Thu Oct 16, 2014

Workforce development program Project QUEST won an award of $6 Million from the US Department of Labor to train 475 adults in the San Antonio area for living wage IT careers. Project Quest’s “Homegrown IT” program is backed by local employers including Rackspace, Zachry Holdings and WP Engine. Quest will focus on training long-term unemployed residents of Bexar and neighboring counties.

Said Executive Director Sr. Pearl Ceasar, “We are ready to implement it.”

Thu Aug 21, 2014

Carolyn Watson, Chase Bank VP of Corporate Responsibility, announced the award of $100K to Capital IDEA-Houston at a meeting of the Houston Community College Board of Trustees. Capital IDEA-Houston, established by leaders of TMO as a labor market intermediary, pulls working students out of poverty wage jobs and into living wage careers starting at upwards of $30,000 per year plus benefits. TMO (The Metropolitan Organization) built the political will to establish the training program to bridge the wage gap between industry needs and the skills base of the city.

"The Capital IDEA / Houston Community College partnership works!” declared Watson. “It gives workers aspiring to a better future the training and practical supports they need to persist to graduation….”

Thu Jun 19, 2014

TMO leaders celebrated the leveraging of one million dollars for Capital IDEA-Houston this month. The first half million was awarded by the Texas Innovative Accelerated Career Education (ACE) program that the Texas IAF created and passed in 2013.  State Representative John Zerwas (R-Richmond) highly praised the program, declaring he "could not find a better use of $500K than to invest in Capital IDEA-Houston."  State Representative Sylvestor Turner (D-Houston) chimed in adding "we should continue to invest these projects."

The second half was leveraged at the local level, with a quarter million coming from locally controlled CDBG funds and another quarter million appearing as a line-item in the City of Houston budget.  

Said Bishop James W.E. Dixon II, pastor of The Community of Faith Church, "Poverty is painful. Investing in our city's human capital through Capital Idea will impact individuals, families and children, for generations to come."

Tue Jun 17, 2014

Austin Interfaith leveraged a historic living wage concession from AISD school board members in a close-to-midnight vote approving the use of federal Davis-Bacon wage standards for workers employed on school construction projects.  After months of deliberation and negotiation, labor caucus leaders of Austin Interfaith testified at AISD board proceedings, backed by a large crowd of supporters.

Catholic Bishop Joe Vasquez’s letter exhorting the Board to support Davis-Bacon wages was followed by impassioned testimony from leaders representing LiUNA, Education Austin, IBEW, Painters Local 1779, Pipefitters, Workers Defense Projects, Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church and the Equal Justice Center.  Plans are in the works for the school district to soon establish an accompanying living wage floor to raise the wages of the lowest paid workers.  [Photo Credit: Austin American Statesman]

Additional Coverage Here

Austin Interfaith leaders exhort AISD school board to support federal wage standard for workers.
Wed May 28, 2014

Valley Interfaith Project leaders celebrated the passage of a measure which would raise $21 Million for Maricopa Community Colleges, part of a long-term regional economic development strategy of the organization.  

Monica Dorsey, board member of Arizona Career Pathways, testified in support of the measure stating, "These community colleges are the best driver of economic development that we have."

More here.

Thu May 22, 2014

Texas State Senator Jose Rodriguez called Project ARRIBA, and other Texas IAF labor market intermediaries, “the model workforce capacity job-training economic development program that we have in the state of Texas.”  With that said, leaders celebrated the award of $500,000 to ARRIBA to be used train an additional 300 students for a degree in a high demand occupation.  


A 2010 report prepared by the Institute for Policy and Economic Development at the University of Texas at El Paso, estimates that Project ARRIBA’s work provides a $26 return for every dollar invested.  Graduates of the labor market intermediary “contribute half a billion dollars to the El Paso economy,” ARRIBA Executive Director Roman Ortiz said.

The news came the same week ARRIBA celebrated its 1,000 graduate.

