Groups gather in Detroit to honor, demand justice for Missouri teen Michael Brown

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From the Detroit News

On a day where many in the nation watched mourners at the funeral of a teen shot to death by a Missouri police officer earlier this month, community groups in Detroit held their own prayer vigil to honor the victim.

About 75 people gathered Monday evening in front of the McNamara Building in Detroit for the event called “To Ferguson from Detroit with Love” after Michael Brown was eulogized in St. Louis before more than 4,500 people.

The black 18-year-old was unarmed when he was shot to death by a white police officer Aug. 9 in Ferguson, Missouri.

The local gathering was intended to show that Detroit cares and understands, said Elder Leslie Matthews from Triumphant Life Christian Church.

“Not only do we feel your pain, we’re asking, we’re demanding, and we’re going to walk, talk by whatever means necessary to get justice for Michael Brown,” Matthews said. “He doesn’t have a life anymore, but he can and he will get justice.”

Among those represented were other members of the clergy and organizations including Michigan United, Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality and United Here. The attendees were diverse in religious background and race.

Several pastors led the group in prayer during the event, which lasted a little more than an hour. The vigil also included songs and a dance performance.

Some held signs that read “Justice for Michael Brown” and “Ferguson our prayers are with you.”

Sarah Terrien, 27, of Hamtramck said the shooting was unfair and confusing.

“We need to stand together to show support,” she said. “It could happen here. It could happen anywhere.”

cwilliams@detroitnews.com
(313) 222-2311

April 28, 2014 #risingvoices

This weekend 70 Michigan United members and volunteers attended the National People’s Action 2014 Conference in Washington, DC. The conference focused on skills building and training and wrapped up on Monday with a series of actions on General Electric and Georgia-Pacific. More than 1,500 people took the streets and chanted together their messages directly at the large corporations that need to pay their #fairshare of taxes instead of off-shoring that much needed revenue. That tax revenue would pay for roads and schools. We know that the deficit narrative is a false one and that the truth is that we have a revenue issue. We then marched down to the White House to support an NPA and National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) action to stop unnecessary deportations. 13 women, half of them undocumented, were arrested in front of the White House when they took a stand and said #not1more. The action was solemn and was marked by the constant beat of a drum that beat 1,100 times to signify the 1,100 deportations that take place each day.

The day concluded with two congressional meetings with Representative Upton and Representative Peters. Michigan United had requested a meeting with Rep. Peters’ legislative staffer. The group decided that we would not being leaving Washington, DC without showing our numbers and asking Rep. Peters for a meeting with him in Michigan and also asking to be at the table when a meeting with DHS Secretary Johnson takes place in Michigan. Fifty-five people signed a letter and did a very respectful letter drop-off. Members were able to secure an on the spot meeting with Representative Peters’ staff, David Weinberg, Miriam Cuevas and Josue T. were able to talk about issues that affect Dreamers and undocumented workers in Oakland County courts. Sam Johnson talked about corporate tax loopholes. With a show of hands, we demonstrated that everyone in the room were voters, registers voters, recruits volunteers, and also helped to get out the vote.  The meeting highlighted Michigan United priorities and campaigns and also provided us the opportunity to make our requests face to face.

The action was pulled off with short-notice and members were fatigued after walking more than 5 miles earlier that day, but they still wanted to mobilize to get our voices heard!  When debriefing the meeting, members stated that they felt heard and respected!  Never underestimate the power of a team with the want and the will to be heard!  Are we M-I United?  Yes, we ARE!

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Push To Raise Minimum Wage Gains Momentum, New Goal $10.10

WWJ Newsradio 950AM,

DETROIT- There’s been a change in a proposal to raise the minimum wage.

They received so much support for a wage increase from $7.40 an hour to $9.50 an hour, they decided to try for even more.

Frank Houston, treasurer of the Raise Michigan ballot committee and the director of the Restaurant Opportunity Center of Michigan , spoke with WWJ’s Tom Jordon about the initiative.

