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Thu Aug 31, 2017

Barbara Kraft: From Union Household to Labor Lawyer, a Fighter for Living Wage Jobs -Washington Interfaith Network

Barbara Kraft is a member of Washington Interfaith Network’s (WIN) Strategy Team and chair of the Social Action Committee at Temple Sinai. Barbara grew up in the industrial Midwest cities of Cleveland and Detroit in a proud union household. Barbara is keenly aware of how union jobs provided stability for her family and community.

“There is a self-respect and sense of identity and self-worth that one derives from work that is meaningful and that supports one’s family.”

Barbara’s passion for living wage jobs led her to a career as a labor lawyer and then to begin volunteering with WIN to help drive WIN’s DC Water Jobs Campaign. In 2015 that campaign led to a historic agreement where DC Water committed to a goal that 51% of its new hires will be DC residents. DC Water will also open training programs to teach DC residents Skills that DC Water needs in its hires -- green infrastructure, commercial driver’s license (CDL) training, and other related skills.

In her spare time, Barbara enjoys life with her labor lawyer husband Peter, studies drawing and painting at the Washington Studio School where she currently serves as president of the board of directors, relishes her piano, and visits her rock-climbing son in Tucson and daughter who is part of a rock band in Brooklyn. WIN is grateful that Barbara is bringing her talent and passion to our Strategy Team and Jobs Team.

Wed Jul 26, 2017

Celebrating Organizer Leo Penta, “A Prophet of the Possible” -DICO

DICO held an action for Leo Penta in Berlin to celebrate his retirement from The Catholic University of Berlin. Leo remains the Director of DICO and will remain the key organizer in DICO's effort to develop 75 acres in the eastern part of Berlin. Below are the remarks of Jonathan Lange at the action.

Remarks at July 7, DICO Action:

Thirty-seven years ago, a young priest in New York decided that meaningful ministry in the then-devastated and neglected communities of East Brooklyn required -- demanded! -- a new kind of engagement.  Leo met two IAF organizers -- then-director Ed Chambers and Mike Gecan. Together with other key lay and clergy leaders, they organized a powerful Burger Platform in Brooklyn, EBC. In time, EBC, Leo and the Brooklyn leaders completely re-constructed the abandoned and under-used blocks of that area with thousands of homes for working families.  The value of those 4,000 homes and 2,000 apartments -- now equity and value retained by the African American and Hispanic buyers -- exceeds two billion dollars.

They are still building today -- on a large site called Spring Creek -- which bore, before EBC's efforts, a stunning resemblance to the land we are gathered on this evening.  It was enormous, neglected, underused.  There, like here, it took vision to imagine a whole new community of thriving individuals and families, which is emerging as we speak.

Everywhere Leo Penta has lived and worked since his Brooklyn days, he has been an evangelist of engagement and power -- a prophet of the possible. He continued to define his calling in broad and creative terms.  All of us have benefited from that.

When I needed help 25 years ago to root the Baltimore "Living Wage" campaign in the language, tradition and theology of the church, it was Leo who taught me how to do that.  When Berlin's Catholic University needed to get outside of its walls to fully teach its students, again it was Leo. And when the IAF needed to prove to itself and others that organizing universals were indeed universal, Leo proved that by introducing Community Organizing to the European Continent..

Now they tell us he is retiring, but we don't believe it. Perhaps the University has a mandatory retirement age of 65, but we don't. And Leo has so much more to do. We are so proud of our IAF brother Leo and look forward to many more years from him of practicing and teaching the art of organizing.

I personally look forward to the first ground breaking and the first house warming here on this land.  Whether one is formally religious or not, it is clear that there is a spiritual dimension -- a movement of the human spirit -- in this work.  And no person embodies that spirit more than Leo Penta.

Wed Jul 26, 2017

OCJU Holds Record-Breaking Number of Listening Sessions -Justice United

Listening sessions at the Church of the Advocate and Lattisville Grove Missionary Baptist Church

61 leaders of Orange County Justice United attended listening session training in May and pledged to engage up to 945 diverse members of their communities in discussions about the key pressures facing their families and to identify deeply felt community concerns. Listening session campaigns are used to set a new grassroots agenda for the organization and take place through a series of small or large group meetings hosted within member institutions. These discussions will lead to a new collective action agenda for Justice United in the fall. 

Wed Jul 26, 2017

FRVI Continues to Push Batavia City Council to Say YES to Mixed Income Housing Development -Fox River Valley Initiative

The Campana building, an underutilized factory building, would be used to create affordable housing in the valley

The Fox River Valley Initiative is fighting diligently to secure 8 YES votes for 80 units of mixed income housing in the city of Batavia, IL. 64 of the units would be affordable and 8 used for people with disabilities. At a recent housing forum, 140 people attended, with only 15 voices against the new development. 

