Latinos For Texas Blog

2007-Jul-20

The greater agent of change: George Bush’s Administration or terrorists?

So, several years ago i read a question (i think it was in a paul krugman article) which i have quoted many times: ‘How do you know when you are five years out from the French revolution? or 5 months? or 5 days?’ or something quite close to that. its interesting to ponder what people (from random workers to executives, from the un-engaged citizen to the high-powered politicos) were doing, noting, thinking while others worked their levers of power, and grabbed what they could get — old ways be damned.

Like the frog and the boiling water, its easy to let things slide a little, thinking, well of course i dont trust them but they arent really crazy, certainly they understand people wont tolerate much more of that, these lunatics in suits arent really doing what the other lunatics in tinfoil are ranting about.

Well, the Washington post has an article about George Bush’s administration finally declaring itself truly out of the reach of Congressional wishes, deciding, with help of disgrace-to-texas AG AG, that the ‘executive privilege’ is really ‘executive branch privilege’ and, better yet, can be applied to folks who no longer are part of the executive branch. They have placed themselves above the law, in every meaningful way, although i admit, they have, in an evil-genius way, created a legal ‘opinion’ for that, too.

Some choice quotes:

Bush administration officials unveiled a bold new assertion of executive authority yesterday in the dispute over the firing of nine U.S. attorneys, saying that the Justice Department will never be allowed to pursue contempt charges initiated by Congress against White House officials once the president has invoked executive privilege.

David B. Rifkin, who worked in the Justice Department and White House counsel’s office under presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, praised the position and said it is consistent with the idea of a “unitary executive.” In practical terms, he said, “U.S. attorneys are emanations of a president’s will.” And in constitutional terms, he said, “the president has decided, by virtue of invoking executive privilege, that is the correct policy for the entire executive branch.”

Mark J. Rozell, a professor of public policy at George Mason University who has written a book on executive-privilege issues, called the administration’s stance “astonishing.”

“That’s a breathtakingly broad view of the president’s role in this system of separation of powers,” Rozell said. “What this statement is saying is the president’s claim of executive privilege trumps all.”

Is this a bold enough maneuver to shake loose the Republicans who voted again for this man and his minions? Already the Rs in congress have begun to understand, whether for political survival or perhaps for genuine reasons of principles, that George Bush’s Administration is a far greater threat to the continuation of American culture as we have come to know and love it, warts and all, than the foreign terrorists.

I wonder if citizens who chose this path realize they would generate TWO great threats to American democracy? Will this be enough to turn them, at the State level as well, to understanding that the Republican party, whatever it once might have claimed to stand for, is the vehicle for dismantling the constitution and our culture?

I will continue to hope that, as the miami sound machine sang, so presciently, so long ago: The hubris is gonna getcha, the hubris is gonna get ya…

2007-Jul-19

The voice of Austin…

Santos writes in to share that the edition of La Voz de Austen. is available online in pdf, and for several of Austin’s communities. The July issue covers the “many unanswered questions from the [death of] David Morales”, checks in on Johnston High’s future, and of course, “La Guerra en Irak” and more.

Check out the community info at http://www.lavoznewspapers.com.

2007-May-17

Bill to combat non-existent Voter ID fraud appears to be dead in the Tx Senate

A report over at BOR links to an Austin-American Statesman article proclaiming Dewhurst has pronounced the Senates version of HB218 ‘all but dead.’

There is some great discussion in that thread about how this voter id bill really is NOT about ‘non-dilution of American’s votes, and keeping the vote safe’ and the like, but about a clever way to reduce Dem vote by about 3%, according to even staunch Republican Royal Masset in this comment, and elsewhere.

If the Lege wants to increase the vote, enact same-day registration, and county-wide polling places efforts (replacing my-precinct-only polling place). If the State’s technology is good enough to arrest someone in Amarillo for a warrant in Brownsville, if should be good enough to span a county on election day.

There is no voter ID fraud problem. Even according to Dewhurst, if you believe him, almost a few hundred non-citizens have voted in the last, according to him, 14 years! maybe as many as, in his words, 41 voted in two years in all of Bexar county. does he know how to do math, do ratios mean anything!! talk about a speck of a speck.
he then takes that and says ‘what about the ones we dont know about, what if it is “twenty-five thousand?”‘ WOW! what if its 25 ka-billion!?! What if EVERYONE stole EVERYTHING from HEB. We better enact a law to treat ALL shoppers as shoplifters, or at least the old, young, frequent movers, and poor ones.
how about focusing on problems we know exist — like education, healthcare, and infrastructure — and when thats all solved, you can take some time to work up a exciting David Blaine-style conjuring routine .

2007-May-1

UPDATE: HB 626 passes

Despite wide-spread opposition, and a truly remarkable, even stunning, lack of evidence pointing to a need for its existence, HB 626 passed out of the house.

State Rep. Eddie Rodriguez (D-Austin) released a statement which sums it up nicely

“Let’s be clear about this: there is no voter impersonation problem or voter fraud epidemic in this state,” said Rep. Rodriguez. “This is part of a partisan disenfranchisement effort to keep seniors, minorities, and the poor from voting.  I voted against House Bill 626 to protect the voting rights of every Texan.”