Project ARRIBA Receives $500,000 Grant to Improve Local WorkforceKVIA Channel 7 News

Project ARRIBA Receives $500,000 to Help 300 EPCC StudentsEl Paso Times

Video of Senator Rodriguez’s RemarksEl Paso Times

Thu May 1, 2014

Confronted with 40,000 unemployed & underemployed, while good manufacturing jobs remained unfilled and training facilities underutilized, DuPage United leaders worked together to form a novel plan.  Targeting 9,000 replacement skilled-jobs set to become available over the next ten years, DuPage established Career Connect Metro West (CCMW) to connect people to training programs for quality living-wage jobs in western Cook, DuPage and the Fox River towns of Kane and Kendall Counties.  Partnering with the Jan Addams Resource Corp. (JARC) and the Alliance for Illinois Manufacturing (AIM), CCMW will recruit cohorts of students for training with JARC and then work to connect them to manufacturers needing skilled workers.  

This workforce development strategy was developed out of the initiative of leaders who emabrked on 30 months of research, community-wide listening sessions, relationship building and public action.

More information here.  

Thu Feb 20, 2014

Capital IDEA celebrated its 15th anniversary and 1,000th graduate at the Norris Conference Center in Austin.  Elizabeth Soltero, the 1,000th graduate entertained the crowd with her story of triumph — learning English then learning her third language, Technical English, before landing a job in computer security.  Elected city and county officials were in attendance, and other graduates honored — including a single father who not  only worked his way through college, but volunteered at his son’s pre-school.

Facebook AlbumCapital IDEA

Elizabeth Soltero stands with Capital IDEA Executive Director Steve Jackobs.
Capital IDEA celebrates 1,000th Graduate, Elizabeth Soltero.
Fri Aug 9, 2013

Catholic Bishop Joe Vasquez and Jacob Cortes of Austin Interfaith stand with workersIn the latest battle of a longstanding fight for living wages in Central Texas, 200 supporters of construction workers, including Austin Interfaith leaders, Catholic Bishop Joe Vasquez of the Austin Diocese and Workers Defense Project, rallied on the steps of City Hall demanding that workers receive the pay promised to them by developers of White Lodging, in exchange for $3.8 million in fee waivers granted by the City.

In the wee hours of the night, City Council voted unanimously to stand by its revocation of economic incentives in light of the developers’ refusal to pay the promised prevailing wages.  

[Photo Credit: Alberto Martinez, Austin American Statesman]

Council Approves Revoking of Marriott IncentivesAustin American Statesman

City Council Affirms Original Agreement with Marriott Developer, ABC – KVUE

Tue Jun 25, 2013

AMOS stands with Governor Branstad as he signs bill appropriating $200K for Project IOWARepublican Governor Terry Branstad of Iowa signed into law a bill that will appropriate $100,000 per year for Project IOWA for the next two years.  Project IOWA is a labor market intermediary that prepares adults for dignified participation in the labor market by training for jobs that already exist, and thus also helping employers find motivated and skilled workers.  Project IOWA was established with the support of AMOS to better address the jobs -skills mismatch in the state.

Wed Feb 13, 2013

Before the Delta Regional Authority would award workforce development project NOVA $208 thousand to expand training opportunities further into the Delta region, the proposal had to win the approval of Republican Congressman Rodney Alexander and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal.  Northern Louisiana Interfaith successfully urged both officials to sign off, allowing NOVA to receive the award and pull more people out of working poverty in the Delta region.

Not only does NOVA train for good-paying jobs, NOVA works to transform bad jobs into better ones.  When approached by a call center seeking to train workers for high turnover jobs paying $8 / hour, NOVA challenged the employer to invest in worker development for higher paying work.  The call center responded and now NOVA trainees start at $10 / hour and move to $12.50 / hour within three months, including benefits; call center attrition has dropped.  NOVA is becoming a new kind of hiring hall, offering training for dignified work that pays fair wages and offers benefits.