Tue Jun 20, 2017

Jersey City Together Works to Prevent a Toxic Deal for Jersey City -Jersey City Together

On Monday, June 12th, about 50 Jersey City Together leaders launched a campaign to ensure the Bayfront Development (a 100-acre site owned by Honeywell International & the City of Jersey City on the west side) serves the real needs of the city, particularly local jobs & affordable housing. Leaders with ICO (an IAF organization like JCTogether) fought to clean this site up in the 1980s & 1990s, and JCT wants to ensure the best deal possible is created for Jersey City residents

Press: Jersey Journal, NJTV, Politico, Hudson Co View.

Link to Video:

Tue Jun 20, 2017

GBIO Springs into Action on Criminal Justice, Healthcare, Housing and Immigrant and Muslim Organizing -Greater Boston Interfaith Organization

Over 700 people packed Temple Israel in Boston on May 18th to support Greater Boston Interfaith Organization’s campaigns: Criminal Justice Reform, Healthcare, Affordable Housing, and “Out of Many, One” — a campaign addressing the targeting of immigrants and Muslims. Over 220 people committed to action on Criminal Justice Reform — asking friends outside Greater Boston to call their legislators, coordinating in-district meetings, or attending a public hearing. Over 140 people committed to support the “Out of Many, One” campaign, ether by attending a Bystander training or attending a Muslim Teach-In.

At the assembly, GBIO leaders also committed to building new relationships with corporate leaders. Bishop Miles, from our sister Metro IAF organization in Baltimore, shared stories of BUILD’s victories negotiating with corporate powerhouse Johns Hopkins to create jobs for returning citizens and the chronically unemployed.

Tue Jun 20, 2017

CONECT Demands Police Reforms Following Fatal Shooting of 15-Year Old -Congregations Organized for a New Connecticut

A dozen CONECT Clergy and Lay leaders gathered at the site of 15 year-old Jayson Negron's fatal shooting by a Bridgeport Police Officer with several of Jayson’s family members (his sister, aunt and cousin) to call for 1) a timely and transparent investigation, 2) the use of body and dash cameras by the Bridgeport Police Department, and 3) the prioritization of de-escalation and racial/cultural sensitivity training for all Bridgeport police officers.

CONECT called on Mayor Ganim, Police Chief Armando Perez, and State's Attorney Platt to meet with CONECT on these issues. Depending on the progress of the investigation and what it shows, CONECT may call for other changes in the future as well.

Click here for video.

Mon Jun 12, 2017

City & State NY Recognizes EBC Leader Rev. David Brawley as Champion of Affordable Housing in East New York -EBC

"In many ways, Brawley and East Brooklyn Congregations have filled a leadership vacuum in the community that would normally fall to local elected leaders.

The results they have delivered for East Brooklyn are undeniable: construction of 3,187 ultra-affordable “Nehemiah homes” and over 1,500 apartments, including an 80-unit senior living facility; the establishment of several quality charter schools; a national campaign to persuade gun manufacturers to responsibly distribute guns; a massive push for the city to repair thousands of public housing units; and dozens of other quality-of-life accomplishments, including street repairs and clean grocery stores.

You won’t find Brawley grandstanding on the steps of City Hall or taking gratuitous shots at the mayor in a show of political strength. Brawley’s philosophy is to carefully research the issues at hand, come up with pragmatic solutions and, in kind, he expects a genuine dialogue and commitment for tangible improvements from his counterparts."

Wed May 17, 2017

Metro IAF Affiliates Push for $1 Billion in Dedicated Funding Annually to Keep WMATA Moving -Metro IAF & ATU

Photo Credit:  Photos by George Duncan

Together with the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 689, Metro IAF affiliates continue to fight to save the DC region’s metro rail system. On April 27th, 400-500 members of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 689 descended on the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority (WMATA) Board meeting to protest Metro service cuts, privatization schemes, wage/benefit cuts that threaten rider safety and workers' jobs. Members packed the WMATA board meeting and dropped 4,000+ petitions right in front of WMATA General Manager and then chanted "Who moves this city?  WE MOVE THIS CITY!!!" and joined a picket outside - then formed a human chain all the way around the headquarters which spans a whole city block.

