerships' periodic economic reports on how the Silicon Valley economy affects the working class entitled Life in the Valley Economy, popularly known as the LIVE Reports. The conference is the nation's premier event for sharing ideas and strategies on building the green economy and will feature more than 50 workshops focused on topics ranging from clean energy manufacturing to green infrastructure and transportation.


Legislators call for pension reform delay so state can audit city's projections (3-5-12).
With frequently changing estimates of the City of San Jose's pension obligations from multiple sources, a coalition of state lawmakers headed by Assemblymember Jim Beall has asked the City Council to hold off on a pension reform ballot measure until a state audit of the city's books. Here's the letter requesting the audit. Beall told a March 5 press conference that "The audit will examine the validity of actuarial and pension projections used and whether all important factors have been considered in calculating the city's obligation." He was joined at the press conference by fellow Assemblymembers Bob Wieckowski and Jerry Hill and local elected officials Dave Cortese, Ken Yeager, George Shirakawa, Pete McHugh, Rich Constantine and Jim Davis. The announcement came a day before the City Council was scheduled to make a final decision whether to put a pension reform measure on the June ballot. The state attorney general's office and the legislature's legal counsel have both ruled that city cannot unilaterally make employee pension changes and that a ballot measure that makes an end run around bargaining is illegal, meaning a hasty and ill-conceived plan could cost the hundreds of millions of dollars. Read previous coverage here, here and here.


Utilities must follow rate-request commitments for safety, CPUC commissioner says (2-28-12).
Underspending on maintenance led to the September 2010 explosion of a natural gas pipeline in San Bruno that killed eight people, Catherine J.K. Sandoval -- the newest member of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) -- told a Working Partnerships USA Social Innovators Speakers' Series audience Feb. 28. CPUC rules do not require the companies it regulates to follow the budgets they submit in justifying their rate requests, Sandoval said, and PG&E had underspent the maintenance budget it filed by $140 million. "San Bruno was a game-changer for all of us," Sandoval said. "It was a signal of what could go wrong." She said that PG&E's decision to listen to and recognize union workers who warned of safety problems following a second explosion in Cupertino "hopefully shows a turnaround in the [company's] culture." Sandoval, a Los Angeles native, was a Rhodes Scholar and graduate of Stanford Law School and now is an associate professor at Santa Clara University Law School. She previously served as undersecretary and senior policy advisor for housing with the Business, Transportation and Housing Agency and as director of the Office of Communications Business Opportunities for the Federal Communications Commission. This is the fourth year of the Social Innovators Speakers' Series.


5 San Jose City Councilmembers seek source of inflated pension projection (2-24-12).

Five San Jose City Councilmembers formally requested Feb. 23 that the city staff explain the genesis of the $650 million amount that has been publicly cited as the city's estimated pension obligation for fiscal year 2015-16. Mayor Chuck Reed frequently used the number -- now known to be far higher than the city's latest $320 million official projection -- in speeches and interviews to portray the city's financial future as dire even as he and some councilmembers say they were working from smaller estimates in crafting actual policy. The request is the latest chapter in an unfolding story about how City Hall's financial figures have been used to shape public debate during a period of severe service cuts and employee sacrifices. A pattern has emerged this winter of higher costs being used in public than internal city documents, including a $50 million overstatement of pension costs and a $22 million overstatement of the $3 million budget shortfall for the fiscal year beginning July 1. The Community Budget Working Group, convened annually by Working Partnerships as a mechanism for public input in what is a tightly orchestrated city budget process, has struggled for years to get accurate figures from City Hall. However, a Feb. 8 news report by KNTV revealing the falsity of the $650 million pension obligation was the first time a local news organization has seriously questioned City Hall's budget numbers. "The mayor actually used the words 'loosey-goosey' at a community meeting the other day," said Helen Chapman, a member of the Community Budget Working Group. She said city officials need to be as scrupulous in their dealings with the public as they are inside City Hall. "The focus is not just on pensions. There are other things, too. If you're 'loosey-goosey' with this, are you 'loosey-goosey' with that?"


Make your voice heard on S.J. proposal to reduce public input (2-22-12).
San Jose City Council's Rules Committee meeting will consider a proposal at 2 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 29 that could seriously reduce public participation in government by consolidating the city's 20 volunteer citizen advisory committees to five and eliminating the neighborhood and small business commissions entirely. The consolidation would mean that volunteer citizen commissioners would have to work on issues where they have little interest or expertise and would lengthen meetings beyond what the public would find convenient to attend (full proposal here and here). Mark your calendar to attend the meeting at San Jose City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St. (map).