Sat Aug 11, 2012

In Houston, The Metropolitan Organization united key clergy in support of janitors as they fought to protect previous wage increases and benefits; prior to the strike, workers earned $8.35 /hour or $8,684 annually.  Cardinal DiNardo, Bishop Rinehart and TMO clergy held a press conference exhorting contractors to respect union contracts and to give Houston janitors a raise.  The janitors succeeded in maintaining the contract AND securing a wage increase over four years.

Tue Jul 24, 2012

Many middle and high -skill jobs in Iowa will be increasingly difficult to fill because of demographic changes, structural change in the economy and divergent skill distribution in Iowa.  To address this impending shortage, A Mid-Iowa Organizing Strategy (AMOS) established Project IOWA to train participants in advanced manufacturing and healthcare.  Thirty six workforce development trainees graduated in 2012 with 86% now established in career-track jobs with full-benefits and earning as much as $20 per hour.

Fri Jul 20, 2012

In San Antonio, COPS/Metro Alliance leaders applauded the decision of Ramen noodle producer Maruchan to withdraw its application for tax incentives.   Leaders fought the proposal because the company was asking for $8 Million in taxpayer money to subsidize minimum wage jobs, undermining the wage standard set by COPS/Metro with the City of San Antonio and Bexar County.  When Maruchan changed its mind, leaders welcomed the company to town.  [Photo of Fr. Steven Gamez by KENS5]

Mon Jun 4, 2012

Two participants of W/SWIAF labor market intermediary Project Quest took top honors at a statewide vocational nursing contest, demonstrating “through their achievements both their individual commitment as well as the value of this program in generating highly skilled workers from within our local community,” said Dave Marttala, Project Quest’s executive director.  Project QUEST was the first W/SWIAF labor market intermediary established; based in San Antonio, it was created through collaborative relationships initiated by COPS / Metro Alliance , the San Antonio business community leadership, employers of high-skill workers and other private and public entities.


In the News

Baltimore, Jobs, Healthcare, Distressed Neighborhoods, English

One Quarter to BUILD One Baltimore

Monday, November 16, 2015

BUILD fights for 1,000 healthcare jobs for unemployed, underemployed and people transitioning from prison.  Video link below: 

Project Quest, Rackspace, Workforce Development, Labor Market

Open Cloud Academy Expands in San Antonio, Texas

Friday, November 13, 2015
San Antonio Express News

For years, Rackspace co-founder and Chairman Graham Weston heard complaints that San Antonio’s growing data storage company had to search far and wide for qualified talent. He and others thought, “These were jobs that should have been taken by San Antonians.”

An “aha” moment happened one day when he went to...

living wages, Economic Development, Jorge Montiel, Surya Kalra

In Conservative Town, Faith-Based Group Tackles Minimum Wages

Monday, November 9, 2015
National Public Radio

In Texas, one of the most conservative right-to-work states in the country, a church-based organization has begun to make headway in enacting a "living wage" for San Antonio city employees.

In addition to having no state-mandated minimum wage for the private sector, the Legislature has made it illegal for any Texas city or local jurisdiction to pass its own minimum wage.

But after a year of intense organizing and lobbying, the Communities Organized for Public Service and the Metro Alliance (known as COPS/Metro) in September celebrated San Antonio's City Council vote that mandated a $13-an-hour minimum wage for all city employees.

JobPath, Bond election, Workforce Development, Pima County

PCICEO Educates Pastors on on Pima County Bonds

Thursday, October 8, 2015
New Vision

Bishop Kicanas fires off a powerful volley in a friendly competition between Pima Community Colleges and religious leaders of PCIC-CEO in Arizona....

