“Fair Chances for All’ to reveal details of pending Kalamazoo City Attorney report

City commission running out of excuses to delay action on anti-discrimination plan

The Kalamazoo city commission has put off discussion of a ‘Fair Chances’ hiring ordinance until they’ve received a report from the city attorney, Clyde J. Robinson. Earlier this week, Robinson met with ‘Fair Chances for All’ (FC4A), the Michigan United group that is pushing the commission to take up the rules preventing employees from inquiring about criminal records before hiring.

Before the next commission meeting Monday, FC4A will hold a press conference to detail what they discovered in their meeting with Robinson.  FC4A members will also have another tailgate party leading up to the press conference that will include roasted meats and sidewalk art expressing their hope for their loved ones.

Once inside, FC4A members will keep up the pressure on the commission with a speakout and creative direct action during the public comment period.

Press Conference detailing FC4A’s meeting  with the Kalamazoo City Attorney and what this will mean for proposed ‘Fair Chances’ hiring ordinance.


  • Jerrin Yarbrough, Kalamazoo area student
  • Kendall Campbell, co-founder of Humans Beyond Boxes
  • Lisa Bloomberg, Kalamazoo resident
  • Amy Vliek, Director of Admissions WMU School of Social Work

Monday May 2, 2016
6:00pm Tailgate & Chalk Up
6:30pm Press Conference
7:00pm City Commission Meeting with Speak Out & ACTION

Kalamazoo City Hall,
241 W South St.
Kalamazoo, MI 49007


Fight  for $15 calls for urgent fix to child care crisis, citing new report on widespread economic benefits to national investment in quality care and workforce

As child care workers and other underpaid workers prepare for the biggest-ever protests across the country on April 14,  child care advocates and parents in the Fight for $15 reacted today to a new national study that found widespread benefits to a national investment in quality child care and higher pay for child care workers, calling on their elected leaders to invest in affordable, quality child care and a stronger workforce.

The new report by the Economic Policy Institute released this week found that a national investment that caps families’ child care expenditures at 10 percent of their income could help more women join and stay in the workforce, boosting national GDP by about $210 billion and putting $5.7 (B) billion into Michigan’s economy. Making child care affordable would also save the average Michigan family $3,888 a year. Child care providers are currently among the lowest paid workers in the country, with a median hourly wage 39.3% lower than the median hourly wage of workers in other occupations.

Audio actualities from the tele-press conference are available for download by clicking here

“It doesn’t matter how much you make, you still have to pay for quality care regardless of income. And it’s just that much harder when you can afford it.” said Tina Patterson, mother of a 3 year old girl in Detroit, Michigan. “I don’t want to compromise the quality of my child’s care, but that can be difficult given the cost of child care.”

The report also found that fixing our broken child care system would put more money into the pockets of working people and improve the quality of care. A wage of at least $15 an hour would directly raise wages for 60% of child care workers. Higher wages, the report found, would also create incentives for child care centers to invest in staff training, ultimately improving quality and strengthening the workforce. Last week, 6.5 million Californians and millions of workers in New York—where the Fight for $15 began just three and a half years ago—celebrated a historic $15/hr win, in which more than 10 million workers secured unprecedented raises from coast to coast.

“Right now, Michigan’s Child Development and Care program provides child care subsidies to low-income working families with incomes below 121% of poverty.” Said Meredith Loomis Quinlan, Michigan United Child Care Advocacy Coordinator.We are advocating for the threshold to be bumped up to 150% of the poverty line in 2017. That would mean an income of just over $30,000 for a family of three. To provide access for those families, the state would need to invest an additional $44 million into the budget for the Child Development and Care program.”

At presidential debates over the last few months from Iowa to New Hampshire to South Carolina, child care workers have been protesting and calling on candidates to back $15/hr and union rights to get their vote. Last year, child care workers and parents in the Fight for $15 met with Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on the need for economic policies that strengthen the child care workforce and invest in affordable quality child care. Congressional leaders have introduced Senate and House resolutions calling for affordable, accessible care for all families and a living wage for all child care workers.