Mexican Consulate and Working Partnerships announce cooperative outreach for grocery workers' safety training (2-15-12).

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Javier Aguilar Cuevas, deputy consul of Mexico in San Jose, and Cindy Chavez, executive director of Working Partnerships USA, announced a partnership Feb. 15 to outreach to Silicon Valley grocery workers about a new health and safety training program called HEAL (Health Education And Leadership) to protect them in their workplaces (Press conference slide show). The outreach will be to enroll 160 grocery workers in a pilot program designed by Working Partnerships, the Labor Occupational Health Program (LOHP) at the University of California, Berkeley, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 5, and funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The outreach will be to enroll 160 grocery workers in a pilot program designed by Working Partnerships, the Labor Occupational Health Program (LOHP) at the University of California, Berkeley, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 5, and funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Supermarket work has been identified as among the most injury- and illness-plagued of all service industry occupations in the United States because of the hazards of heavy lifting, sharp cutting tools, chemical exposure and extended work periods in refrigerated work spaces. In Santa Clara County, these hazards are faced by a work force of 15,000 supermarket workers. Sixty-five percent are people of color, often with little or no English-language proficiency, and many are vulnerable to exploitation because of their immigration status. The HEAL program is one facet of Working Partnership's Food Justice Project. Its purpose is to ensure that supermarkets are safe workplaces for employees and that workers know how to work safely. The program begins Thursday, Feb. 16 when a group of grocery worker leaders will undergo an intensive training designed by LOHP to qualify them as health and safety trainers. They will learn about health and safety standards, workers' rights at the workplace and how to train others. Once trained, they along with Working Partnerships staff will present free four-hour workshops on grocery store health and safety open to any worker in the grocery industry. There will be two sessions on Wednesday, March 21, one at 10 a.m. and another at 4 p.m. Interested grocery workers should call Jamie Chen at Working Partnerships at (408) 269-7872 or by email at Jamie@wpusa.org for more information or to RSVP. Once the training regimen and curriculum are proven in this pilot program, Working Partnerships plans to offer occupational safety and health training as part of its ongoing menu of training programs targeted at people of color and the economically disadvantaged.


Community Budget Working Group calls for no-service-cuts city budget (2-14-12).
In advance of the Tuesday, Feb. 14 San Jose City Council meeting, which will discuss the City Manager's "Mid-Year Budget Review" released last month, the Community Budget Working Group has issued a call for a 2012-13 city budget with no further reductions in city services. "Now that San Jose's budget shortfall has been reduced to only $3 million, the Community Budget Working Group calls for the City of San Jose to adopt a no-service-cuts budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1," the group's statement reads. The city has wrestled with annual budget shortfalls in recent years topping $100 million, resulting in severe service cutbacks such as library and community center closings and layoffs of nearly 2,000 city employees. While the budget shortfall for the fiscal year beginning July 1 has been pegged at $25 million in numerous public statements, the Mid-Year Budget Review -- an annual report published by the City Manager's office -- recommended in January that the Future Deficit Reserve should be increased to $22 million because of better-than-anticipated revenues generated by an improving economy. That leaves a shortfall of just $3 million, a tiny sum in the context of an annual budget in the $800 million range. Working Partnerships first convened the Community Budget Working Group in December 2007 with a steering committee from a broad range of community organizations to increase public participation in what was a tightly controlled city budgeting process. Convened annually ever since, the Group has allowed the public to present its own budget priorities to the City Council and saved millions in city services as the result of budget ideas generated from its community meetings.


PUC Commissioner Catherine Sandoval is Social Innovators speaker Feb. 28 (2-10-12).
Campbell attorney Catherine J.K. Sandoval, appointed to the California Public Utilities Commission last year, is the latest speaker in the Working Partnerships USA Social Innovators Speakers' Series. Download a flyer here. She will speak on "The CPUC: From Electricity to the Internet" at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 28 at Working Partnerships, 2102 Almaden Road, San Jose (map). Sandoval has worked as an associate professor at Santa Clara University's law school since 2004. She previously served as undersecretary and senior policy advisor for housing with the Business, Transportation and Housing Agency and as director of the Office of Communications Business Opportunities for the Federal Communications Commission. She earned her law degree from Stanford and her Master of Letters in political science from Oxford, where she was a Rhodes Scholar. She received her undergraduate degree from Yale. Because of limited space, please RSVP by Feb. 21 to Kara at (408) 269-7872 or by email to kara@wpusa.org. This is the fourth year of the Social Innovators Speakers Series, which is generously sponsored by PG&E.