Texas IAF, Organizing in Austin, living wages, contingency workers

Austin Interfaith Wins Historic Wage Increase for Municipal Workers

Friday, September 11, 2015
Austin Chronicle & Telemundo

At a press conference held the day after the passage of the new City budget, Austin Interfaithleaders celebrated a historic living wage win and other ‘budget priorities’ that were included.  Austin Interfaith leaders thanked the Mayor and specific council members for acting as “budget champions.”

As a result, the City of Austin will now pay their workers an increased living wage of $13.03 per hour (up from $11.39) and for the first time will include temporary AND contracted workers in that wage standard.  Workers employed for at least 12 months will additionally qualify for healthcare benefits.  Employees of private corporations receiving public subsidies will also benefit from the wage increase...

Texas IAF, living wages, COPS / Metro Alliance, Jorge Montiel, organizing in Texas

Statewide Press Recognizes Texas IAF Work on Wages

Tuesday, August 25, 2015
Texas Observer

COPS / Metro AllianceAustin InterfaithBorder Interfaith & EPISO, and Dallas Area Interfaith leaders are deservedly getting statewide recognition for their work in support of living wages in San Antonio, Austin, El Paso and Dallas.


living wages, Public Sector Wages, Jorge Montiel, Michael Taylor

Says Business Columnist: Public Sector 'Living Wage' Proper

Monday, August 24, 2015
San Antonio Express-News

According to business columnist Michael Taylor of San Antonio Express-News:

"public employers have a greater obligation to address the moral issue of 'a living wage' than do private employers. Unlike private companies, public entities (such as governments) explicitly purport to represent the “public good” in everything they do. The public good should reasonably include paying workers so they can live above the federal poverty level. Nobody really asked my opinion, but these wage hikes seem not only reasonable, but providing a “living wage” for public-sector employees seems like an essential step."

Workforce Development, Job Training, Skills QUEST, DFW, Priscilla Kimmery

Skill QUEST Curbs Dallas Poverty

Saturday, August 22, 2015
Dallas Morning News

More than 400 people have been helped by Skill QUEST since it was launched by Dallas Area Interfaith in late 2010.

A subcommittee of the interfaith group did extensive research among 3,500 people in its 40 member congregations, schools and community organizations in Dallas and Collin counties. It found workforce issues...among the biggest concerns....

Texas IAF, living wages

Luckless at Texas Capitol, Wage Advocates Go Local

Thursday, August 20, 2015
Texas Tribune

"In Austin, a minimum wage hike to $13.03 an hour for full-time employees will be up for consideration in September as part of the city’s proposed budget. San Antonio leaders will consider a minimum wage of $13 an hour next month. Bexar County is also poised to increase its minimum wage to $13 an hour, while El Paso County could vote next month to boost pay for its lowest-paid employees to $10 an hour. Minimum wages in those localities currently range from $9.45 to $11.66 an hour.

Local organizers affiliated with the Industrial Areas Foundation are hopeful all four proposals will be approved, saying they’ve received assurances from city and county officials. But for these advocates, the wins could mean sending a message to state lawmakers."

Living Wage, Economic Development, Texas IAF, organizing in San Antonio

COPS / Metro Gains Support of City Manager on $13 / Hr Living Wage

Monday, August 3, 2015
San Antonio Express-News and KENS5

Living Wage, City of Vancouver, Deborah Littman, Inequality

City of Vancouver to Become Living Wage Employer

Thursday, July 9, 2015
Vancouver Courier

Gloria Roque earns a living wage as a teacher, but since she works at an inner city school, she knows many parents who don’t.

That’s why Roque was among those who rallied at city hall Wednesday morning in support of Mayor Gregor Robertson’s motion for the City of Vancouver to become a certified living wage employer. The motion passed unanimously.

