The United Workers is Hiring! Communications & Work With Dignity Organizers

Posted in Unity on April 9th, 2014 by Mike – Comments Off

The United Workers is looking to hire two individuals: A Leadership Organizer, with a focus on communications and organizing, and  a Work With Dignity Organizer to build support for a statewide Paid Sick Leave bill. The application is available below. Please help spread the word!

Job Title: Leadership Organizer

Focus: Communications and Organizing

Location: Baltimore, MD

Status: Full-time

Application deadline: Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Application Process: To apply, download the application here. Please complete the application, and send it, together with a cover letter and resume to info@unitedworkers.org or to United Workers, PO Box 41547, Baltimore, MD 21203. If you are sending this via email, you should include your last name and “Leadership Organizer Position 2014” in the subject line. In your cover letter, tell us a story about you. How you found out about this opportunity and why you are called to be a Leadership Organizer. Once the application has been received you may be contacted for an interview (this will take place shortly after application deadline of Wednesday, April 23, 2014).

Position Overview: We’re looking for the unique person whose skills and experiences are in both storytelling and organizing. As a storyteller, we’re seeking someone who can write the story as well as push it in the press, asserting our narrative frame, and helping to shape public discourse and policy debate. As an organizer, we’re looking for someone who has experience in community organizing, base-building, and leadership development. Leadership Organizers must be highly self-managing and committed to the vision and values of the organization.

 

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2. Job Title:
 Work With Dignity Organizer

Focus: Organizing community support for a statewide Paid Sick Leave bill. The position is for six months. We’re looking for someone who has experience in community organizing, base-building, and leadership development. This position requires a deep commitment to a human rights analysis of social ills, a dedication toward developing the leadership of those most directly affected by social injustice, and a willingness to learn.

Location: Maryland – Position will require statewide travel

Status: Full-time for six months (July 7, 2014 – December, 2014)

Application deadline: Monday, May 5, 2014

Application Process: Download the application here. Applicant questionnaire, cover letter, and resume must be submitted by May 5, 2014, either by emailing these materials to info@unitedworkers.org with the subject line “Work with Dignity Position”; or by sending to United Workers, P.O. Box 41547, Baltimore, MD 21203. Once the application has been received you may be contacted for an interview (this will take place shortly after application deadline).

Background on the position: Maryland’s Paid Sick Leave campaign was launched last November and has continued to grow its grassroots and legislative. Everyone gets sick and everyone deserves the opportunity to recover without risking income or job loss. More than 700,000 Maryland workers cannot earn paid sick days and often go to work sick, send sick children to school or daycare, or in the worst situations, lose their job because they cannot come to work. In jurisdictions where state and local standards allow workers to earn paid sick days, surveys show that workers’ lives have improved and businesses succeeded. Having shown national leadership on living wage, and immigrant children’s access to public universities (the DREAM Act), Maryland has the opportunity to turn its attention to the plight of workers who are unable to earn paid sick days.

 

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Support the United Workers Media Team! Help us Launch our New Podcast

Posted in Culture, Get Involved, Media, Solidarity on April 3rd, 2014 by Mike – Comments Off

On May 1, the United Workers Media Team is officially launching the United Workers “End Poverty Radio” podcast. This exciting moment is the culmination of many years of work in which the Media Team has been documenting the untold stories that thousands face every day across Baltimore and Maryland.

However, in order to make the podcast happen, we need your help. Your support will help us acquire new equipment that will support both the podcast and our growing video work.

Please consider donating today!

The new podcast will be available through iTunes, Podomatic, and UnitedWorkers.org and will showcase our members, allies, and other leaders in this moment to end poverty led by the poor. We’ll feature audio from different events, radio interviews, short testimonials, and round-table discussions on issues that are facing people in Baltimore, Maryland, and across the country.

The podcast is only the latest project in our growing media work. Over the last year, alone, the Media Team has produced photo essays on six United Workers leaders, testimonies from several members of our Healthcare Is a Human Right campaign, and a series of videos documenting our fight for Fair Development (to watch these videos and more, visit the United Workers on Youtube and Vimeo). We produced two videos (here and here) last year on our struggle against the nation’s largest trash-burning incinerator, which is set to be built less than a mile from several schools in South Baltimore. These videos were retweeted by national environmental leader Bill McKibben and award winning author Margaret Atwood. We are currently working on videos on the Human Right to Housing and our fight to save our rec centers, and of course, have shot hundreds of pictures from United Workers events, actions, and meetings.

Who is the United Workers Media Team?

The United Workers Media Team is composed of United Workers members, leaders, and close allies. Many of the people on the media team had no prior media experience before joining, yet they are now photographing, interviewing, filming, editing, and bottom-lining videos. We encourage you to visit the individual pages of the media team members (at the bottom of our fundraiser page) and those looking to support this crowd funding campaign.

What will the money be used for?

In order to ensure that our podcast is of the highest quality we need to acquire new microphones and a high-quality audio recorder. Although the Media Team has grown to over 10 people, we currently have only one designated Media Team computer. We are in need of a pair of laptops, which our members can use to record the podcast, as well as edit photographs, video, and other audio. This would increase our capacity to work on different projects at the same time. The United Workers currently has only one camera that shoots video. We also hope to purchase a new DSLR camera to do high-quality video, so we can have two cameras for trainings, documentation, and filming. Finally, we are in desperate need of at least one professional tripod.