Latest city budget inaccuracies the largest yet (2-9-12).

The amount the City of San Jose owes its retired employees -- the financial obligation used by Mayor Chuck Reed to justify years of city layoffs, pay cuts and service cutbacks -- has been overstated by more than 100 percent, according to a television news report aired Wednesday, Feb. 9. Reed has repeatedly pushed a $650 million pension obligation by the year 2015 as the key justification for cutbacks that include 2,000 job cuts and closures of libraries and community centers. But in an interview with KNTV Channel 11, Russell Crosby, the city's retirement services director, said the number Reed has been using publicly came "off the top of my head" with no calculations or hard numbers to back it up. The station produced emails revealing that what the station described as Reed's "fuzzy math" was well known inside City Hall. KNTV's report put San Jose's actual pension obligation in 2015 at $300 million, which factors in pay cuts and layoffs. Neither Reed nor anyone in City Hall disputed the station's numbers but Reed said he was unaware of the inaccuracy of his figures. This is the third time since December that important costs affecting the city's financial health have been shown to be substantially inflated. First was the revelation that the city was overestimating pension costs for the coming fiscal year by more than $50 million. Last week a mid-year budget report from the city manager said despite Reed's contention that next year's budget is $25 million short, $22 million of that amount has already been covered by reserves (see more about that story here). The revelations are important because so many decisions about the future direction of San Jose have been or are being made based on financial obligations that have now been shown to be wildly inaccurate.


Report documents lessons that Detroit teaches for America's future political economy (2-8-12).
Detroit's manufacturing-based economy -- its large middle class, streams of immigrants and central city that peaked and declined while surrounded by sprawling white suburbs -- blazed the trail for the way urban Americans lived and worked in the 20th Century. The impression left by mainstream media is that the now-shrinking Detroit has been left behind by the this century. In fact, Mo(vement) Town: Building Civic Engagement in the Detroit Region (download it here), a report co-published by Working Partnerships, the Detroit Collaborative Design Center at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Architecture and the national 1000 Leaders Project, says the region's past and present have much to tell us about the future of the whole nation's political economy. The decline of Detroit's economy and civic institutions leaves a void of resources -- both jobs and government support -- that Detroit's residents are scrambling to fill. This decline and residents' focus on basic survival leave power vacuums that are being filled by forces pushing an agenda of smaller government and less democratic oversight. This report was produced as part of a national research collaboration conducted in 2010 and 2011 to examine Detroit's policy and community dynamics during that unique period. The project was made possible by the generosity of the Ford Foundation.


Previously incarcerated women enter Apprentice Readiness Program training (2-7-12).
The Apprentice Readiness Program, which Working Partnerships pioneered as a pilot program in 2010, has scored a breakthrough with the current class of students who begin training for careers in the construction trades this week. With help from the Skills to Succeed program of Santa Clara County Office of Women's Policy, 10 women -- each of whom was previously incarcerated at some point -- are participating in the 160-hour program. Graduates of the previous two classes in the program, offered jointly by Roofers and Waterproofers Local 95 and Working Partnerships, had a 70 percent placement rate with construction employers.


Mayor-commissioned study says S.J. police & fire still overstaffed (2-6-12).

A controversial study commissioned by San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed suggests that the city's police and fire departments -- already at historically low staffing levels because of budget cuts -- could be slashed even further. Mayor Reed has written that the report offers "significant" opportunities to save money, generate revenues, and improve efficiency but he does not mention the importance of preserving lives, protecting families or providing security to neighborhoods. The study, conducted by IBM, tosses out the traditional formulas cities use to determine how many police officers they need -- which are based on the population to be protected -- for a formula based on crime rates. It says because San Jose's rates are low, it can get by with 40 percent fewer officers. The report also says that if the fire department didn't respond to emergency medical calls, its force could be cut by a third. It says the city should consider whether a "compelling business case" can be made for responding emergency medical calls. The City Council's Rules and Open Government Committee will discuss the report at its 2 p.m. meeting Wednesday, Feb. 8 in Wing Rooms 118-120 of City Hall (map). You can read the report's executive summary here and download the full report here.