Metro Vancouver Alliance and Living Wage for Families staged the rally, which was timed to precede council’s discussion on the motion.

living wages, Economic Development, Texas IAF, Jorge Montiel

COPS / Metro Fights Battle to Raise Wages in San Antonio

Wednesday, July 1, 2015
San Antonio Current

Communities Organized for Public Service and the Metro Alliance, or COPS/Metro, one of the leading wage advocacy groups in San Antonio, started its living wage campaign about a year ago. The goal is to raise hourly wages for public workers to at least $14.91 — the average amount needed for a family four to stay off government assistance such as food stamps.

Father Mike DeGerolami, pastor of St. Timothy Catholic Church and a member of COPS/Metro, said the group maintains that "if you're working full time, especially for a public entity ... you shouldn't have to seek public assistance."

Austin Interfaith, Texas IAF, community organizing in Austin, Job Training

Austin Interfaith Launches Jobs Training Program for Teens

Thursday, June 25, 2015
Austin American Statesman & Community Impact

Austin Interfaith and Austin Independent School District (AISD) jointly announced the launch of a high school job training program targeted at students from three local high schools: Travis, Crockett and Lanier.


Modeled off the Summer Youth Employment program, created by Austin Interfaith 20 years ago in partnership with the City and County, this program will teach high schoolers leadership and soft skills like timeliness, and professional conduct;

Workforce Development, Sr. Pearl Ceasar, Sr. Gabriela Lohan, Project Quest

Catholic Sisters Combat Poverty, Impact Thousands in San Antonio

Wednesday, June 24, 2015
Global Sisters Report

The speakers offered words of eloquence and encouragement. Moments later came handshakes, hugs and tears as students crossed the stage. But this was not a typical graduation ceremony. There were no diplomas, no gowns and no hats tossed into the air.

Instead, this ceremony celebrated completion, not from a high school or university, but from job-training programs that varied from associate degrees in nursing to technology certifications. For Erica Espinoza, who went from being a cashier at Bill Miller’s Bar-B-Q to a registered nurse, it opened up a new path, one that leads away from a life of unpaid utility bills, late rent checks, couch surfing and at times, hunger.

“When I crossed the stage, I was really happy. I was smiling; I was shaking every hand,” Espinoza said. “I couldn’t believe I had gotten through everything. It was just pure joy.”

Espinoza was one of 200 students being honored at the graduate recognition ceremony for Project Quest, a labor market intermediary that partners with San Antonio community colleges and local companies offering job-training programs. Its mission: to lead participants like Espinoza out of low-paying jobs and into new, more lucrative careers.

On stage that May evening were Executive Director Pearl Ceasar, a Sister of Divine Providence, and Holy Spirit Sr. Gabriella Lohan, a board member who helped create and implement Project Quest in 1992.

living wages, Community Organizing in San Antonio, Texas IAF

COPS / Metro Fights for Higher City Worker Wages at Budget Session

Wednesday, June 24, 2015
San Antonio Express-News & KSAT 12

The tone at most of San Antonio's big City Council budget goal-setting sessions historically may have been positive, but that tone shifted notably at a most recent session.

COPS / Metro leader Robert Cruz, pointedly asked the city’s budget director what the city intends to do with the $24 million in revenue it received in excess of forecasts when the 2015 budget was adopted last year.

Community Organizing in Baltimore, Maryland IAF, Local Hiring, Hopkins

BUILD Leverages Local Hiring in Baltimore

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Johns Hopkins University plans to hire more city residents and do more business with local companies.

University President Ronald Daniels announced the beginning of the Hopkins Local Initiative Monday during Baltimoreans United In Leadership Development's One Baltimore Assembly at St. Peter Claver Catholic Church in Sandtown.

Daniels said the initiative is an expansion of the university's economic inclusion program and pledged "firm and measurable commitments" to increase local hiring, local purchasing and contracting with more local minority-owned and women-owned businesses.

living wages, Mayoral Election, Judge Wolf, Texas IAF, organizing in San Antonio

COPS Metro & County Officials Announce Wage Hike & Urge Vote

Thursday, June 11, 2015
Rivard Report & More

Days before the San Antonio mayoral election runoff, church and state united to urge voters to the polls and while there, to remember that San Antonians need a living wage.  COPS / Metro leaders and Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, with Commissioners Tommy Calvert and Paul Elizondo, held a joint press conference announcing that the County would do their part to increase wages, and that the City should as well.