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Shantress Wise Testimony : Eastside Speakout for Fair Development

Posted in Fight for Fair Development, Housing Is a Human Right, Media on April 2nd, 2014 by Mike – Comments Off

On Saturday, March 29, 2014 over 60 workers, community members, and a coalition of Eastside organizations spoke out against vacants and shared their vision for a new housing agenda for Baltimore City. It was an amazing event. United Workers Leadership Council member Shantress Wise has been active in the Housing Roundtable, which is researching solutions to Baltimore’s broken housing system. She was one of those that told her story. Her testimony is below. The video was filmed and edited by the United Workers Media Team.

My name is Shantress Wise. I’m with the United Workers and I’m here to Speak Out about housing, because I’ve faced it head on. Over the last twenty years, I’ve had to move 16 times and have faced countless examples of our broken housing system.

My first experience of dealing with a developer was in 2009. I was living in the West Baltimore Penn-North area and a developer came in, bought up the whole block, and started pushing us out of our homes to redevelop the community. We got a 60-day notice and they wanted us out. They promised us that we could come back after they finished the development, but that wasn’t true. They doubled the rent and nobody was able to go back. I had one neighbor who had lived there since the 1960s and she was pushed out too.

My second experience with our broken housing system was when I lost my home in 2010. I was working as a housekeeper and had to take off time for surgery. When I tried to go back to work, I learned that I had been fired. I lost my home, because that was my only income and I couldn’t pay the rent. I faced homelessness for the first time in my life. It hurt me to lose my home and I couldn’t get help from anyone. At one point I even had to resort to sleeping in the emergency room of a hospital. I ended up in the Karris House Shelter for women and children, and then went into an assisted living program, and finally into Jacob’s Well—transitional housing.

This is just my story and its just one example of how our system of housing is broken. That’s why we are coming together today to reset the agenda around housing and our human rights. We deserve dignity and respect. Housing should be affordable, not just for me, but for everyone.

I’m a part of the Housing Roundtable and we’ve been studying solutions to the housing crisis in Baltimore City. One of the things we have been learning about is community land trusts. They help the community to stay within the community, and the homes to be for the community. And I believe we need community land trusts in Baltimore City, because it’s real permanent affordable housing.
You can stay there as long as you want and not have to move from place to place. No one should have to move from place to place every year because of a broken housing system that puts private gain over people’s needs.

And we need to hold the developers accountable, not to come into our communities and take away our housing and push us out of our homes. And that’s why we are standing up and uniting, homeowners, renters, and homeless, and making our voices heard. We demand Fair Development. Housing Is a Human Right. This is our city and we need to take it back.

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Voices from the Eastside Speakout for Fair Development

Posted in Fight for Fair Development, Housing Is a Human Right, News Coverage on April 1st, 2014 by Mike – Comments Off

Last Saturday’s Eastside Speakout for Fair Development was a huge success. Over 60 people attended the event from across the city. They spoke out against Baltimore City’s broken housing system and shared their vision for a new housing agenda. You can hear the recording of the event below, available through the new United Workers End Poverty Radio podcast.

 

There was some good press coverage of the event. Some of the links are below.

The Baltimore Sun: “Community Being Left out of Baltimore Redevelopment, Activists Say,” by Carrie Wells, March 29, 2014

Baltimore Brew: “Speakers Decry Lack of Affordable Housing in Baltimore,” by Mark Reutter, March 30, 2014

The Real News: “Baltimore Residents Decry Lack of Affordable Housing,” by Ray Baker, April 6, 2014

 

Here is a Flickr Slideshow with photos taken by the United Workers Media Team

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Baltimore Sun: ‘Community Being Left out of Baltimore Redevelopment, Activists Say’

Posted in Fight for Fair Development, Housing Is a Human Right, Media, News Coverage on April 1st, 2014 by Mike – Comments Off

Community Being Left out of Baltimore Redevelopment, Activists Say”

Affordable-housing advocates rally for more involvement in process

March 29, 2014, by Carrie Wells, The Baltimore Sun

Within the past five years, Shantress Wise says, she has been forced out of one home by a developer, evicted from another apartment after losing her job, and lived in two homeless shelters.

Wise, of Baltimore, said the experience inspired her to join a spirited gathering of housing and community activists Saturday at an East Baltimore church to protest what they called unfair city housing policies and development that leaves the community out of the process.

The group called upon the city to do more to house the homeless and to build additional affordable housing. They also lambasted tax breaks for developers like the one awarded for the Harbor Point project and said community members are able to help rehab vacants through land trusts but aren’t being given enough of an opportunity to do so. Activists also complained that developers aren’t delivering on job promises.

“I feel that this housing situation in Baltimore City is broken and we need to speak up to change the system,” said Wise, 39. “The developers that come in, they’re supposed to give money back to the community and they’re not doing that. And it’s hard to find affordable housing because many of the houses are vacant.”