“So I think there was a desire to push the wage level a little bit higher to give more folks a chance to get into the middle-class, even the lower middle-class,” said Houston.

The “Raise Michigan” campaign has announced a new number for minimum wage: $10.10 an hour.

The new proposal would be implemented over a several year period, reaching $10.10 by January of 2017 if it’s approved.

The Michigan Board of Canvassers will review the petition Wednesday.

Republicans have said hiking the minimum wage would hurt employers’ ability to hire people. The restaurant industry says it already operates on thin margins and argues sharply higher wages would lead to steeper prices.

“If Michigan increases the cost of employing entry-level workers, lower-skilled workers will see less job opportunities because employers will be forced to hire higher-skilled job applicants to fill multiple roles or cut jobs to absorb the costs associated with the increase,” said Wendy Block, director of health policy and human resources for the Michigan Chamber of Commerce.

The group said businesses already are grappling with costs associated with the federal health care law and that government should focus  on helping people get jobs, not make it more expensive to hire them.

“People who work hard, shouldn’t have to wait for out of touch politicians to act and do the right thing – and raise the minimum wage,” said Rebecca Hatley-Watkins, 23, of Kalamazoo, who is married, the mother of one and a Michigan United member. “If you work full-time you shouldn’t live in poverty.”

Michigan coalition seeks to raise minimum wage through ballot proposal

MLive article by Melissa Anders:

LANSING — A coalition of labor and civil rights groups have formed a committee that could push for a ballot proposal to raise Michigan’s minimum wage.

The organizations on Monday said they were going to submit paperwork to the Michigan Secretary of State to form a ballot proposal committee. They plan to make a formal decision on moving forward with a campaign for the Nov. 2014 ballot in the next few weeks.

Michigan last increased its minimum wage to $7.40 per hour in 2008. It is among 21 states with a minimum wage above the federal level of $7.25.

The coalition hasn’t announced specific numbers yet, but wants to raise both the regular minimum wage as well as the minimum for tipped employees, which has been $2.65 per hour for about 22 years.

“We know we have public support for this; it’s just common sense that if you’re working 40 hours a week you should be making enough to support your family,” said Danielle Atkinson, director of Mothering Justice, one of the coalition members.

The news comes one day before President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address, a forum which Obama has used in the past to push for a federal minimum wage increase, and he is expected to discuss income inequality on Tuesday.

Workers and activists held several protests throughout Michigan and nationwide last year to call for an increase in the state and federal minimum wages.

And lawmakers in at least 30 states are sponsoring or are expected to introduce wage hike measures, according to a national review by The Associated Press. They hope to notch state-level victories as Obama and congressional Democrats remain stymied in attempts to raise the federal minimum wage above $7.25 an hour.

In Michigan, Sen. Bert Johnson, D-Detroit, introduced legislation to increase the state’s minimum wage from $7.40 to $10 per hour by 2016. He introduced a similar bill last session that never made it out of committee. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark Schauer has proposed a minimum wage hike to $9.25 per hour.

Opponents, many of them Republicans, argue that the higher wages translate into fewer jobs and higher consumer costs. In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott said the claim that working families need the boost to make ends meet makes him “cringe, because I know that statement is a lie,” noting that even with a higher minimum wage, families couldn’t make ends meet, according to the AP. He said he’s focused instead on creating better jobs and careers.

“Our politicians in both Lansing and Congress have failed us, so we have to start looking at other ways to move this issue forward and get people a raise,” said Frank Houston, chair of the Oakland County Democratic Party and consultant for the Restaurant Opportunities Center of Michigan. “It’s ridiculous that working people have had to wait on politicians to get this done when there is overwhelming support. It’s really unacceptable.”

Muskegon resident Shannon Bryson, 33, is a single mom with two kids and earns minimum wage working part time at a fast food restaurant.

“By the time I pay for gas to get to and from work, there’s not much left of my pay check,” she said in a statement. “Raising the minimum wage could do a lot for mothers like me. I see people evicted from their homes because they don’t earn enough to pay their rent, and during this cold, cold winter, I see children whose parents can’t afford to dress them warmly enough.”