San Jose can adopt 'no-cuts' FY 2012-13 budget (2-3-12).
The City of San Jose is now just $3 million short of a no-cuts budget for the coming fiscal year, a number almost certain to shrink to zero based on the city's improving finances. In the Mid-Year Budget Review for FY 2011-12 released last month (you can download the full report from the city's website here), City Manager Debra Figone acknowledges that the city's financial situation has so significantly improved that the Future Deficit Reserve should be increased from $12 million to $22 million. The specific purpose of the Future Deficit Reserve is to address the budget shortfall for FY 2012-13. Since the entire projected shortfall for FY 2012-13 is estimated to be $25 million, only $3 million remains to be found for the city to be able to avoid any budget cuts next year. Other information in the Mid-Year Budget Review, including higher sales tax receipts and increased revenues from construction taxes and from tax increment in Redevelopment Project Areas, suggests it is extraordinarily likely the remaining $3 million will become available.


Students want to raise San Jose's minimum wage (2-2-12).
A class of San Jose State University sociology students are launching a petition campaign this week to create a $10 minimum wage in San Jose, making it the fourth city in the United States to set an hourly pay minimum. If the students succeed in collecting 19,161 signatures, their minimum wage proposal -- $2 higher than the California standard -- would be placed on the November ballot. Scott Myers-Lipton, professor of the Social Action class that developed the campaign after finding strong support through public polling, said 80 percent of his sociology students work at least 30 hours a week but those earning minimum wage struggled to survive.


Teen Interfaith Leadership Council formed, recruiting members (1-26-12).
The Interfaith Council on Economics and Justice has approved the creation of a Teen Interfaith Leadership Council of Santa Clara County and has begun recruiting members. The council will consist of high school sophomores, juniors and seniors from various religious traditions who will engage in meaningful service, interfaith dialogue and advocacy activities that address issues of poverty, social injustice and promote the common good in Santa Clara County. The emphasis will be on mutual respect and understanding and interfaith dialogue, not conversion. "Teenagers have the ability and power to be agents of social change," said Interfaith Council board member Steve Herrera. "The Teen Interfaith Leadership Council will be a catalyst powered by young people from diverse religious traditions to create a more compassionate, just and peaceful community in Santa Clara County." Interested sophomores and juniors from Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and Catholic/Christian or other religious backgrounds can download an information sheet and application form here. The council will meet monthly and membership terms will run from July through April-May. The council's 10-member Core Team will participate in an annual retreat and immersive experience July 26-30 in New Mexico in partnership with the Shinnyo-en Buddhist Temple, Shinnyo-en Foundation, Working Partnerships USA and the Interfaith Council. The retreat is intended to create community and foster interfaith understanding while performing meaningful service. It will focus on the Native American culture in New Mexico with special emphasis on service, interfaith dialogue and discovering shared religious values regarding faith and justice.


Supervisors' President Shirakawa backs Working Partnerships' anti-obesity project (1-24-12).
Calling for bold action to confront Santa Clara County's obesity epidemic, Board of Supervisors President George Shirakawa called Jan. 24 for a Healthy Corner Store policy to encourage the availability of nutritious foods in the corner stores that serve low-income residents. "By collaborating with Working Partnerships and other community groups, we can design a program that promotes good health and increased shopping at local businesses -- a win-win for families and the economy," Shirakawa said in his State of the County speech. Working Partnerships -- supported by funding from the Silicon Valley Community Foundation -- is currently researching and developing a policy proposal that would improve the marketing and availability of foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables in low-income areas. Additional funding for this project is also being sought. "It's exciting to bring business and community leaders together to promote health and economic development," said Cindy Chavez, Working Partnerships' executive director. The project is part of Working Partnerships' larger work on food justice (read about it here). In its proposal to develop a Healthy Corner Store policy, Working Partnerships noted that while 55 percent of county adults are overweight or obese, obesity is concentrated in low-income areas where there are few convenient alternatives to fast-food outlets. Only 17 percent of the county's low-income families live within walking distance of a farmers' market, community garden or Community-Supported Agriculture drop-off point. Sixty percent of the county's 201 corner stores are located within high poverty census tracts.