Fight for $15 to call for urgent fix to child care crisis, citing new report on widespread economic benefits to national investment in quality care and workforce

A new report by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) released today found that a national investment that caps families’ child care expenditures at 10 percent of their income could help more women join and stay in the workforce, boosting national GDP by about $210 billion and putting $5.7 (B) billion into Michigan’s economy. Making child care affordable would also save the average Michigan family $3,888 a year.

Thursday afternoon, a telephone press conference will feature a Detroit parent and child care advocate reacting to the report and call on their elected leaders to invest in affordable, quality child care and strong workforce.

Fixing our broken child care system and paying child care providers at least $15/hr would directly raise wages for 60% of the workforce. Child care providers are currently among the lowest paid workers in the country, with a median hourly wage 39.3% lower than the median hourly wage of workers in other occupations. .

WHAT: Telephone press conference on EPI Child care report

WHO:  Tina Patterson, Detroit parent

 Meredith Loomis-Quinlan, Michigan United Child Care Advocacy Coordinator

WHEN: 1:00 P.M. Thursday April 7th, 2016

WHERE: Dial (712)775-7035, enter code 788747#

Kalamazoo City Commission puts ‘Fair Chances” discussion on hold.

Residents hold their own vote to support pro-employment idea at Monday meeting

Despite public pressure to put a ‘Fair Chances’ ordinance on the agenda, the Kalamazoo City Commission decided to wait until May when they’ve heard back from the City Attorney, Clyde Robinson on his study of effects the anti-discrimination proposal will have on the local economy. Mayor Bobby Hopewell, who usually facilitates the meeting, was conspicuously absent.

Kalamazoo took a step to address this issue in 2011 when they passed a policy that removed questions about criminal history from municipal employment applications. The Michigan United group, “Fair Chances for All” (FC4A) hopes to see it expand to the private sector as well. Anyone receiving tax abatements from the city would have to extend this courtesy to their job applicants as well.

“This is not just about passing a policy, this is about changing people’s lives.” Said FC4A member Deborah Kline. “I am one of those people. I am a proud mother of a seven year old autistic boy, and my criminal background has kept me from giving him everything I believe he deserves in life. A fair chance for me would mean a fair chance for my son’s future.”

IMG_7230Not willing to wait for the commission to take action, FC4A held a vote of people at the Monday meeting. During the public comment period, after each person had a chance to explain how a ‘Fair Chances’ ordinances would affect them, they would cast a symbolic vote. At the last meeting, the gallery was warned not to applaud during the meeting. So instead of clapping, people showed the approval for positive comments by dancing and silently striking disco poses.

Since the impact report isn’t expected to be ready before the next meeting, FC4A plans to keep up the pressure. In mid-April, they’ll return to ask each committee member to take a public stance in principle on the  ‘Fair Chances’ concept.

“We are confident our policy will move forward in a timely manner.” said FC4A member Nick Boyd. “We are serious about this policy being passed as soon as possible so that our families don’t have to wait  any longer than they have to for the opportunity to thrive. We will maintain pressure on the City Commission until this policy becomes a reality in Kalamazoo. We owe it to them.”

Immigration Rally on Eve of Historic SCOTUS Hearing

Local leaders gather, organize to promote national day of action in D.C.

Immigrant families gathered at the federal courthouse as prelude to a national rally next month on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court. The families and their supporters, including faith leaders, labor leaders and legal experts, are working to persuade the Court to rule in favor of keeping immigrant families together. The Obama Administration created Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) in 2014 to grant temporary deportation relief to eligible immigrant parents who have been in the U.S. at least five years and who have children who are U.S. citizens.

“My children and I rallied here today to build a bigger rally in April at the Supreme Court all in the hope that justices will allow us to live together,” said Reyna Garcia, an immigrant parent with American children. “President Obama created DAPA to give a ray of hope and stability to millions of families and communities like ours across the nation. It would be such a relief for the Court to uphold DAPA and lets us live without fear of separation.”GR Scotus edit

The Grand Rapids rally in support of humane immigration policy was held March 31, the day set aside to commemorate the life and achievements of civil and labor rights icon Cesar E. Chavez. The event featured Muslim and Christian clergy along with labor activists. One labor leader, Elias Vasquez, spoke of how Chavez’s leadership and vision relate to today’s struggles.