The coalition includes the Center for Progressive Leadership, Michigan United, MOSES, the Restaurant Opportunities Center of (ROC) Michigan, Mothering Justice and Building Movement Project/People’s Platform.

MLive reporter Jonathan Oosting and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Email Melissa Anders at manders@mlive.com. Follow her on Google+ and Twitter: @MelissaDAnders. Download the MLive app for iPhone and Android

Ballot Effort Underway To Raise Michigan Minimum Wage

WWJ/AP-

LANSING  – Groups backing an increase in Michigan’s minimum wage laid the groundwork Monday for a statewide ballot drive in November, forming a committee that is very likely to commence with collecting hundreds of thousands of signatures needed to qualify.

“People who work hard, shouldn’t have to wait for out of touch politicians to act and do the right thing – and raise the minimum wage,” said Rebecca Hatley-Watkins, 23, of Kalamazoo, who is married, the mother of one and a Michigan United member. “If you work full-time you shouldn’t live in poverty.”

“It is impossible to raise a child on a job that pays minimum wage. I worked full time and still only brought home one third of the amount I needed to get a decent apartment. Not to mention childcare costs. Sometimes it feels like I am just working to pay someone else to raise my child,” said Cori Johnson, a 24 year-old mother of one in Detroit who is a member of Mothering Justice.

Gov. Rick Snyder and various state legislative leaders have indicated that they will not take up the bills this year. Last fall, Snyder stated that raising the minimum wage was not a “significant issue” for his administration, and that raising minimum wage could have negative consequences.

“Our politicians in Lansing and D.C. have failed workers. There are a lot of people who work hard who’ve been waiting for a raise,” said Frank Houston, treasurer of the Raise Michigan ballot committee.

Michigan’s $7.40-an-hour minimum wage last went up in 2008 and is slightly higher than the $7.25 federal hourly minimum. Republicans have not embraced calls by both President Barack Obama and Michigan Democrats to raise the minimum wage to $10 at the federal and state levels. Democrats are planning to make income inequality a top issue this election year.

“All indications are that we’re highly likely to move forward,” said Houston, who also is chairman of the Oakland County Democratic Party. “We fully expect Michigan to be the No. 1 place in the country where we’re having a conversation around economic dignity and inequality.”

The coalition involved includes labor unions, community organizers, a restaurant worker center, and faith-based and civil rights groups. The groups sent out statements Monday from low-wage mothers who said their income is not enough to get by.

“If you work full-time you shouldn’t live in poverty,” said Rebecca Hatley-Watkins, 23, of Kalamazoo.

Shannon Bryson, 33, of Muskegon is a single mom with two kids, who works part time at a fast food chain and earns minimum wage. “By the time I pay for gas to get to and from work, there’s not much left of my pay check.  Raising the minimum wage could do a lot for mothers like me,” she said. “I see people evicted from their homes because they don’t earn enough to pay their rent, and during this cold, cold winter, I see children whose parents can’t afford to dress them warmly enough.”

A final decision to proceed is expected within days. The proposal would likely aim to change a state statute, not change the state constitution. The minimum wage would rise to the “ballpark” of between $9 and $10.10 an hour and be indexed to inflation, Houston said.

Republicans have said hiking the minimum wage would hurt employers’ ability to hire people. The restaurant industry says it already operates on thin margins and argues sharply higher wages would lead to steeper prices.

“If Michigan increases the cost of employing entry-level workers, lower-skilled workers will see less job opportunities because employers will be forced to hire higher-skilled job applicants to fill multiple roles or cut jobs to absorb the costs associated with the increase,” said Wendy Block, director of health policy and human resources for the Michigan Chamber of Commerce.

The group said businesses already are grappling with costs associated with the federal health care law and that government should focus on helping people get jobs, not make it more expensive to hire them.