Interfaith Council supports airport workers (1-23-12).
San Jose airport workers seeking their first contract with the Hudson Group got support from the Interfaith Council on Economics and Justice in their Jan. 23 rally at Terminal A. Interim Director Elisa Koff-Ginsborg participated in the rally at which the workers -- who joined Unite Here Local 19 last August -- called for competitive wages and good health benefits in the contract now being negotiated. "We name the injustice when workers who improve the quality of others' lives must struggle themselves to obtain basic needs such as health care and face crippling medical bills," she said. "This is no way to work; no way to live." Hudson workers say their health coverage is substandard yet costs hundreds of dollars more than plans for workers of other concessionaires. Hudson, which operates concessions at 74 airports and railroad stations, is negotiating its first contract with San Jose workers.


Bringing young people of color onto voting rolls (1-1-12).
Government represents those who vote, which is why Working Partnerships will be involved in a unique voter registration project this spring as part of its ongoing civic engagement focus. We have received funding from the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters for a non-partisan voter registration project designed to register 3,500 young Hispanic and Vietnamese voters through partnerships with local community colleges and high schools. The project also includes educating these new voters about the importance of voting, how the state's new top-two primary system works and mobilizing them to vote on election day. Our project is one of several being funded by the registrar designed to increase voter participation in the June 5 elections among five "traditionally underrepresented groups" including immigrant communities, low-income communities, 18-24 year-olds, seniors and the disabled.


Food justice in Silicon Valley (1-1-12).
Whether it concerns those who produce our food, those who sell it or those who eat it, the issue of food justice involves us all. Working Partnerships has begun working on this huge issue from many angles with the help of multiple funders. The Interfaith Council on Economics and Justice, a project of Working Partnerships, brought the concept of food justice to the attention of tens of thousands of Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and Unitarians last Labor Day weekend by speaking at dozens of worship services. That led to a Just Food Summit, and participants will begin work later this month on a variety of projects.

  • In the fields where our food is grown, food justice means that farm workers are treated with respect and dignity. They must work in conditions in which their health and safety is protected and for wages and benefits that allow them and their families to live, work and play in economic security. In our Workers' Health and Safety Project, funded by the Public Welfare and California Wellness foundations, we are working with labor partners to strengthen California's ability to adequately enforce workplace safety law, to develop and advocate for safety reforms and to build a coalition of labor, faith, community and business groups to support this effort.
  • Retail grocery employees labor in one of the most injury- and illness-plagued of all service industry occupations in the nation. The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration is funding a pilot project in which Working Partnerships, along with the Labor Occupational Health Program at UC Berkeley and the United Food and Commercial Workers, are creating a workplace safety curriculum and training 180 grocery workers in health and safety standards and their rights at the workplace. Once proven, Working Partnerships plans to add workplace safety to its menu of ongoing training programs.
  • The national obesity epidemic is a significant public health concern here in Silicon Valley where 55 percent of adults are overweight. Our local obesity is concentrated among lower income groups. Sixty-eight percent of adults in households with incomes less than $20,000 are overweight. This same demographic group lives in areas where nutritious foods are difficult to obtain because the convenient food sources are often unhealthy fast-food outlets or neighborhood stores that don't stock fresh fruits and vegetables. With funding from the Nathan Cummings and Silicon Valley Community foundations and Santa Clara County, we are researching and developing policy proposals to discourage consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and to encourage availability and marketing of nutritious foods in corner stores located in low-income areas. George Shirakawa, new president of the county's board of supervisors, called for a Healthy Corner Store policy in his Jan. 24 State of the County speech and praised our work.


San Jose Police Chief Chris Moore sees 2012 as recovery from 'terrible' 2011 (1-12-12).
Staffing cuts and a rise in violent crime made 2011 "terrible year," San Jose Police Chief Chris Moore said Jan 12. But with an improved city budget situation in 2012, he believes his department will be able to hold its own in the battle to provide public safety in the nation's 10th largest city. "I need a stable police department to protect the city, and I think this year we finally get it," he told an audience at the first Working Partnerships USA Social Innovators Speaker Series event of the year. After a long run as the safest large city in the United States, San Jose has fallen in the rankings in the last two years as its police department has struggled with staffing cuts caused by large budget shortfalls. "All hell broke loose in 2011," Moore said, noting that the 41 homicides more than double the 2010 total of 21. Sixty-six police officers were laid off and the 2010-2011 department budget was cut by $30 million. Moore said he will be able to cover his department's projected budget shortfall of $2.5 million in the fiscal year beginning July 1 without layoffs by simply not opening a police substation, which has been built but not staffed up. He also said the department will cut back on the use of its helicopter and its mounted horse patrols. The Social Innovators Speaker Series is in its fourth year and is generously sponsored by PG&E.