The rally’s organizers hung large posters with pro-community housing messages around a room in St. Wenceslaus Church in the Middle East neighborhood. In the shadow of Johns Hopkins Hospital, the neighborhood remains plagued by vacant houses despite efforts by Hopkins to revitalize its surrounding areas.

Kevin Harris, a spokesman for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, said in an email that the city has several efforts underway to improve housing problems in Baltimore, including the Vacants to Value program, a homebuyer incentive program, a comprehensive plan to make homelessness “rare and brief,” and trimming the property tax rate. Harbor Point and other developments are necessary to create a stronger tax base to improve underserved communities, he said.

“While it’s impossible to always please everyone, it’s difficult to make a credible case that this mayor’s record hasn’t supported communities,” Harris said. “Our goal is asking how can we do more to make sure we are communicating our record to the communities we are supporting.”

The rally included a video of community-based revitalization in Boston’s Dudley area, which once had many of the same vacant housing issues as many parts of Baltimore. Organizers said it was model they hoped to duplicate.

Those who spoke included a longtime renter who felt home ownership was out of reach, a homeowner who said vacant houses pulled down the property values of his neighborhood, and McElderry Park Community Association President Glenn Ross, who described issues with city housing that stretch back generations.

One of the rally’s organizers, Donald Gresham, spoke of the despair that he felt while living in substandard housing — in his case, a third-floor apartment where the roof leaked and ultimately caved in a week after he moved out.

“I’m outpriced of living and I’m just existing,” he said. “We’re tired of the unfair development that’s leaving the community out. We too want to be part of the process, so there’s equal opportunity not just for the rich but for those who are less fortunate.”

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Speak Out for Housing Justice! Tomorrow – Saturday, March 29

Posted in Events, Get Involved, Housing Is a Human Right on March 28th, 2014 by Mike – Comments Off

 

Dear Friends,

Tomorrow, together with workers, community members, and a coalition of Eastside organizations we will speak out against vacants and share our vision for a new housing agenda for Baltimore City. We hope you can be there! The event will mark the first time that this diverse group has united publicly for this common cause. During the event, renters, homeowners, and homeless will share stories about the impacts of vacants and failed development policies in their neighborhoods.

When: Saturday, March 29, 10:30am.

Where: March begins at outside of Tench Tilghman Elementary School (600 N. Patterson Park Ave) at 10:30am. Speak Out begins at the St. Wenceslaus Church Hall (2100 E. Madison St), at 11:15am. In case of rain, we will meet at the St. Wenceslaus Church Hall at 10:30am.

Baltimore City has roughly 40,000 vacant or abandoned homes. Ironically, the city is also experiencing a deep housing crisis for renters, homeowners, and homeless in East Baltimore and across the city. Market factors have only made the problem worse, often squeezing residents out of their neighborhoods. City development policies that cater to big developers have been inadequate to address the needs of Baltimore residents.

“We want to improve our neighborhoods while ensuring affordable housing for all,” says Pastor Gary Dittman of Amazing Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church. Organizers demand Fair Development, which puts community needs first and respects people’s right to housing with dignity. One example of this is shared-equity housing, a form of permanently affordable, resident-driven development, in which the community plays an active role in the decisions about housing in their neighborhoods. For more information, several of the Speak Out organizers were on The Marc Steiner Show yesterday. Check out the recording, here!

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The Speak Out is being organized by the United Workers and a coalition of organizations working on housing and community-based development in East Baltimore, including Housing Our Neighbors, the Baltimore Redevelopment Action Coalition of Empowerment, the Monument-McElderry-Fayette Revitalization Plan, the Men and Family Center, and Amazing Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church.

 

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United Workers Youth : Active and in the News

Posted in Environmental Justice, Media on March 12th, 2014 by Mike – Comments Off

Free Your Voice Leaders @ the Maryland Climate Organizer Summit

United Workers youth from our Free Your Voice Human Rights committee have been active over the last month. On February 8, they led a session at the Maryland Climate Organizer Summit in College Park with other youth leaders about the pressing environmental justice issues communities face across the state (see above photo).

On Monday, February 24, Free Your Voice was interviewed on the Dan Rodrick’s Show about their struggle against the nation’s largest incinerator, which has been permitted to be built less than a mile from their school in Brooklyn-Curtis Bay. You can hear the segment here, beginning at 36mins.

They’ve also been busy in Annapolis, supporting legislation to address violations of the right to live in a healthy and safe community (below).

Free Your Voice Testifies in Annapolis

One of the bills, House Bill 1373, would close the loophole that allowed the Brooklyn-Curtis Bay incinerator to be permitted to be built less than a mile from two schools. Under the proposed legislation no incinerator could be built within three miles of schools, rec centers, parks, and other community spaces. Free Your Voices videos were presented yesterday in Annapolis hearings on this bill.

Other legislation, Senate Bill 706, seeks to address the fact that some communities across the state are overburdened with lethal levels of toxic air pollution. Currently there is no requirement that Maryland Department of the Environment consider the existing health status of a community or the cumulative burden from existing pollution levels. This bill, under debate in the Senate Education Health & Environmental Affairs Committee, would require MDE to factor in the cumulative impact of previous pollution on a neighborhood before issuing permits for new pollution sources.

