President Obama & Congress: Tax US!

In the State of the Union address, President Obama called for strengthening tax benefits for middle class and low-income working families, and for investing more in child care, early education, and higher education, including making the first two years of community college free. 99 percent of the impact of the President’s tax reform proposal would be on the top 1 percent, and more than 80 percent would come from the top 0.1 percent (those with incomes over $2 million). Responsible Wealth is gathering signatures in support of the President's plan.

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State of the Dream 2015: Underbanked and Overcharged

This Martin Luther King, Jr. day, UFE is excited to release it's annual State of the Dream Report, titled "Underbanked and Overcharged." This report finds that access to banks in communities of color cost each unbanked household $3,029 per year, taking $103 billion out of the communities that need it most.

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Fear < Hope: A Letter from our Board Chair

People Power
Dear Friends and Supporters of UFE,

You and UFE know that 2015 is going to be a challenging year. But all over the country people are rising up - workers, young people, artists, activists and educators - challenging economic and racial oppression and building grassroots power. 


Here's what's in the works just for January. Drumroll please! 

Coming right up on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we'll be releasing our 12th annual State of the Dream report, entitled "Underbanked and Overcharged." This year's report examines the racial aspects of the 93 million adults and children that live in unbanked and underbanked households, and who collectively pay out $89 billion in service fees and interest - over $2,000 per household - to payday lenders, check cashers and other predatory lenders.  We also explore potential solutions to this crisis, and we will announce a major organizing effort that will begin to work toward this ambitious change.  

And in 2015, with your support, we'll be devoting a major part of our resources towards Popular Economic Education and partnerships with low-wage worker organizers. 

The first weekend inJanuary our Popular Economics Education Team will be in Florida to lead our intensive Training of Trainers for the Rural Coalition/Caucus of the Equal Voice for Florida Families Network, a coalition of low-wage workers and tax fairness organizers that includes the Farmworker Association of Florida, Farmworker's Self-Help, the North Florida Education and Development Corporation, the Young American Dreamers. 

This is just a sampling of the many ways that you and UFE will be challenging the current economic and political power structure and working with allies all over the country to build a more sustainable, resilient and equitable economy. 


Thank you! 

Monique Nguyen
Board Chair, United for a Fair Economy
 

P.S. Here's what your gift can do: 

$25 = 1 hour of translation of UFE racial wealth divide workshop materials

$50 = 250 bilingual cards handed out highlighting the concentration of wealth inequality and what we believe a Fair Economy should look like

$100 = 50 of UFE’s annual State of the Dream Report in the hands of local economic justice organizers with resources on how to incorporate it into their work

$500 = Intensive Training of Trainers scholarship for low-wage grassroots organizer

$1000 = Full scholarship for attendee of Raise the Roots national organizing conference

$5000 = Make the Raise the Roots Conference fully accessible, regardless of language

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Imagine

“Imagining solutions,” the title of one of the many incredible conversations held last weekend at the annual conference of the National Alliance of Latinoamerican and Caribbean Communities (NALACC). “We chose the word ‘imagine’ deliberately,” explained Oscar Chacon, Executive Director of the Alliance.  “We are often told we need to accept the world as it is.” Organizers and activists gathered from around the country, as well as from Mexico and Central America, to reflect on ten years of work together and to chart a path towards a world as we imagine it should be.

United for a Fair Economy attended in support of the alliance and the incredible work being done by organizers and activists across the country.  NALACC is made up of Latino immigrant-lead organizations who are engaged in an inclusive struggle for social, economic and racial justice.  They are on the front lines, challenging the concentration of wealth and power.  Their work is vital to forming a movement that will build a more just society, a fair economy.  With the incredible challenges faced by immigrants in the U.S. and the violence and economic destitution that force many to migrate, we must hold our imaginations close.  

And as we imagine, we must also speak.  “The words we use create our reality,” said panelist Maria Elena Letona, Executive Director of Neighbor to Neighbor, a state-based economic and social justice organization in Massachusetts.  Following presentations from academics, journalists and activists, conference attendees divided into working groups to discuss what they heard and to plan.  United for a Fair Economy’s education team facilitated an extended dialogue on economic inequality.  This dialogue-based approach to organizing gave an opportunity to everyone attending to take ownership in the creation of a new reality.

