Story Archive

'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.


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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