On February 25, 2014, students from the United Workers Human Rights committee “Free Your Voice” testified in support of the bill (below). Read Destiny Watford’s written testimony below. The issue continues to be highlighted. Check out the latest in a series of Grist articles covering this story.

Free Your Voice has also started to connect with other students, parents, and teachers in order to build a united city-wide movement against the nation’s largest incinerator. Last night they canvassed in Hamilton and presented to the Hamilton Elementary Middle School Parent Teachers’ Organization (below). If you are connected to a school, let us know. We would love to come make a presentation!

Free Your Voice members present to Hamilton Elementary Middle School PTO

Below is Destiny Watford’s written testimony in support Senate Bill 706.

My name is Destiny Watford. I am a member of Free Your Voice, a human rights group of United Workers. I live in Curtis Bay, a tight knit community in South Baltimore. It is my home and I love it but Curtis Bay is pollution central. Anyone who has been to Curtis Bay knows that, largely due to the industrial area surrounding it, Curtis Bay is not the healthiest place around. In fact, we discovered that Curtis Bay, although it is a rather small community, is one of the most polluted areas in the state. We also know that people die in Curtis Bay of lung cancer, heart disease and lower respiratory disease at some of the highest levels in the city of Baltimore. All of this is enough to make it feel like the community’s fate is to be dirty and polluted. But when we learned about a plan to build the nations’ largest trash burning incinerator less than a mile away from our school – we were still shocked.

Our first question was “why here? Why here in a community that is already so burdened by pollution and bad health?”   — Why add an incinerator that would burn 4,000 tons of tires, metals and plastics and release 240 lbs of mercury per year into the air?  

To be honest, it made us feel like somehow our lives weren’t respected or didn’t matter as much to those making decisions about development. We went out and talked to hundreds of community members and so many of them – particularly those who have lived in Curtis Bay for a long time – said the same thing “What do you expect, Curtis Bay is a dumping ground”…to be clear, we are not saying our neighbors are wrong to express this – in fact we agree and that is why we are here today – We are here to say that no community should be another’s dumping ground.

We know that our lives matter just as much as anyone else’s. We know that we have a right to a safe and clean environment and that our lives should not be limited by asthma or cancer just because of where we were born. We have a right to Fair Development that puts the health of all communities first –for a long time we have tried to do this. One way we tried to do this was through requesting a health impact assessment, to look at how the incinerator would affect the lives of Curtis Bay residents. The Baltimore City Health Department told us that although the project deserved a health study, they wouldn’t conduct one because of the fact that permits were already given to Energy Answers. Communities need to know how pollution is going to impact them.

This is why we are so excited to voice our support for this bill because it gets at part of the structure of the problem that we are trying to address. The spirit of this bill is something we all believe in – and that is Equity and fairness. This bill would make it so that communities like mine, communities that have historically had more than their fair share of pollution – and paid the consequences – are respected and recognized when new development decisions are made.

Then, instead of trash incinerators we hope that Curtis Bay and communities like it will be the destination for development that puts our needs first – in the case of Curtis Bay – we would love to see truly green solar energy, recycling and composting – development that would bring good jobs without adding to our health problems.

In a place like Curtis Bay, where it is not uncommon for developments like this one to show up, it’s easy to lose hope that things will ever change. It almost seems as if things will inevitably remain the same. What we’re talking about today really matters and could be a step towards real change not for just communities like Curtis Bay, but for all communities – because our fate as a city and as a state includes everyone.

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Stand for Paid Sick Leave in Maryland!

Posted in Get Involved, Media, Paid Sick Leave on February 25th, 2014 by Mike – Comments Off

Dear Friends,

We want to thank you for supporting the campaign for Paid Sick Leave. Last week, we had a pair of great hearings in the House Economic Matters Committee (on Feb. 18) and in the Senate Finance Committee (on Feb. 20). Three panels of individuals spoke from the Working Matters coalition, which is fighting for Paid Sick Leave in Maryland. Among those who testified was a cook (whose entire restaurant staff became sick), an expert from the National Partnership for Woman and Families, and several leaders in the United Workers. We also lobbied our representatives and packed the hearing rooms. Our presence was strong and people’s testimonies were moving. You can see pictures here and here. One of the testimonies is below and more will be available soon at UnitedWorkers.org

As with any legislation, the bill is a process. Despite our strength this year, we are aware that many issues are at the forefront of our representatives’ concerns. The House and Senate committees are currently deliberating over the Paid Sick Leave Bill and now is the time to give them an extra push.

Please contact your representatives ask them to support House Bill 968 and Senate Bill 753, for Paid Sick Leave. You can find your representatives and their contact information at www.mdelect.net. If your representatives are not in support of the bill please ask them why and let us know what they say! Below is a small sample phone script.

Thanks to the support of individuals like you who have taken the time to stand up for Paid Sick Leave, we are confident that if the bill does not go through this year it will take priority next year. But we have a lot of work to do and we have to keep raising awareness of this important issue. Currently 700,000 Maryland residents do not have Paid Sick Leave. Yet, everyone in Maryland deserves the right to Paid Sick Leave, and the longer Maryland employees have to go without it, the more children will go to school with fevers, the more restaurants will spread sickness, and the more employees will labor without dignity. We need your help to continue to show our support in these simple ways:

1) Call or E-mail your representatives

2) Forward this message/email to your friends

3) You can also invite our Paid Sick Leave organizer, Nicole Costen, to speak to your organization, church, or any group. She can be reached at ncosten(at)gmail.com.