“We have to talk about power,” insisted Miguel Huezo-Mixco, who flew in from El Salvador representing the United Nations Development Program.  He wasn’t only talking about the extreme concentration of wealth and power that organizations like NALACC and UFE seek to challenge, but also the power we harness to confront injustice. “How do we exercise power together?” he asked.

The NALACC facilitation team documented people’s responses in order to create a plan for building power over the years to come.  Organizers also offered a specific way in which power could be used to protect the human rights and dignity of immigrants across the country:  “Mr. President, use the power of the pen” read a banner on the stage in front.  It is the title of a campaign to put pressure on President Obama to use executive action to halt deportations.  The effort reflects the incredible imagination of the strong and committed immigrant organizers.  In spite of significant barriers placed by inequality, they have imagined a world in which people, immigrant and non-immigrant, are valued for their unique social, cultural and economic contributions to this country and to the world.  President Obama is planning to announce an immigration enforcement overhaul that could protect as many as five million immigrants from the threat of deportation.  This is thanks to an effort lead by immigrant activists and organizers across the country like those at NALACC, like the #not1more campaign, and many others waging the fight for justice.  United for a Fair Economy is proud to stand by their side.

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Next Tuesday, let your principals guide you

 

Next week, on November 4thanother election day will be upon us.  While we do not believe that voting alone will bring about the change that we need to achieve economic justice, it is one step towards building a movement that is needed for radical change to occur. And let’s not be fooled—radical change is needed in this country.


From Ferguson to Seattle.

From Durham to Providence.

From Miami to Detroit.

From your community to ours...


Change is needed to reach past the powers that be and build a movement for transformative economic justice.

 

When you enter your polling location next Tuesday, we ask you to think about your guiding principals. We at UFE have put a lot of thought towards our guiding principals, and we wanted to share some of them with you.

 

We believe that a fair economy is built around:

  • Jobs with dignity and living wages, where workers have the democratic right to organize and share the wealth produced by their labor.
  • A robust public sectorthat works for the common good, funded through progressive taxes and accountable to the people.
  • Equal opportunity and equal justice for people who have been marginalized in our society based on gender, sexual orientation, race, nationality, and social class.
  • Sustainability and equity, where individuals do not accumulate excesses of wealth to the detriment of others or the planet. 

We each have our own principals that help guide us down the path of justice. We shared ours. Take from them, add to them or use your own. But when you vote next week, let those principals be your compass.  With these principals, we are on the path to justice. 

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United With Ferguson: Racial Divides and Wealth

For the past few weeks, the nation’s attention has focused on an unlikely epicenter of race relations, a Quik-Trip convenience store about fifteen miles north of St. Louis. It was there that 18-year-old Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, was gunned down by a white police officer, and it is there that a groundswell of sympathy and frustration has prompted the community, and nation, to act. The town of Ferguson was rocked by this tragic event, and has responded in an incredible way – by organizing. In addition to memorials, people are setting up voter registration tables, and this moment is on its way to becoming a movement with racial inequity at the heart of the conversation.


We believe that, in the words of Frederick Douglas, “power concedes nothing without a demand.” We at United for a Fair Economy have a very simple demand: let’s build an economy that works for Ferguson, and for the south side of Chicago, and for everywhere in between. Let’s build a system that provides the same level of economic stability for communities of color as exists in middle class suburbs or affluent communities. Just as racial profiling is at the heart of this tragic event, the racial wealth divide should be a part of this conversation, and that is something that we’ve been working to bring into public consciousness for over a decade.


We understand that systemic racism will always exist as long as our economy doesn’t match our ideals. That’s why we were founded twenty years ago with a simple goal: to work towards a fair economy. We live up to this ambitious mission, and our name says it all.

We are united to build an economy that provides equal opportunity and equal justice for people who have been marginalized in our society based on race, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, or social class.

We are united to build an economy that creates jobs with dignity, that provide living wages, and where workers have the democratic right to organize and share the wealth produced by their labor.

We are united to create a robust public sector that works for the common good, funded through progressive taxes, and accountable to the people, and together, we will build this economy in a way that is sustainable and equitable for future citizens of our planet.