On Sunday, May 7th, leaders from five Metro IAF affiliates -- AIM, BUILD, PATH, WIN and VOICE – packed a downtown Washington, DC church to demand $1 billion a year in dedicated funding for Metro. Metro IAF proposed a mix of sales, gas and property taxes to improve the transit system, stop bus cuts, defend the jobs of 10,000 predominantly African American middle class workers and to push for affordable housing on WMATA land.

Photo Credit:  Photos by George Duncan
Wed May 17, 2017

At GBIO’s first Muslim Teach-in, over 100 commit to fighting discrimination -GBIO

120 people attended Greater Boston Interfaith Organization’s first in a series of Teach-ins, part of GBIO’s new Out of Many, One campaign which addresses the targeting of Muslims and immigrants. At the teach-in, members of GBIO and the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center (ISBCC) shared experiences of being Muslim in Boston, and Shannon Erwin and Yusufi Vali, Executive Directors of the Muslim Justice League and ISBCC respectively, gave an overview of specific threats facing the Muslim community. Over 100 interfaith donors committed to making a symbolic donation to the ISBCC or other Muslim organizations, as part of a campaign to interfere with the targeting of Muslims through the tracking of donor lists. 6-8 additional teach-ins will be held over the next several months.

Wed May 17, 2017

Berlin Affiliate, DICO, Pushes Local Government to Support Affordable Housing Vision -Berlin Germany

 As part of the ongoing campaign by the three Berlin DICO-affiliates to develop large-scale affordable housing, some 90 leaders gathered on a 74-acre underutilized industrial riverfront site to envision its potential and meet the owner. The currently underused 74 acres can be transformed into a new community including some 3,200 units of housing, as well as a school, kindergardens and public spaces. DICO is pushing the Boro of Treptow-Köpenick to support its vision.  The Boro continues to oppose the project despite supporting luxury housing development in the vicinity.

Wed May 17, 2017

WIN Leaders, Former Temple Courts Resident Share Importance of Affordable Housing in DC -WIN

WIN leaders, Nathan Brown and John Ducey, sat down with radio host, Kojo Nnamdi, on April 26th to discuss Temple Courts, affordable housing that was knocked down 8 years ago and still has not been rebuilt. As a former resident, Brown spoke of the importance of having a seat at the table as the developer selection process moves forward.

Wed May 17, 2017

In Boston, GBIO leaders push for Criminal Justice Reform -GBIO

Over 30 GBIO leaders attend statehouse rally as Lawmakers call for broader criminal justice reforms.
Over 30 GBIO leaders attend statehouse rally as Lawmakers call for
broader criminal justice reforms.

GBIO leaders have organized 7 In-District Meetings with 23 MA State Senators and Representatives to build support for 4 key reforms to the criminal justice system: repealing mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses, pretrial and bail reform, reducing/eliminating fees and fines, and shortening length of time spent in solitary confinement. 50 GBIO leaders stepped up to organize teams, invite and build relationships with these legislators, invite congregants and constituents, and run great actions. GBIO now plans on taking that work to the rest of the state through denominational allies. 

Thu May 4, 2017

Common Ground Holds First Bi-Lingual Delegates' Assembly -Common Ground

Common Ground held a landmark action on April 26, conducting its first bilingual Delegates’ Assembly at the largest Latino parish in Milwaukee, St. Adalbert’s, located on the south side. 44 organizations and 750 leaders of all ages and backgrounds were represented, each dedicated to making Milwaukee a better place for everyone to live.

Common Ground’s presence has grown on the south side over the past year, thanks to dedicated leaders from our South Side caucus. These leaders made major contributions to Common Ground by increasing the number of south side member organizations and by organizing the 40/40 Group. The 40/40 Group is dedicated to training young community leaders on how to make change in their community using Common Ground’s social justice methods. Common Ground needs young community leaders like these for the vitality, savvy and dedication they bring now, and to ensure that Common Ground continues to gain power in the future.

Wed Apr 26, 2017

LI-CAN Launches Opioid Fight -Long Island Congregations and Neighborhoods


1300 people jammed a high school gym on Long Island on April 26 to launch LI-CAN's campaign on the opioid crisis.  Concrete pledges of action were made by 23 congregations, 6 public school districts, and 207 high school students as part of LI-CAN's Covenant to End the Opioid Epidemic.  At its next major event, in October, LI-CAN will ask corporate and political leaders to make specific contributions to help end an epidemic that claimed 493 lives on Long Island in 2016.  Days after the event, LI-CAN leaders stood with Sen. Charles Schumer to applaud Schumer’s push for new federal legislation to help stem the flow of deadly fentanyl into the U.S.