Thank you for taking a few moments to help us propel the campaign forward. We can not succeed without it. Have a great day!

 

SAMPLE PHONE SCRIPT:

My name is ________ and I’m a constituent of Delegate / Senator ________. I’m calling today to ask Senator/ Delegate ________ to cosponsor the Earned Sick and Safe Leave Act.

The issue of paid sick days is incredibly important to me and my family and I hope Senator / Delegate ________ will join Delegate Olszewski and Senator Pugh in cosponsoring this legislation.

 

 

SAMPLE E-MAIL:

Dear Delegate / Senator ________,

My name is ________ and I’m writing as your constituent to urge you to cosponsor the Earned Sick and Safe

Leave Act. The issue of paid sick days is incredibly important to me and my family. (Insert personal story /perspective here.) I sincerely hope you will join Delegate Olszewski and Senator Pugh in cosponsoring this important piece of legislation.

Thank you,

YOUR NAME
YOUR HOME ADDRESSS

 

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Support Paid Sick Leave in Annapolis – Tues, 2/18 & Thurs, 2/20

Posted in Events, Paid Sick Leave on February 17th, 2014 by Mike – Comments Off

Dear Friends,

This Tuesday, February 18, and Thursday, February 20, we are heading to Annapolis to testify in support of Paid Sick Leave legislation and we hope you will join us.

Currently, almost 700,000 Marylanders are without paid sick leave. When they take time off from work, due to illness or family emergency, they risk losing their job and sacrificing much-needed income at a time when they can least afford it.

“Everyone gets sick, but many of us are forced to work regardless,” said United Workers leader Emanuel McCray before the Maryland House of Delegates Economic Matters Committee, last year, “And every time we miss work, we lose money and our managers use it against us.” (See Emanuel’s full testimony here)

This is why the United Workers and the larger Working Matters coalition are standing up to demand paid sick leave. When sick workers are able to stay home everyone benefits, the spread of disease slows, workplace injuries are less frequent, and workplaces are both healthier and more productive.

The hearings will take place in the House Economic Matters committee on Tuesday at 1pm (HB 968) and in the Senate Finance committee on Thursday at 1pm (SB 753).

If you can attend, you can meet the United Workers team on both days at 11am outside of the House Office Building (6 Bladen St., Annapolis, MD).

Before the hearings, we will be visiting our representatives at their offices, to express our desire for them to support Paid Sick Leave at the hearing. Please let us know if you can join us or if you would like to submit written testimony. You can either email ncosten(at)gmail.com or call 410.230.1998.

Parking: You may park at the Navy-Marine corps Memorial Stadium and take the trolley to the House building. It is $2.00 and runs every ten minutes. There is also a fee for the parking lot. If you need a ride, please let us know.

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Baltimore Sun OpEd: ‘Fair Development for a Fairer Maryland’

Posted in Fight for Fair Development, Media, News Coverage on February 7th, 2014 by Mike – Comments Off

United Workers Leadership Organizer Todd Cherkis published the following OpEd today in the Baltimore Sun, together with UNITE HERE Local 7 President Roxie Herbekian. In it, they call for a Fair Development agenda that “puts people and communities first” in order to truly confronts inequality in Baltimore and Maryland.


By Todd Cherkis and Roxie Herbekian

Baltimore Sun, February 6, 2014

People elsewhere in the nation are taking action to tackle the issue of the growing divide between the rich and poor, but here in Maryland, the richest state in the country, we have a seismic inequality problem and are doing little to address it.

New York City’s new mayor, Bill de Blasio, has vowed to take on the “inequality crisis” by expanding paid sick leave, increasing taxes on the wealthy and requiring big developers to build more affordable housing. Last November, voters in SeaTac, Wash. approved a $15 minimum wage. In Baltimore, leadership continues to rely on the market-driven trickle-down policies of our recent past that have only further fueled the problem and left even more struggling.

Big developments like Harbor Point continue to be subsidized while neighborhoods face cuts to basic services from recreation centers to fire stations. The Inner Harbor offers a place to play for tourists, but it provides largely only temporary poverty wage jobs. In an interview last week in The Washington Post, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake reiterated her faith in the private market’s ability to answer Baltimore’s woes. This will not resolve the growing divide between the rich and poor.

For Maryland and Baltimore to lead on issues of inequality, it will require a new fair development agenda that prioritizes human dignity and strengthens public resources.

We see a start to this effort with Gov. Martin O’Malley‘s support for raising the minimum wage and the growing statewide movement for workplace protections such as paid sick leave. However, more remains to be done. In July, the governor himself criticized developer AirMall USA’s failure to address workers’ concerns over wages and job quality in the 10 years since it was contracted to manage the concessions program at Thurgood Marshall BWI Airport. A recent survey conducted by UNITE HERE Local 7 revealed that workers employed by AirMall’s subtenants at BWI earn a median hourly wage of $8.50. New legislation — the Thurgood Marshall Equal Pay Act — seeks to adopt policies that would bring concessions workers’ pay at least to the level of the airport’s lowest-paid Maryland Aviation Administration employees, who earn an hourly wage of $13.45.