COPS / Metro Alliance, Texas IAF, organizing in San Antonio, Wages, Workforce Development

COPS / Metro Raises the Stakes: Wages Now Mayoral Campaign Issue

Sunday, April 19, 2015
San Antonio Express News & More

Over 400 leaders of COPS / Metro Alliance assembled at St. Henry’s Catholic Church, to confront the top candidates for Mayor and City Council (Districts 2, 3, 5 and 7) on wages, workforce development and housing in the City...

ATU, Union, Local 689, Assaults, WMATA, Metro Transit Workers

WIN & Amalgamated Transit Union Combat On-The-Job Abuse

Thursday, March 26, 2015
WAMU 88.5

“We are afraid.”

Cynthia Gary, a Metro employee for 29 years, choked on the words as she testified at a public hearing on safety organized by her union in the basement of a historic church in downtown D.C.

“I will say it again. We are afraid.”

Community Organizing in Jackson, Mississippi IAF, Kroger, Relocation, Food Desert

Jackson Clergy Stand With Kroger Workers

Wednesday, February 11, 2015
Clarion Ledger

After Kroger announced last week it would be closing its south Jackson grocery store, leaders and community activists are scrambling...

Capital IDEA-Houston, David Brooks, Workforce Development, organizing in Houston, Texas IAF

TMO Responds to David Brooks: Programs You Call For Exist in Texas!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015
Houston Chronicle

Responding to David Brooks’ assertion that the President’s proposal to provide cost-free community college access is not enough, TMO leaders Rev. Kevin Collins, Mr. Franklin Olson and Mr. Bob Fleming offer initial agreement and the good news that the types of programs Brooks calls for already exist in Texas...

March on Washington, Jobs, Wages, living wages, Texas IAF, organizing in San Antonio

COPS Metro: March for JOBS and Freedom Still Relevant

Monday, January 19, 2015
San Antonio Express News

On the heels of a succeeding campaign to raise the wages of San Antonio’s lowest paid public workers, COPS / Metro leaders Fr. Steven Gamez and Sr. Consuelo Tovar assert that the March on Washington for JOBS and Freedom is still relevant today.

San Antonio, Wages, Economic Development, Community Organizing in Texas

COPS Metro Raises Wages of Lowest Paid Workers in San Antonio

Wednesday, December 17, 2014
San Antonio Express News

In a win that COPS / Metro is calling “a beginning,” the Board of the Alamo (Community) Colleges approved wage raises for its lowest paid workers including an $11.50 minimum for full-time employees.  This represents a $1.38 / hour raise  for approximately 49 long-time housekeeping staff now making the lowest wage...

living wages, Economic Development, Texas IAF, organizing in San Antonio, Bexar County

COPS / Metro Leverages County Support for Living Wages in San Antonio

Wednesday, November 19, 2014
San Antonio Express News

300 COPS / Metro Alliance leaders gathered at Sacred Heart Catholic Church to announce a campaign to boost the wage floor for city and county employees from $11.47  per hour to almost $15 / hour over the next three years.  Elvira Adame shared how it angers her to see her daughter earning only $8.50 per hour at a public community college, leaving her “stressed and tired all the time from working so hard...."  

Project Quest, DOL, Homegrown IT, Workforce Development, San Antonio

Project Quest Wins $6M DOL Award

Thursday, October 16, 2014
San Antonio Express News & More

Workforce development programProject QUESTwon an award of $6 Million from the US Department of Labor to train 475 adults in the San Antonio area for living wage IT careers.  Project Quest’s “Homegrown IT” program is backed by local employers including Rackspace, Zachry Holdings and WP Engine.