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.

Michigan United rallies for Congress to pass immigration reform bill

From the Detroit News:

Shouting “Pass that bill” and carrying signs reading “Keeping families together,” local activists Wednesday called for lawmakers to pass an immigration reform bill they say would lift burdensome restrictions, allow foreign-born workers to stay in their communities and boost the economy.

“We’re here today because we know that it is not right to hold 11 million undocumented workers hostage,” Pastor Charles Williams Sr. of the National Action Network said to cheers during a press conference on the steps of St. Gabriel Catholic Church in southwest Detroit.

The event was organized by Michigan United, a statewide coalition of churches, labor and community groups that advocates for immigration reform, fair housing and worker rights.

It came the same day the 844-page bipartisan bill was introduced.

The “Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013” would dramatically remake the U.S. immigration system, ushering in new visa programs for low- and high-skilled workers, requiring a tough new focus on border security, instituting a new requirement for all employers to check the legal status of their workers and installing a path to citizenship for 11 million immigrants in the country illegally.

Those who have been deported would have the opportunity to come back to the U.S. if their spouses or children are in the country.

Some Republicans criticized the bill as amnesty, while some groups on the left said it was unnecessarily punitive.

President Barack Obama said the bill is a compromise that doesn’t give anyone everything they want. But he urged the Senate to move it forward.

Supporters with Michigan United and other groups across Metro Detroit said the legislation would keep immigrant families together. “This bill is a way for families to be reunited,” Williams said.

The push for the reform is especially urgent for Arlen Villanueva-Ordoñez, a single mother of two originally from Honduras. The Belleville resident, who has been in the U.S. for more than a decade, faces deportation proceedings next month.

She has no criminal record, works full time and pays taxes every year, said her attorney, Brad Thomson. Her youngest child, who was born here, has life-threatening food allergies and a skin condition that renders him sensitive to UV radiation. Villanueva-Ordoñez also has health issues and fears she would have inadequate medical care in her homeland.

Deportation would destroy her family, she said. “I don’t want to be separated from them because that is my life.”

Grand Rapids Joins National Push for Reform

From MLive:

GRAND RAPIDS, MI—Many of the more than 100 West Michigan residents who traveled to Washington, D.C. for today’s national immigration reform rally hope their show of solidarity is rewarded with a comprehensive immigration bill.

They hope the gathering will pressure their representatives to change the law and allow 11 million unauthorized immigrants to legally stay in the county and provide them a pathway to citizenship.

The West Michigan contingent, who were to arrive at the nation’s capital Wednesday morning after an overnight bus trip, are a diverse group pushing for a common goal. Some want to see immigrants be granted the same opportunity they were handed years ago.

Hundreds of Michigan Residents Head to DC Immigration Rally

From MLive: http://www.freep.com/article/20130409/NEWS06/304090208/national-immigration-rally-Michigan

About 500 immigrants and their supporters left tonight from Michigan on 14 buses headed to Washington, D.C. for a national immigration rally tomorrow.

The buses left from Dearborn, Lansing, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo and Ann Arbor for a rally in the nation’s capital calling for immigration reform that they hope will offer the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. a clear path to citizenship.

Members of the immigrant group Michigan United and the union United Auto Workers are among the hundreds from Michigan on their way to Washington D.C. for the demonstration. They are also expected to meet with Congressman to push for immigration reform.

 

‘Dr. Evil’ makes April Fools appearance in Detroit foreclosure crisis demonstration

From MLive.com

DETROIT, MI – Debbi Adams has spent the last two years struggling to hold onto her home, and she believes the firing of a federal official could make it easier for thousands of homeowners to fight off foreclosure.

After being laid off in 2011, Adams fell behind on mortgage payments and started a long process of trying to modify her loan, struggling for months with basic steps like finding out which bank held her mortgage.

“I fought very hard to keep my home,” said Adams of Detroit. “I had to go to court. There was an organization that stood up for me and I was able to save my house. It was a long hassle that ended up, for me, positively, but for so many people, they give up.”

Good Friday prayer rally in Kalamazoo calls on Congressman Upton to support immigration reform

From MLive.com

KALAMAZOO, MI — When David Mata was a senior in high school, he thought he was on his way to fulfilling his dream of being a doctor. Then the native of Mexico found out he was an unauthorized immigrant.

“I had to turn down two full-ride scholarships,” said Mata. He couldn’t find a university to accept him until he applied toWestern Michigan University. In June, Mata, who was one of two university students in the state to receive a prestigious Michigan Society of Neuroscience grant, among other awards, will graduate with a master’s degree in science. He is currently applying to medical schools.

Grand Rapids crowd protests separation of families due to immigration laws

From MLive.com

GRAND RAPIDS, MI—A crowd of 50 people marched several blocks from downtown’s Calder Plaza to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office on Friday, March 29 as a way to remember the families who have been separated by immigration laws.

Joyce Herdog, a Dominican sister, told participants before the march that Good Friday is “the perfect occasion to remember Jesus’ message. “He made no distinctions. His love embraces all of us,” said Herdog.