In Baltimore there is a growing push for fair development that’s transparent, includes accountability measures, encourages wide participation and meets the fundamental needs of city residents.

Dozens of groups are coming together to address the vacant housing issue by developing a plan to create permanently affordable housing through community land trusts, administered by the local community.

“Vacants bring down property values, limit affordability options for potential renters and home buyers. Let’s turn this equation around so that communities can reclaim these resources and do something to make affordable housing a reality,” said Shantress Wise, a community leader of the United Workers.

We also see the need to reset the city’s environmental agenda. We need a new program that provides green living wage jobs and develops true sustainable energy sources to light our streets, schools and homes instead of further contaminating neighborhoods that already register some of the nation’s highest levels of toxic air pollution. We can cut down on utility costs and clean up our city’s air if we work together.

“Opportunity is who we are,” President Barack Obama said during his State of the Union address. “And the defining project of our generation is to restore that promise.”

It’s time for an agenda that truly puts people and communities first. Let’s make good on that promise and take action together, here in Baltimore and Maryland.

Todd Cherkis is a leadership organizer with the United Workers. Roxie Herbekian is the President of UNITE HERE Local 7. Their emails are todd@unitedworkers.org and rherbekian@unitehere.org.

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United Workers Celebrates One-Year Anniversary of its Food SHARE Program

Posted in Culture, Events, Fight for Fair Food on February 4th, 2014 by Mike – Comments Off

Happy Birthday, United Workers Food SHARE program! Since we began our Food SHARE program in January 2013, the United Workers has connected over a hundred people with healthy affordable food. Many of these individuals live in food deserts—neighborhoods with little access to affordable and healthy food (check out a map of Baltimore food deserts here).

“The Food Share program is important for people to get high-quality food for a great price on a monthly basis,” said United Workers member Shantress Wise, a co-founder of the program. “Being a part of it makes me feel good, driven, and determined, because it helps to bring people together for the community and get them involved in the United Workers. That’s great.”

This month’s menu is out (left). Monthly value packages cost just $21 and include $40-$50 worth of basic and healthy groceries, typically made up of 4-5 pounds of frozen protein products, 1-3 grocery items, and 8-9 pounds of fresh produce. There are no income or eligibility guidelines.

Interested in getting involved or ordering a package? You can check us out on Facebook, call us at 410.230.1998, or email kcavanaugh@umaryland.edu.

Pickup will take place on Saturday, February 22, at 10am at James McHenry Rec Center (911 Hollins Street).

In addition to providing food through the Food SHARE program, we will also be studying the problems of food insecurity and inaccessibly in our communities and asking ourselves the questions: Why are so many individuals and families unable to afford stable, healthy meals? Why must those in our community choose between feeding themselves and paying their bills? Why are so many areas in Baltimore miles from grocery stores?

Many thanks to everyone that has been involved in the program and in particular James McHenry Rec Center for the great partnership.

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Media Internships Available

Posted in Culture, Media, Unity on February 3rd, 2014 by Mike – Comments Off

The United Workers is currently seeking candidates for internship positions for Spring 2014. Interns will assist staff and members of the United Workers media team with communications, press, media, social media, and the production of multimedia and audio-visual content. While interns are unpaid, course credit can be arranged. All positions will start as soon as possible, and can be arranged for one or two semesters. 

1. Communications Intern: Assist media coordinator and media team in outreach and communications relating to the United Workers’ Fair Development Campaign and statewide Healthcare Is a Human Right – Maryland campaign. Tasks include general research, writing press releases, making press calls, and promoting information, actions, and events through our e-newsletter, blog, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media. This intern will also support in the development of memes and other messaging strategy. Time commitment is at least two days a week. Qualifications: Ability to write well and pay attention to detail is essential. Basic computer skills are required, as is a deep commitment to a human rights analysis of social ills and a dedication toward developing the leadership of those most directly affected by social injustice. Previous journalism, media, communication, or organizing experience and knowledge of Spanish helpful. Familiarity with the United Workers, community-based organizing, and leadership development a plus. To apply: Send cover letter and résumé to mike@unitedworkers.org.

2. Multimedia Intern: Assist media coordinator and United Workers media team with the documentation of events and the production of videos and audio content for our new podcast. Tasks include filming, interviewing, and editing video and audio. This intern will also work closely with the media team to develop content and generate ideas for future videos and stories for the podcast. Qualifications: Ability to write well and pay attention to detail is essential. Basic computer skills are a must, as is experience with video, photography, or audio recording and editing. This intern should have a deep commitment to a human rights analysis of social ills and a dedication toward developing the leadership of those most directly affected by social injustice. Previous journalism, media, communication, or organizing experience and knowledge of Spanish helpful. Familiarity with the United Workers, community-based organizing, and leadership development a plus. To apply: Send cover letter and résumé to mike@unitedworkers.org.

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What Does Opportunity Mean to You?