We remain vigilant, and our hearts are with those building a movement in Ferguson, in Queens, NY, and every other community that has been rocked by violence.

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Walmart’s check-cashing service is another way of preying

AN AUG. 5 editorial praised Walmart for providing nontraditional banking options for the “underbanked” in select stores. While offering simple financial services such as low-cost check cashing sounds like a good idea, we are left to wonder what is motivating the largest retailer in the world to enter into this business.

On the surface this looks like Walmart is providing a needed service to the community, but we don’t need to dig deep to see that this is another strategy to increase profits.

While we believe that there is a great need for affordable and accessible banking options, we support offering these services through an established public institution: the US Post Office. This option would address the needs of the financially excluded, provide banking options to working-class communities and communities of color, ease the financial burden of being poor, and ensure that wage earners can provide for their family without being preyed upon by businesses.Ben Jackson, a financial analyst for Mercator Advisory Group, recently told Forbes, “The big strategy is capturing people’s wallets as soon as they are filled. If a customer’s wallet is filled at a Walmart store, then it’s likely the customer will do some incremental shopping there too.” While this motivation may seem different from that of payday lenders that charge outlandish fees, in both cases they are driven by profiting off of low-income consumers.

Michael Young
Director, Tax FairnessOrganizing Collaborative
United for a Fair Economy

Russ Davis
Executive director
Massachusetts Jobs with Justice

Printed 8/14/13 in the Boston Globe

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October 2014: UFE Training of Trainers at Highlander

 Training of Trainers

UFE's Training of Trainers Institute involves exploring the causes and consequences of income and wealth inequality and providing participants with educational tools to help inform their communities and inspire political action.

Transformative education—which includes reflection, thoughtful analysis, and learning from each other—is vital to the success of any movement for social and economic justice. In order to challenge the economic status quo, we first need to make sense of the roots of inequality and, more broadly, the ways in which systems create and perpetuate class, race, and gender inequality. Working toward a shared understanding of how we got here and a shared vision for the future will help us build a cross-race, cross-class movement for an equitable, democratic, and sustainable economy.

Our Popular Economics Education Team is once again co-hosting UFE's renowned Training of Trainers Institute in October 2014 in New Market, TN, with the Highlander Center (details below). We invite organizers, activists, educators, students, and others across the U.S. who want to join and advance the movement for a just economy, to attend.

Jeannette Huezo, Steve Schnapp, and Riahl O'Malley, UFE's Education Coordinators, will help you learn how to engage people in dialogue through UFE-style popular economics education workshops that demystify the economy and creatively educate, inspire, and mobilize people to take political action.

DATE:
Thursday, October 23 – ­Sunday, October 26, 2014
On-site check-in from 3:00–6:00 p.m. on October 23, 2014;
The Institute ends at 1:30 p.m.  on October 26.

LOCATION:
Highlander Research and Education Center (Newmarket, TN)
Located in the foothills of the beautiful Smoky Mountains, about an hour from the McGhee Tyson Airport near Knoxville.

 

About the Institute

IT IS RIGHT FOR YOU IF YOU ARE:
•  An organizer, leader, activist, teacher, or trainer engaged in campaigns for economic or social justice, and/or
•  If you are seeking to improve your training and facilitation skills in order to more effectively present information and engage people in dialogue about the economy.

YOU WILL LEARN ABOUT:
•  National economic trends and the rules, policies, and structures that make the economy a disaster for most of us and a goldmine for a few
•  Viewing the economy through race and gender lenses;
•  Some history about popular resistance to economic inequality in the U.S.;
•  Strategies to build a powerful social movement that will address the economic divides; and Principles and practices of popular education.

YOU WILL HAVE OPPORTUNITIES TO: 
•  Work in small groups to plan and practice leading either UFE's or original popular economics education workshop activities;
•  Receive constructive feedback on how to effectively present workshops and lead productive discussions on economic inequality; 
•  Discuss how to best adapt UFE's materials to your communities and constituents;
•  Practice responding to challenging questions and difficult workshop situations; and
•  Network, build solidarity and open doors for collaboration with others working for economic justice.