“People who work hard, shouldn’t have to wait for out of touch politicians to act and do the right thing – and raise the minimum wage,” said Rebecca Hatley-Watkins, 23, of Kalamazoo, who is married, the mother of one and a Michigan United member. “If you work full-time you shouldn’t live in poverty.”

Said  Cori Johnson, a 24 year-old mother of one in Detroit, “It is impossible to raise a child on a job that pays minimum wage. I worked full time and still only brought home one third of the amount I needed to get a decent apartment. Not to mention childcare costs. Sometimes it feels like I am just working to pay someone else to raise my child.”

In November, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark Schauer proposed increasing the hourly minimum to $9.25 over three years. He said it would aid the consumer-driven economy by putting more money in employees’ pockets and give low-wage workers the same buying power as 1968, when the wage had its highest purchasing power.

A message seeking comment was left by the AP for Republican Gov. Snyder, who is up for re-election.

Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Lon Johnson, who has wanted to avoid ballot issues this year to stay focused on candidate campaigns, said in a statement that it was not surprising to see “a lot of energy surrounding this issue. Democrats at all levels are fighting to increase the minimum wage because we believe that people who work hard and play by the rules deserve a fair shot at supporting themselves and their families.”

Jóvenes defensores de los derechos de inmigración de Kalamazoo se reunirán y marcharán con 60 iconos de los derechos civiles en Washington D.C.

Portal Michigan Latinos, November 17, 2013
El clero, líderes comunitarios envían a familias del Oeste de Michigan a D.C. para la “Cruzada nacional de niños por la reforma migratoria”

KALAMAZOO – El Clero y líderes comunitarios enviaron a tres familias del área de Kalamazoo hacia Washington DC. Las familias y sus hijos participarán en la “Cruzada nacional de niños por la reforma migratoria”, junto con otras cincuenta familias seleccionadas de todo el país incluyendo seis de Michigan.

“Mi padre fue deportado en junio. Me puso triste, enojado, y me duele. Tal vez usted no sabe lo que es eso, pero puedo decir que es terrible”, dijo Esteban Reaser, estudiante de 11 años de edad de Kalamazoo cuyo padre fue deportado en junio. “Fuimos a ver a nuestro congresista, Fred Upton y dijo que sería parte de la solución. La gente que trabaja en el Congreso solo está poniendo excusas para no ayudar. No les importa que mi familia realmente sufra”.

Los estudiantes participarán en una marcha por la reforma, así como acciones adicionales para presionar a los Representantes para aprobar una reforma este año y estudiantes del suroeste de Michigan también se reunirán con el representante Fred Upton.

“Nuestra comunidad es la comunidad de la Promesa de Kalamazoo,” dijo Bob Jorth, director ejecutivo de la Promesa de Kalamazoo. “Para los estudiantes, una parte importante que debe aprovecharse de esa Promesa es tener una familia estable y solidaria. La reforma migratoria es clave para eso”.

Todos los jóvenes y sus familias se reunirán con los iconos de los derechos civiles de los años 60, muchos de los cuales eran menores de edad cuando tomaron diversas acciones no violentas para derrotar a las leyes injustas de todo el país. Defensores hoy en día solo se centran en uno de los partidos, en una sección de la legislatura que se interpone entre ellos y la reunificación familiar.

“Los republicanos dicen que la familia es muy importante y dicen que debe empezar una reforma migratoria, pero los republicanos en la Cámara de Representantes todavía no han hecho nada con la reforma migratoria”, dijo Vianey Urbina, una estudiante de 17 años de edad de Sturgis que se dirige a D.C. “me separaron de mi padre cinco años, cuando llegó por primera vez para ofrecer una vida mejor. Si nuestra familia fuera destrozada una vez más, nos rompería en pedazos. No me gustaría que mi hermanita tuviera que pasar por la separación que yo tuve que pasar”.

 

Workers Rally in Lansing for Higher Minimum Wage

Detroit Free Press September. 18, 2013

LANSING — About 150 people from around the state rallied in downtown Lansing on Wednesday to urge Michigan lawmakers to raise the state’s minimum wage.