Posted in Community of Dignity, Culture, Solidarity, Unity on January 24th, 2014 by Mike – Comments Off

As we roll into the New Year, we have been asking ourselves several questions about opportunity. Who has it? What prevents us from being connected to it? And how can we work together as communities, organizations, and individuals to make it happen?

This is particularly important for our Fair Development Campaign, where opportunity is a key component of what we are fighting for: the opportunity to participate in decisions that affect us; the basic opportunity to be able to care for our families, and to live our lives without the fear of losing our home if we can’t pay the rent, or losing our job if we get sick.

We asked dozens of United Workers members the question “What does opportunity mean to you?” Here are some of their responses.

-For everyone to have the same fair chance of success, the same access to education, healthcare, housing, fair pay and a livable wage.

-Believing in me, pushing me, and being proud of me.

-Affordable housing

-Being able to take advantage of a better quality of life in Baltimore, through more affordable housing, better paying jobs, and other programs that help someone get back on their feet.

-Fair and equitable access to dignified employment, education, healthcare, housing, and all other aspects of a fulfilling and meaningful life. Democratic, community input and leadership is necessary to provide these goals.

-To have the chance to steer the big, complicated messy ship that is our society—not to control it.

-Equitability: opportunity for all and promoting increased access for those in need across race, gender, sexual orientation, age, capabilities, etc.

-Affordable housing and living wage jobs for all and more resources for the next generation to improve their chances of a better life.

-Having a chance to do something and having the resources to do it.

-A way to make a better life for your family and for your voice to be heard. Because the community still belongs to us, the people!

What does opportunity mean to you? Do you believe that everyone in Baltimore and Maryland have the same opportunities? Do you believe that everyone should? What prevents us from having opportunity? And how can we come together to make it happen? We would love to hear from you. You can join the conversation here, or write to mike@unitedworkers.org.

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United Workers Commemorates MLK Day

Posted in Events, Fight for Fair Development, Health Care Is a Human Right Campaign, Media, Unity, Universal Dignity on January 21st, 2014 by Mike – Comments Off

Over the weekend, the United Workers celebrated the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. On Saturday, January 18, we held a powerful Strategic Dialogue at James McHenry Rec Center. We reflected on the 50th anniversary of the ‘War on Poverty’, Dr. King’s transformative vision, and the structural causes of poverty that continue today in Baltimore, Maryland, and around the world. You can check out some pictures from the day here. Stay tuned for audio from the event.

On Monday, January 20, United Workers youth leader Destiny Watford was on the Marc Steiner Show to talk about how Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. influences her and others’ work today. Destiny is a member of the United Workers Human Rights Committee “Free Your Voice,” which is working in Baltimore’s Curtis Bay and Brooklyn neighborhoods to ensure fair development that puts community first. Most recently, they have been fighting to stop the construction of the nation’s largest incinerator less than a mile from Ben Franklin High School.

You can listen to the segment here…

Later that day, the United Workers, Healthcare Now!, and Baltimore members of Healthcare is a Human Right – Maryland participated in Baltimore’s 2014 MLK Day Parade. Here is a small Flickr set of some of our pictures.

 

We participated in the parade, carrying a banner (left) that read: “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in healthcare is the most shocking and the most inhumane.” The quote is from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., spoken on March 25, 1966, at the Second National Convention of the Medical Committee for Human Rights. This reality remains true today. Many members of the Healthcare Is a Human Right – Maryland campaign have gone into bankruptcy or lost their homes because of medical debt. Others have had to forgo necessary treatment for illnesses such as cancer, because of cost or a lack of health insurance. In Maryland alone, 400,000 residents will remain uninsured even after the Affordable Care Act is fully implemented.

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Join Us Tomorrow for our 2014 Strategic Dialogue

Posted in Events, Unity on January 17th, 2014 by Mike – Comments Off

Our 2014 Strategic Dialogue Is Tomorrow!

Saturday, January 18th
11:30 pm – 4 pm

James McHenry Rec Center
911 Hollins St, Baltimore

 

The United Workers, together with leaders from across the state will join together in an in-depth analysis of the way commodification of public goods—i.e. healthcare, housing, our environment—has negatively impacted our fundamental rights. The dialogue will also reflect on the 50 year anniversary of the ‘War on Poverty’ and Dr. King’s transformative vision. Afterwards, members of our campaign will engage in an overview of our campaign timeline for the coming year and how to grow our chapters across the state. Last year’s event was a great success and this year’s will be a perfect opportunity to get plugged in! We hope you can make it! Here’s the event page.

For more on the ‘War on Poverty,’ United Workers Leadership Organizer Luis Larin and others from the Fair Development Campaign were on the Marc Steiner Show on Monday. Check it out at UnitedWorkers.org.

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MLK Day March Contingent

January 20th, Monday at 11:40 am
Eutaw and Preston St. – Baltimore

Healthcare Now! and Baltimore members of Healthcare is a Human Right – Maryland will be participating in the 2014 MLK Day Parade this Monday and are inviting fellow members and allies to join. Meet at 11:40 am at the Intersection of Eutaw and Preston St. Please wear your Healthcare is a Human Right shirt, United Workers, or a yellow or black shirt, and feel free to bring your own handmade signs! The march will begin at Noon and head down MLK Blvd, ending on Baltimore St & MLK. You can download a map of the the parade HERE.