Program seeks to help formerly incarcerated women enter construction careers (1-12-12).
Working Partnerships is recruiting participants for a special session of the Apprentice Readiness Program. Women who were formerly incarcerated and are looking for a new start can apply to participate in this intensive 160-hour training program offered jointly by the Roofers and Waterproofers Local 95 Apprenticeship Program and Working Partnerships. Eligible participants should be 18 or older, formerly incarcerated, a Santa Clara County resident, interested in a construction trades career and able to attend intensive weekday training beginning in January. Graduates will have the opportunity to be hired directly by participating construction employers and begin a 3.5-year paid apprenticeship. The class is made possible by the Santa Clara County Office of Women's Policy through the Skills to Succeed program. There is no cost to participants and supportive services may be available during training. Interested participants are encouraged to apply as soon as possible, as there are limited training spots available. To apply or for more information, contact Steve Preminger at (408) 266-3790 or email steve@wpusa.org.


UCR Holiday Party helps thousands of kids (12-18-11).
The 25th Anniversary Union Community Resources Holiday Party on Dec. 18 provided food, fun and gifts for about 8,000 children of working families in the South Bay. For many children it provided the only toy they receive during the holiday season. Enjoy a slideshow of all the fun here. To donate to the 26th annual UCR Holiday Party in 2012, go here. Working Partnerships and Steve Preminger, director of Union Community Resources, would like to thank the nearly 450 volunteers and those who donated money and toys for making the holidays brighter for working families.


Celebrating 10 years of the Children's Health Initiative (11-30-11).
Santa Clara County's Children's Health Initiative (CHI) -- the nation's first universal health care program for children -- marked its 10th anniversary Nov. 30 with a fun and festive celebration at San Jose's First Unitarian Church. Vice Mayor Madison Nguyen, Council- member Sam Liccardo, Council- member Ash Kalra and leaders of the health, business, faith, labor and education communities, and families enrolled in the Healthy Kids program joined the celebration. Before CHI, which Working Partnerships developed and advocated for, one in eight children in the county was without health insurance. Today, 96 percent of county children have medical, dental and vision coverage. Watch the video below and see a slideshow of all the fun here.


Occupy Movement inspires Silicon Valley organizations to Occupy the Streets (11-9-11).
Inspired by the massive occupations across the country denouncing the corporate greed of the nation's wealthiest 1 percent, a group of Silicon Valley organizations sponsored Occupy the Streets -- a series of daily demonstrations beginning Wednesday, Nov. 9 and running through Friday, Nov. 18, to highlight local examples of rising inequality and poverty in Silicon Valley. The initial action was at Chase Bank in downtown San Jose in support of Gloria Takla, a victim of predatory lending who demanded Chase give her an affordable loan modification. Other actions will target banks, big corporations and wealthy landlords and press demands for taxing the rich, demands for jobs and more. "Working people remain in a state of crisis -- escalating levels of foreclosures, long-term unemployment, loss of retirement security, erosion of our rights at work, devastating cuts to our safety net services and an infrastructure system on the verge of collapse," the sponsoring group of labor, community and advocacy organizations said in a statement. "It's time for the rich, the banks and the big corporations in this country to pay for the damage they have done. The 99 percent have already paid enough." Sponsoring organizations include: American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Local 6157, Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), California Faculty Association (CFA), Communication Workers of America (CWA) Local 9423, Next Gen Bay Area, Sacred Heart Community Service Leaders, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Locals 521 and USWW, Silicon Valley Independent Living Center, South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council, UNITE HERE Local 19, United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) Local 5 and Working Partnerships USA.