Workers say they can’t earn a living wage on $7.40 an hour, Michigan’s mandatory minimum for hourly workers.

“Our hard-working families can’t make ends meet no matter how hard they try when they’re working for minimum wage,” Kalamazoo business owner Nick Boyd said to the exuberant crowd of demonstrators. “We have to have a fair wage in the state of Michigan.”

Working full time on Michigan’s minimum wage equates to an annual salary of $15,400 before taxes. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services defines poverty as earning $15,510 a year less for two-person households and earning $23,550 a year for four-person households.

The “day of action” was sponsored by Michigan United, a coalition of labor unions and progressive groups that often organizes demonstrations at the Capitol. The demonstrators wanted Michigan lawmakers to sign a pledge supporting an increase in the minimum wage.

Democratic lawmakers introduced bills earlier this year — one in the Senate, two in the House — to incrementally raise Michigan’s minimum wage to either $9 or $10 an hour over the next couple years.

The bills have been referred to legislative committees but haven’t been taken up yet by the Republican-led legislature. And it’s unlikely — at least in the short term — that they ever will.

“It’s not a priority, given everything else that we’re focused on right now,” said Ari Adler, spokesman for House Speaker Jase Bolger, R-Marshall.

“We have a lot of things we want to accomplish that will focus on making it easier and less expensive to do business in Michigan, because we believe that will create more jobs,” Adler said. “If you force additional costs on employers, you will often see a decline in the number of jobs available or the number of hours available to those working already.”

Kristen M. Daum is a state government reporter for the Lansing State Journal. Contact her at kdaum@lsj.com

Harmful Bills Shorten Foreclosure Time Limits

From the Lansing State Journal, May 30, 2013

LANSING — An effort by Republicans in the state Senate to change Michigan’s foreclosure laws has drawn ire from community activists who claim the proposals could lead to thousands of Michigan homeowners being thrown out in the street.

Twenty members of Michigan United — a coalition of 50 community groups and unions — protested at the state Capitol on Tuesday in opposition to one of four bills introduced last week.

Senate Bill 383, proposed by Sen. Darwin Booher, R-Evart, would reduce the foreclosure redemption period from six months to 60 days — a move critics say would make it more difficult for residents to fight financial institutions that try to take their properties.

“As we are trying to climb out of our financial holes, the passing of this bill would literally be a hard and fast kick in the gut to struggling homeowners,” said coalition member Debbi Adams, of Detroit.

Adams successfully fought a foreclosure on her home.

“If it it hadn’t been for the six-month redemption period, I would’ve lost it,” Adams said. “I needed every one of those six months to negotiate with the bank.”

“It all falls to the bottom line of the bank and the cost of doing business,” Booher said.

Protesters: Clean Up Allied Paper PCB’s

From WOOD-TV Channel 8 News, MAY 30, 2013

KALAMAZOO, Mich. – Dozens of Kalamazoo residents marched Wednesday evening in protest of the federal government’s plans to cover over a contaminated waste site instead of cleaning it up.

The waste site in question is the Allied Paper plant site, located on Alcott Street in Kalamazoo. In the soil are PBCs, a cancer-causing chemical left over from Kalamazoo’s paper industry, which was at its height during the Industrial Revolution.

“They’re not good,” Wally Wordelman, age 5, explained. “But people never knew they were using these bad chemicals to make the paper.”

One of the most passionate protesters, Wally didn’t actually march. He rode on his dad’s shoulders.

Kalamazoo PCB Protest Urges Action By EPA

Listen live at WMUK:

 

Officials from the City of Kalamazoo head to Chicago Thursday, May 16th, to meet with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. They’re looking for answers about the future of PCB contamination in the Allied Paper Landfill. City officials, residents, and groups including the Kalamazoo River Cleanup Coalition and Michigan United held a march and rally Wednesday urging the EPA to remove all of the toxic waste.