THE PROGRAM INCLUDES PRESENTATIONS OF CREATIVE AND ENGAGING ACTIVITIES FROM UFE'S WORKSHOPS, INCLUDING: 
•  The Growing Divide - The Roots of Economic Security
•  Closing the Racial Wealth Divide
•  Immigration and the Growing Divide

SCHEDULE AND REGISTRATION:
•  Participants should arrive at Highlander on Thursday, October 23, between 3:00 and 6:00 p.m.; the program begins after dinner on Thursday and concludes after lunch on Sunday, October 26.
•  Sessions are conducted in the mornings, afternoons, and evenings.
•  Breaks are provided throughout the day to allow participants to catch their breath, reflect on and network with other participants.

Registration fee is based on a sliding scale (see below) and includes the Institute fee, materials, meals, and room/board (double occupancy). Transportation is NOT included. A minimum $25 deposit is required with your application. Payment in full is due one week before the start of the Institute. We offer additional reductions to organizations sending two or more participants.

Space is limited and preference is given to applicants who are able to attend the full Institute. Some materials, including a detailed agenda for the Institute, short readings, and logistical information, will be sent to all registrants prior to the training to help participants prepare for the Institute.

 

Organization Budget   Attendee Fee
$500,000 and higher   $500
$250,000-500,000   $400
$100,000-$250,000   $300
Less than $100,000   $200

 

 


 

 


Still Undecided? Watch this video from one of our previous Training of Trainers.

UFE's Training of Trainers Institute: A Reflection from United for a Fair Economy on Vimeo.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Contact Jeannette Huezo (jhuezo@faireconomy.org, 857-277-7881) or Steve Schnapp (sschnapp@faireconomy.org, 857-277-7868) or Riahl O'Malley (romalley@faireconomy.org, 827-277-7868 x127).

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A Victory for Rights in Massachusetts

The UFE Team goes to the MA State House to support the Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights.

On Wednesday, July 2, the UFE team joined our sisters at MataHari: Eye of the Day – an organization of women of color, immigrant women and families that works to end exploitation and gender-based violence – at the Massachusetts State House for a momentous occasion: the signing of the Massachusetts Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights

The bill guarantees basic protections and standards for domestic workers: 24 hours off per 7-day calendar week and 48 hours off per month; meal and rest breaks; limited vacation and sick days; parental leave; protection from discrimination, sexual harassment, illegal charges for food and lodging, and eviction without notice; notice of termination; and a means of enforcing these standards. MataHari and the rest of the MA Coalition for Domestic Workers have been working on and advocating for the bill since 2011 and were instrumental in its passage.UFE is proud to have worked with MataHari, using our signature Training of Trainers program and other workshops to provide tools and techniques to enhance their organizing and advocacy efforts. Over the last year, and funded in part by a grant from The Berger-Marks Foundation, UFE’s Jeannette Huezo led a series of interactive workshops for MataHari on organizing strategies, leadership development, contracts and negotiations, immigration policies and reforms, and the Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights. This bill was a victory for workers’ rights and equality, and we are proud to support the cause.

The signing was an exciting and proud event. It began with speeches from Lydia Edwards of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, Governor Deval Patrick, and Attorney General Martha Coakley. Then two domestic worker activists (including MataHari’s Angella Foster) shared their experiences and spoke about the importance of the bill. Next, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and Senator Anthony W. Petruccelli (sponsor of the bill) spoke to the crowd. Finally, Governor Patrick signed the bill and the celebrations began.

I interviewed MataHari’s Director, Monique Nguyen Belizario, about the bill. Here’s what she had to say…

Q: What does the passage of this bill mean for domestic workers in Massachusetts?


 Governor Deval Patrick poses with domestic worker activists, including MataHari director and UFE board member Monique Nguyen Belizario (right front, with nametag)

A: It means recognition and respect for the important work that domestic workers do. For so long domestic workers have been marginalized and left out of these conversations. In the 1930s and 40s when labor laws were being written in the U.S., domestic workers were left out because many were freed black slaves and they wanted to be able to continue to exploit them. That injustice still has not been completely made right to this day, so this bill is a big step. It provides a lot of rights that most workers take for granted. This is also a feminist issue, since most domestic workers are women and domestic work is a commodified version of women’s traditional role in the household.