“On this day set aside to honor him, we must recall that Cesar Chavez led a movement for human dignity where all human beings had certain basic rights. There isn’t anything more basic than a family,” said Leticia Heusties, of Michigan United. “The Supreme Court should recognize that most basic human support, building block for all of society and if they do that, they will uphold DAPA, uphold the right of mothers, fathers and children to stay together.”

Job Posting: Flint Water Justice Organizer

Deadline: Candidates must apply by April 18th, 2016.

Michigan United is a statewide coalition of faith, labor, civil rights, business, and social service organizations working together for racial and economic justice through community organizing.

Michigan United is seeking dedicated staff to lead an urgent campaign in Flint Michigan.

The people of Flint have been drinking poisoned water for over a year. This is the result of extreme negligence on the part of the State of Michigan, as well as a likely cover-up. This poisoning takes place within the context of the long-term struggle faced by Flint to overcome poverty, discrimination, and out-sourcing of manufacturing jobs.

The immediate crisis and long-term needs can only be met by rapidly developing the leadership of low-income families in Flint, and advocating for just reconstruction, reinvestment and health plans.

The role of the Flint Water Organizer will be to:

  • Recruit Flint families to join campaigns to win just reconstruction, reinvestment and health programs.
  • Train impacted families to become leaders of advocacy campaigns for community needs
  • Work to support the local leadership coalition
  • Conduct strategic advocacy campaigns to win reinvestment, renewal and just water policies for Flint
  • Support ongoing door-to-door canvasses
  • Develop community education programs on the long-term impacts of lead and copper poisoning
Position requirements.

The Flint Water Organizer should:

  • Have a tireless commitment to social justice
  • Be ready to talk to strangers and ask them to take action
  • Be a self-starter who can see opportunities and seize them
  • Be ready to work in a fast-paced environment with limited supervision on urgent campaign timelines
  • Have experience and public relationships in Flint
  • Have their own reliable car – American-made cars are strongly encouraged
  • Have their own cell phone and computer
  • Be comfortable working with a diverse group of partners, members, and staff; -Be able to work with modern office software.

The position is based in Flint, Michigan. Women, people of color, and LGBTQ persons are strongly encouraged to apply. Pay for this position is commensurate with experience. This position is funded full-time for 6 months, and may be extended pending additional fundraising.

Please send resume and cover letter to: hank@miunited.org

cc: ryan@miunited.org

Subject: Flint Water Organizer

Discriminatory Drivers License Bill Moves after Public Hearing Denied

Bill is step toward Arizona style “show me your papers” law, racial profiling

Immigration reform advocates and elected leaders reacted to the denial of democracy and public input at what was supposed to public hearing on discriminatory license drivers bill. The hearing room where elected leaders discussed that SB 501 was packed because the bill has serious potential to open the door to Arizona style racial profiling. Despite the fact that dozens of people took time off to speak in opposition to the bill, lawmakers refused to hear from voters.

The bill requires those with foreign drivers’ licenses to also carry proof of lawful presence. There are many reasons why this is a bad idea.

“This bill works against local law enforcement and civilians,” said Adonis Flores of Michigan United. “Residents who “look foreign born” would be subject to racial and ethnic profiling and local cops would suddenly have to become experts on papers that show lawful presence. It’s wrong to place this burden on our police and to create more potential discrimination in law enforcement.”

Leaders wondered if elected leaders even realized how SB 501 would affect people’s lives.

“It is a scary feeling to have legislatures that do not understand the implication of the bills that they approve,” said Oscar Castaneda, Chair of the Civil Rights for immigrant’s Task force, Action of Greater Lansing. “They did not make thorough analysis of the cost of training the police force to our state. I am confident that this bill will lead to the violation of residents of Michigan civil rights.”

As a retired Lansing police officer, I have the highest respect for the difficult and dangerous work of law enforcement officers that patrol our streets every day,” said Noel Garcia, Chair of the Hispanic Latino Commission of Michigan. “Accusations of racial profiling at roadside stops have led to civil unrest across the country and increased our collective concern with the increased complexity of law enforcement and community relations. SB 501 does nothing to help. The US government issues more than 75 different types of visas that extend legal immigration status to individuals entering the United States. Does the current bill have a dedicated allocation to improve the training of law enforcement officers across the state that would now be required to avoid accusations of racial profiling at roadside traffic stops with drivers that look or sound foreign born?”