Tue Apr 25, 2017

Common Ground: Training Offered in Spanish for Latino Leaders in Milwaukee -Common Ground

Organizers from Common Ground and sister Metro IAF affiliate in North Carolina, Durham CAN, trained 35 Latino leaders in Spanish at St. Adalbert’s, the largest Latino Catholic church in the state. The 35 leaders committed to turn out 300 people to Common Ground’s upcoming Delegates Assembly to increase the power needed to secure a meeting with the Chief of Police.

Tue Apr 25, 2017

Manhattan Together & South Bronx Churches: Fighting for a Better Special Education Data System in NYC -MT & SBC

On March 19th, over 400 Manhattan Together (MT) and South Bronx Churches (SBC) leaders gathered with New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer to push the City Government for action to improve their broken Special Education data system and to push for more repairs in the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) apartments. The Comptroller also promised to work together to expand programs for children with Autism and ensure new potential funding for NYCHA is paired with accountability to make sure the money helps tenants.  

New leaders also presented the organizations' campaigns on immigration and homelessness. So far in 2017, MT and SBC have held two legal clinics and four know your rights sessions, connecting with over 500 immigrants and their families. New immigrant leaders who have come forward through these sessions are helping to shape our April 30th Action with NYPD Commissioner O'Neill and work beyond that.

The Assembly was covered by the New York Daily News, 1010 Wins, and The Villager.

Tue Apr 25, 2017

In Boston, GBIO Fights Back Against Discrimination -GBIO

At Greater Boston Interfaith Organization’s April 4 Delegates Assembly, over 175 leaders unanimously ratified GBIO’s new campaign: Out of Many, One, designed to fight the targeting of Muslims, Jews, Immigrants, and other minority communities. Those attending committed to bringing over 900 people to GBIO’s May action.

The goals of the Out of Many, One campaign are (1) to support the Safe Communities Act, which protects Massachusetts residents’ civil rights by making sure our tax dollars are not used to deport immigrant families or create a Muslim registry, and (2) to support the Muslim community through a series of Teach-Ins at Muslim, Christian, and Jewish congregations throughout Greater Boston. At these Teach-Ins, participants will share and listen to stories about the specific threats facing the Muslim community, and will learn what MA residents can do to support their Muslim neighbors.

GBIO also sent a delegation of 12 leaders to attend the Metro IAF March 2017 key leaders meeting held in Baltimore to further address fighting discrimination as a larger Metro IAF collective.

Tue Apr 25, 2017

BUILD: Baltimore Youth Hold Mayor Accountable -BUILD

Founded by BUILD and NO Boundaries Coalition, the Baltimore Youth Organizing Project (BYOP) turned out 150 youth and accompanying adults to a Mayoral Accountability action to hold Mayor Catherine Pugh accountable to her campaign promises of 1000 year-round jobs for youth, fully funding recreation centers & community schools, and school funding.  The youth demanded – and got – recognition from the Mayor. Because of the disciplined and persistent pressure from youth, the Mayor committed to work with BYOP on the BUILD One Baltimore agenda and to continue to build a relationship between the Mayor and BUILD/BYOP.

Tue Apr 25, 2017

United Power for Action & Justice: 150 Leaders Trained in Chicago Metropolitan Area -UPAJ

During the last two weekends in February, United Power trained 150 leaders in four organizing workshops to help new and existing leaders assess the current political moment and learn from organizing strategies of United Power and other IAF affiliates. Leaders used these lessons as they developed organizing and action strategies for different regions of Cook County in March & April.

Tue Apr 25, 2017

East Brooklyn Congregations: Leaders Demand Safety, Housing Repairs from NYCHA and Transportation Commissioner -DNA Info

When Brooklyn Director and his managers refused to meet with 200 NYCHA tenants from four developments because the Director’s office could not afford the one hour of overtime, residents decided to act. The action from the Director’s office demonstrated an obvious lack of respect for their tenants. Thus ensued four days of action by EBC and tenants to confront NYCHA managers.  EBC sent a delegation to the Hope Gardens development office to confront the manager for not showing-up. Fr. Hoffman led a group of 25 people, and again, the manager refused to meet with them.

The group conducted a phone bank in the lobby with tenants calling 25 executives and managers from NYCHA, starting with the Chairwoman, and asked the managers to fix the intercom at 120 Menahan Street. EBC ran this action in response to recently posted letters instructing tenants to "call-in" about an intercom that had been broken for over a decade. The logic was that if managers wanted tenants to call rather than meet face to face, that's exactly what EBC would do.

The manager eventually emerged and was furious at the scene. He and his superior offered to take individual complaints, but the group refused to be bought off.