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‘The War on Poverty’ : The Marc Steiner Show w/ Organizer Luis Larin

Posted in Fight for Fair Development, Media, Unity on January 17th, 2014 by Mike – Comments Off

Last week marked the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson’s declaration of a war on poverty. On Monday, Marc Steiner dedicated his show to the anniversary, looking at how far we have – and haven’t – come in the fight against poverty over the past 50 years. United Workers Leadership Organizer Luis Larin was on for the last segment, along with other collaborators in the Fair Development Campaign: Guetwende Yameogo, a cook at Silver Diner at BWI-Thurgood Marshall Airport; Mike Hachey, Unite Here organizer at BWI/Thurgood Marshall Airport; and Jeff Singer, Founder and former Executive Director of Healthcare for the Homeless. The audio for this segment is available here.

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Video: Healthcare Justice Play

Posted in Health Care Is a Human Right Campaign, Media on January 13th, 2014 by Mike – Comments Off

On October 26, 2013, residents from across the state of Maryland marched for the human right to healthcare. It was the first state-wide action of the Healthcare Is a Human Right – Maryland campaign. It was a huge success and a powerful testament to the grassroots movement that is growing across the state to demand universal healthcare. This play took place just after a rally that kicked off the march near Baltimore’s Patterson Park. It was put on by members of the Healthcare Is a Human Right – Maryland campaign, the United Workers, and other allies and supporters across Maryland. Filmed and edited by the United Workers and Healthcare Is a Human Right – Maryland media teams.

UnitedWorkers.org
HealthcareIsaHumanRightMaryland.org

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Join us for a Strategic Dialogue on January 18

Posted in Culture, Events, Fight for Fair Development, Paid Sick Leave on January 9th, 2014 by Mike – Comments Off

Please join us for a strategic dialogue on the Saturday of Martin Luther King weekend (January 18). Leaders from across the state will join together in an in-depth analysis of the way commodification of public goods—healthcare, our environment, etc—has affected our human rights. In particular, we will examine what happens when homes are treated as commodities rather than the essential public goods that they are. We’ll also use historical examples from Baltimore during the civil rights movements and will reflect on Dr. King’s transformative vision and how it can inform our work building a movement across color and class lines.

What: Strategic Dialogue

When: Saturday, January 18, 2013, 11:30 – 4pm

Where: James McHenry Recreation Center, 911 Hollins Street, Baltimore, MD 21223

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Help Us to Continue to Grow This Movement!

Posted in Solidarity, Unity on December 26th, 2013 by Mike – Comments Off

Dear Friends,

Thank you for your support in helping us to build community, unite struggles, and grow this movement to end poverty. It has been an incredible year. Across Baltimore, people are standing up and demanding Fair Development, which puts human rights values – respect and dignity and the sanctity of life above all else.

Over the last year, our human rights committees have grown across Baltimore and the state of Maryland; The former ESPN Zone workers won their class action lawsuit against Disney; and our Healthcare Is a Human Right – Maryland campaign held its’ first statewide march. Our larger Fair Development Campaign won a labor agreement with Caesars’ new Baltimore casino and our youth human rights committee Free Your Voice has been leading the fight to stop what would be the nation’s largest incinerator in Brooklyn-Curtis Bay.

“We can change the fate of the community and the fight for that change starts right here, right now,” Destiny Watford, a Towson University student and member of Free Your Voice, told a packed audience just before a powerful march to the incinerator site last week.

You are an important part of this journey. As we look toward the New Year, please consider becoming a monthly sustainer or making a one-time donation. Thank you for your on-going support.

Sincerely,

-United Workers

Marchers demand Fair Development and a halt to the Brooklyn-Curtis Bay Incinerator on December 18, 2013

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Coverage of our March to Stop the Incinerator

Posted in Environmental Justice, Media, News Coverage, Unity on December 21st, 2013 by Mike – Comments Off

We had a lot of good coverage of our March to Stop the Incinerator on December 18, 2013, in Brooklyn-Curtis Bay. Links are below.

Baltimore Brew: Pollution-weary students stage a march to protest incinerator

Baltimore Brew: Video: High School Students March Against South Baltimore Incinerator

WBALTV: Hundreds protest construction of incinerator in Baltimore

Fox 45: curtis-bay-residents-concerned-over-plans-new-trash-incinerator

Baltimore Sun: Students and others protest the proposed South Baltimore incinerator  &
The Curtis Bay incinerator will endanger Marylanders [Commentary]

WJZ CBS Baltimore: Marylanders Uneasy About Renewable Energy Plant In Curtis Bay

The Real News: Ben Franklin High School Incinerator Protest

Clean Water Action: Marchers Demand Clean Air and Fair Development

Climate Howard: Students Demand Freedom From Dirty Energy

Solidarity: A Baltimore Neighborhood Fights a New Incinerator

Baltimore Post Examiner: ‘Stop the incinerator in Baltimore,” activists demand

Grist.org: Smokestack city: An industrial neighborhood decides it has had enough

Grist.org: Talking trash: Baltimore students speak out against waste-burning power plant

Blue Water Baltimore: Why the Incinerator in Curtis Bay is Bad for Curtis Bay and our Harbor

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