WPUSA study: San Jose's prevailing wage has increased employment, taxes and local economic activity (5-13-11).
Over the past five years San Jose's prevailing wage policy added $164 million in economic activity, produced $1.9 million in local taxes and generated more than 1,500 local construction jobs without raising construction costs, a 14-page study published May 13 by Working Partnerships USA reveals. The study reaffirms the purpose for which the prevailing wage policy was adopted in 1988, which was to ensure equitable and sufficient wages, protect local job opportunities and stimulate the local economy. Two recent library projects in Santa Clara County – the Mitchell Park Library in Palo Alto built without prevailing wage and the Gilroy Public Library built with prevailing wage – provide a paired case study for the impacts of prevailing wage. Gilroy's library cost less per square foot, $326 to $430. And 71.2 percent of the total project value of Gilroy's library went to local contractors while only 11.7 percent of Palo Alto's expenditures remained in the local community. Download a full report in PDF format here.


Social Innovators speaker touts prevailing wage as powerful economic development tool (4-25-11).
Nationally recognized economist Peter Philips of the University of Utah described prevailing wage laws as powerful economic development tools for the communities that use them in an April 25 speech in San Jose. Philips' appearance launched the 2011 Working Partnerships Leadership Network's Social Innovators Speaker Series, hosted by the WPUSA Leadership Network and generously sponsored by PG&E. The annual Social Innovators Speaker Series, which has drawn such distinguished speakers as Civil Rights pioneer John Lewis, Congressman from Georgia, Betty Yee, member of the State Board of Equalization and Amy Dean, former WPUSA executive director, allows alumni of the WPUSA Leadership Institute and the public to hear from experts and leaders in various fields on topics of importance. You can view a slideshow of the event here.


Interfaith Council holds service for Hyatt workers (4-21-11).
Housekeepers at the Hyatt Santa Clara have been struggling for better conditions in the workplace, including lower room quotas and fitted sheets to avoid injuries from lifting heavy mattresses. They are being supported in their efforts to form a union by the Interfaith Council on Economics and Justice, a project of Working Partnerships USA. The Interfaith Council held a Passover / Holy Week service April 21, which included stories from and about the Hyatt workers. You can see an online slideshow of the service, conducted by leaders of the Jewish, Muslim and Christian faith communities, here. Green 960 AM radio interviewed Council member Rev. Debbie Weatherspoon about the service and the overall campaign. You can listen to that report here.


WPUSA's Chavez praises restoration of Children's Health funding (3-15-11).
Saying the "health of our children is too important to be allowed to drift in the economic and political winds inside City Hall," WPUSA Executive Director Cindy Chavez thanked San Jose city officials for preserving funding for the Children's Health Initiative (CHI). Working Partnerships pioneered CHI, a first-in-the-nation effort to achieve universal health insurance for children on a county-wide level, nearly a decade ago. It is the reason virtually every child in Santa Clara County has health insurance and it is the model for similar programs in a majority of California counties. CHI's funding was targeted for elimination by city budget cuts earlier this year but it is now back in the budget.


WPUSA's Bob Brownstein challenges Tea Party's American vision (2-1-11).
The Tea Party's narrative of the American Revolution as an object lesson in "excessive" taxes and government spending misses the lesson of Valley Forge, says Bob Brownstein, WPUSA's research and policy director. George Washington's Continental Army was nearly wiped out at Valley Forge during the winter of 1777-78 because Congress' poor financial support left it vulnerable to hunger, disease and a harsh winter. "A free society is not assured by a government with low taxes and budgets inadequate to face the critical tasks at hand," Brownstein wrote in The Huffington Post. "When the next viral pandemic strikes, it will not be confronted by the employees of EBay or Google but by the staff of federal agencies, county health units and city fire departments. A competitive American economy depends on teachers who struggle daily in tough urban schools. Who will regulate the financial firms whose excesses have wreaked havoc on our economy – the same private sector auditors and rating agencies who failed so outrageously in the last decade? No, the public needs its own personnel with experience and ability."


Vigil honors Congresswoman Giffords and other Arizona shooting victims (1-13-11).
Congressman Mike Honda, Cindy Chavez of Working Partnerships USA and Silicon Valley faith leaders joined in a vigil for Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and the other wounded and murdered members of the Tucson community. The vigil – sponsored by the Interfaith Council on Economics and Justice of WPUSA, the South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council and the Santa Clara County Democratic Party – was held at San Jose's First Unitarian Church. In addition to sending prayers and condolences, participants called upon all community and political leaders to tone down the vitriolic political rhetoric that has overwhelmed the rational discourse necessary for leaders to find solutions to our pressing problems. View a slideshow of the vigil here.

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