EBC also confronted the Transportation Commissioner, Polly Trottenberg. More than 225 leaders and students from 14 institutions, including a large contingent from Epiphany Lutheran School, came out to force Trottenberg to publicly commit to meet with EBC on Thursday, May 4th.  During that meeting, EBC will continue to build a better relationship and begin to get commitments for much needed speed bumps, traffic lamps and street lamps.  

Overall, within four days, 500 leaders took action on NYCHA, transportation and sanitation.

Mon Apr 24, 2017

Durham CAN Takes Steps to Repossess and Redevelop Vacant Land for Neighborhood Revitalization -Durham CAN

517 leaders secured commitments from city officials to repossess a 20+ acre vacant site that a for-profit Philadelphia company has failed over the last 10 years to redevelop and to address neighborhood crime, blighted properties, deteriorated playgrounds, etc.  Durham CAN seeks to redevelop the 20+ acre site into affordable housing, small local retail, and a grocery store.

Nearly a decade has passed since land at Fayette Place became vacant, and residents of this community are still living and worshiping in close proximity to the largest undeveloped downtown transit-oriented site in Durham. It has languished as an eyesore in the heart of the historic Hayti community. Brenda Bradsher, a lifelong resident of this community said, "We kept waiting and waiting to see what would happen, and nothing happened,".

Neighbors also addressed issues of crime, blighted properties and deteriorated playgrounds.

Watch the video HERE.

Read more here:

Sun Mar 26, 2017

In Fight Against Mega-Landlord, Leaders Win Long Overdue City Housing Inspections -Jersey City




On Sunday, March 26th, 175+ tenant & Jersey City Together leaders gathered at St Paul's Episcopal Church to hold one of the city's largest landlords - Trendy Management - accountable. The owner, Esther Kaplan, had promised to attend, but cancelled at 12pm the day of the action. After tours of one of their buildings with leaders, press, & public officials, the city has begun systematically investigating their buildings. Inspections of the first 6 of their properties have resulted in more than 325 violations. The company owns more than 140 rent-controlled apartment buildings in Jersey City.


"Mold and Flooding, but no heat: Residents unite to take on Mega Landlord"

Jersey Journal (Caitlin Mota)


"Jersey City Together Group helping tenants hold management company accountable"

Jersey City Independent (Ricardo Kaulessar)


"Mega-Landlord hit with 100+ violations after residents rally for action"

Jersey Journal (Caitlin Mota)


"Here's hoping mayor keeps promise to hold mega-landlord accountable" (Op-Ed)

Op-Ed (Earl Morgan), Jersey Journal


"Another 200+ violations issued to Jersey City mega-landlord"

Jersey Journal (Caitlin Mota)


Wed Mar 22, 2017

Greater Cleveland Congregations (GCC) Fighting to Create a Community Equity Fund -Cleveland

GCC loaded up three busloads of leaders and held a 175-person outside the corporate headquarters of Quicken Loans in Detroit.  The action was done together with our ally organization in Detroit, DRIVE (Detroit Regional Interfaith Voice for Equity) and focused on engaging Dan Gilbert, owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, in bringing fairness to the proposed deal to spend $160 million in public funding to build a new glass atrium on the outside of Quicken Loans Arena, where the Cavaliers play.  As part of the deal to upgrade the Q, GCC is fighting to create a Community Equity Fund, which would provide a dollar-for-dollar match of all public money in deal and direct it towards areas of critical importance in Cleveland: jobs for the unemployed, mental health and addiction support, and capital projects in distressed neighborhoods.      
Tue Mar 14, 2017

IAF's Mike Gecan: Baltimore's Turnaround Tuesdays change lives -Baltimore Sun

Only 43 miles separate Zion Baptist Church in Baltimore from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in our nation's capital, but it would be hard to imagine two more different — and culturally distant — places.

For two hours on a recent Tuesday morning, I sat in on what is called Turnaround Tuesday — a creation of a citizens organization, Baltimoreans United In Leadership Development and an affiliate of the group I co-direct, the Industrial Areas Foundation. Seventy five residents were in their chairs at 9:00 a.m. sharp to participate in a program that was one part AA meeting, one part religious service, one part boot camp, one part job-preparedness training and all parts remarkable. Turnaround Tuesday had been operating for two years, based on BUILD's effective local organizing and the commitment of Baltimore's premier anchor institution, the Johns Hopkins University and Hospital, to hire hundreds of residents returning from prison or jail. To date, 274 people have already been hired to living wage jobs, and scores more are in the pipeline.