Q: How long has MataHari been working toward passage of this bill?

A: The campaign has been going on for about 4 years. The legislation was introduced a year ago. Before that, MataHari did a lot of work with the MA Coalition for Domestic Workers. MataHari has historically always done work with domestic workers. At first, MataHari was working on individual cases of exploitation, but after a few years of that there was a shift to community organizing – survivors wanted to make things right and seek justice.

Q: What was the greatest challenge along the way?

A: Working in the coalition. Organizing is already a challenge – you have to balance making your own organization strong and powerful to get what you want while maintaining your own identity, but also being able to bend and negotiate and collaborate with other groups, legislators, etc.

Q: What are the next steps for MataHari and for domestic workers’ rights nationally?

A: For MataHari, the next step is implementation – passing a law is the glamorous part and many groups stop there, but we are working for social transformation. We’re working now on the “Make It Real” campaign – base building, having conversations with workers and employers, getting commitment from cities to support the bill and offer resources for implementation. After months of work from our Lynn team the city passed a resolution to support implementation of the Bill of Rights in their city. We want to expand on that and work on the local level – it’s up to each local group to decide how they will make it real.

Nationally, there is a push for the federal government to do something about it. The state level work shows groundswell and our sister organizations in other states are contemplating pushing in their own states for something similar, but this should be federal work. In 2010 the International Labour Organization adopted its Convention on Domestic Workers, and 15 countries have signed on, but the U.S. has not. The U.S. should sign on to the Convention and respect the rights of women in our country.

Blog post written and translated by Aliza Partlan, Development Intern.

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A View from the Field

“We’re stronger if we work together.”  The resolve in her voice was palpable.  What began as a conversation about the hazards of over-exposure to pesticides in farmwork turned into something much more.  In revealing common experience among farmworkers and examining root causes of their struggles this small group began to speak about the necessity of immigrant communities working together to make real change.  It became education for movement building.

The mini-workshop was part of a weekend-long “Training of Trainers”, the first I attended as Education Coordinator with United for a Fair Economy. The Equal Voice for Florida’s Families Coalition invited UFE to facilitate the event.  The topic: using the principles and practices of popular education in organizing for social justice.  Attending were farmworkers, undocumented students, and African-American organizers working in solidarity with Latino immigrant communities.  The room was filled with wisdom and experience.

As part of the training fellow UFE educator Jeannette Huezo led the group in a series of exercises that demonstrated the growing economic divide in the U.S.  In one activity ten of us sat on ten chairs lined horizontally in front of the room.  Before we knew it nine people were squished together, stuck sharing three chairs.  I had seven all to myself.  This, she explained, represents the reality of economic inequality in the U.S.  While 70% of the population shares 10% of the wealth, the richest 10% has 90% of the wealth.  “What do you see happening?” Jeannette asked those who were piled up on top of one another.  “It isn’t fair!” one person shouted.  “He has more than he can even use!” another person said.

After a few more activities we split into small groups so that participants could have a turn developing their own workshops.  This is when three organizers with the Association of Florida Farmworkers decided to rehearse their workshop on pesticide exposure.  Though each organizer knew a great deal on the hazards of farm work they worked with UFE facilitators to craft a series of questions for the group so that participants could draw their own conclusions.  In the course of our discussion it became clear to all of us: the risk of chemical exposure is linked to the vulnerabilities and struggles of being an immigrant in the United States. 

While important content was relayed the information wasn’t what gave this space meaning.  These organizers could have rattled off methods of prevention, just as Jeannette could have lectured on rising inequality.  But instead they drew from the experience in the room: the experience of having declining wages, no health care, no retirement, of facing the risk of being separated from one’s family because of deportation.  The conversation opened a bigger question: why do the growers sit on more wealth than they can use while those who work hard and risk their health live in poverty? 

We all left the weekend energized for the work ahead, with the analysis and relationships necessary to forge a movement to uproot inequality.  It made me proud to be a part of the team at United for a Fair Economy and proud to support and learn from activists and advocates who are leading us towards a more just future.

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