There was also outrage that the bill passed and that voters and the public were denied input and this was after the meeting was rescheduled several times.

Aida-Cuadrado-Keeping-the-Flame“We were ready to speak against SB 501 because it’s a bad deal for so many people,” said Aida Cuadrado of ACTION of Greater Lansing. “Dozens of us showed up, packed the room to have our voices heard and they denied us a chance to speak. It’s wrong to deny the democratic process and force this bill on us. We don’t want to move closer to racial profiling. We don’t want undue burden on cops trying to figure out immigration documents even if the people with foreign licenses are carrying them. This bill opens the door to discrimination in law enforcement and that’s something we need to lessen, not increase.”

“I am deeply disappointed that the house committee passed SB 501 and refused to hear testimony from the room packed with people opposed to the bill. This is another anti-immigration measure that makes our state more unwelcoming to people who can help drive our economy,” said Father Fred Thelen, co-president of ACTION of Greater Lansing and Senior Pastor of Cristo Catholic Church.

Former inmates speak in support of non-discrimination hiring policy

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) – Kalamazoo residents and former inmates spoke during Monday night’s city commission meeting, to push for a vote on a non-discriminatory hiring policy.

They’re pushing for better employment for their family members in Kalamazoo who have served their time and paid their debt to society.

Now, they are encouraging officials to take up legislation prohibiting employers who receive city tax benefits from requiring criminal background checks in order to work in most occupations.

“I know very well the fear and anxiety that goes into looking for a job knowing you have to check that box,” said City Commissioner Erin Knott. “I will continue to work with my colleagues to make sure we are creating a culture to pass a fair chance policy.”

Group Brings Message on Hiring “Ex-Offenders” to City Commission

It’s not on the agenda yet, but the Kalamazoo City Commission seems willing to explore a proposal that’s intended to help people with criminal records find jobs.

Members of the grassroots group Michigan United told the board on Monday that Kalamazoo can do something to help so-called ex-offenders find employment to support themselves and their families.

The idea is to require businesses that get tax breaks from the city to give job applicants an interview before looking into their backgrounds, so they won’t prejudge worthy candidates.

It’s an idea that many on the board embraced Monday night, including Commissioner Erin Knott, who has a minor criminal record.

“I too remember the days before I had to check the box. And I know all too well the fear and anxiety that goes into looking for a job knowing that you have to check that box,” she says.

Commissioner Shannon Sykes says the proposal makes her think of the struggles family members have experienced.

“I have a brother who I have since lost who spent some time in prison and came home and was never, ever the same,” she says.

“I have another brother who attempted to change his life and go from criminal activity to, you know, living, we would say ‘legitly.’ And ran out of patience, and committed suicide just over a year ago.

“This individual was one of the most important people in my life,” Sykes added. “And so I say that to say that I think it is fair that everybody in this room has run out of patience. Because these are real lives being affected.”

Western Michigan University student Katryce Brown told commissioners she’s worked with so-called ex-offenders. Brown says it’s important to get to know people beyond that label.

“They have real names like you and I. They have families and children just like you and I and they have dreams of being able one day to support those families and children,” she says.

The city excludes the criminal-background question from its own job applications. Supporters of a policy for tax-abatement recipients want to see it on the city’s agenda in April. But City Attorney Clyde Robinson says May is more likely, as that would give the city time to write a legally sound proposal.

Michigan United urges Kalamazoo commissioners to approve “fair chance” policy

By WKZO-AM Tuesday, March 22, 2016

KALAMAZOO – Would you hire an ex-offender? A group trying to find jobs for violators who have served their time and are trying to restart their lives made their case to the Kalamazoo City Commission on Monday.

They asked that the city require businesses that get tax breaks also remove the box on their application forms that asks about criminal histories. They’re also asking that employers refrain from doing background checks before making hiring decisions.

They also asked that commissioners have it on the next agenda.

Mayor Bobby Hopewell’s only objection was that it will take the city attorney longer than two weeks to draft the language, but they will get it done by early May. Advocates for the proposal seemed satisfied with that.

Commissioner Erin Knott urged the group to also take their request to other communites, like Portage, and the townships.