From the federal level on down, there really is a systematic effort by Republicans to win elections by manipulating the process, since they cannot compete on the merits. And, it doesn’t hurt that they find it morally easy to scapegoat the already tenuously involved, and their low-information, lousy-moral-compassed minions just plod along according to their marching orders.

is it too cliche to remind people of the banality of evil?

2007-Apr-23

UPDATE: HB218 passes out of the House, HB 626 postponed

from BOR:

“House Bill 218, the voter ID bill, has passed the House 76 - 68. Luckily House Bill 626, requiring proof of citizenship, has been postponed until next Monday.”

derrrghhhh… Altho, as i understand it, there is no true Senate companion bill, and Senator Ellis has proclaimed he has the support needed to stop one in his side of the dome. Lets make sure no Dems get peeled away — and make sure your electeds know you are watching and remembering.

URGENT: Call today to stop the Voter Roadblock bills (HB 218 and Hb 626)

LATINOS FOR TEXAS CALL TO ACTION

Call your State Rep. and tell them to vote NO on HB218 and HB 626. http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/

I am sure you read loads of alarmist-sounding posts, but please pay attention and act today because there really is a coordinated Voter Suppression effort rolling through the Lege right now, this morning.

There are two bills in the Texas House (HB 218 and HB 626) which pretend to fight Voter ID fraud although it has been proven to NOT exist. The real plan of these bills is to reduce voting participation by throwing up roadblocks to Voter Registration and Voter Registration Drives, and essentially kick just about anyone who moves frequently (read: disproportionately poor, minority, seniors, and youth voters, base-hopping soldiers’ families), or who doesn’t remember to send away for a ‘certified’ copy of their birth certificate, passport or naturalization papers weeks ahead of the 30-days-before-an-election voter registration deadline.

On a recent conference call hosted by True Courage Action Network, a non-partisan non-profit, it was revealed that the minimum cost, even for voters who have been voting for 20 years but maybe move, or get married and change names, will be roughly $20 for the certified copy of a birth certificate. And, possibly as much as $90 if you are a naturalized citizen.

Call your State Rep. and tell them to vote NO on HB218 and HB 626. http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/

HB 626 requires proof of citizenship at the time of registration, in the form of certified copy of either your birth certificate, passport or naturalization papers, and because no one carries these around, and if they did no one in their right mind will hand a copy of these documents to a stranger to register to vote, effectively killing voter registration drives. HB 218 requires multiple forms of identification at the poll.

Learn More:
http://www.truecourageaction.net
http://www.tx.billhop.com/bills/80(R)/HB626/

2007-Apr-14

Don’t Suppress the Vote in Texas

Texas is one of several states subject to the Voter Rights Act Section 5 pre-clearance whereby election practices or procedures are frozen until the new proposed procedures have been subjected to review by the US Department of Justice. You wouldn’t be too surprised by our state neighbors in the VRA Section 5 pool. You also wouldn’t be too surprised that under the Bush administration DOJ pre-clearance has been relatively easy.

LA Times 3/25/2007
Justice Department tugged to the right Under Bush, the department has been tainted by politics, many say.
The Civil Rights Division veterans focused their criticism on major voting case decisions over the last six years that they say have generally benefited the GOP.The most recent case concerned a 2005 Georgia law that required voters to provide photo identification. Staff attorneys raised concerns about the law after the Georgia secretary of state supplied data showing that tens of thousands of voters might not have driver’s licenses or other prescribed forms of identification. They said the plan could effectively disenfranchise large numbers of black voters.

On Tuesday April 17th, the Texas Legislature will vote on two House bills HB218 and HB626 that will likely suppress the vote in Texas if they become law and are implemented.

NY Times article 2/21/07
Lower Voter Turnout Is Seen In States That Require ID

States that imposed identification requirements on voters reduced turnout at the polls in the 2004 presidential election by about 3 percent, and by two to three times as much for minorities, new research suggests.

HB218 by Representative Betty Brown, requires voters to provide redundant forms of identification. A voter must present a voter registration card and a photo ID, or a voter registration card and at least two other forms of non-photo ID. Voters who do not have the required forms of ID and show up to the polls will be required to cast a provisional ballot. There are no mandates in the bill for voter education or notification of the change in the voting law. Provisional ballots in Texas are already counted at a very low rate. In the 2004 Presidential race of the 36,193 ballots cast provisionally, only 7,770, less than a quarter of them, were ultimately counted. A survey by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law found that as many as 11 percent of Americans, more than 21 million citizens, did not have a current government-issued photo ID.

HB626 by Phil King, is a proof of citizenship to register to vote bill. His bill requires that all voter registrations must include proof of citizenship. Only three documents will satisfy the proof of citizen requirement:

  • a certified copy of a birth certificate
  • certified copy of a valid passport
  • certified copy of citizenship naturalization papers

This bill will effectively kill voter registration drives. No one carries these important papers on their person. And they will be unlikely to trust handing the documents to volunteers conducting registration drives. Therefore, the only way a new voter can register to vote is through the mail, if the person includes a certified copy of one of those documents. Or if they go down to their local country registrars office in person with their papers.
Consider that anytime a person moves from one county to another within the state, they have to re-register and this whole process will have to be repeated again.
Both of the Texas House bills are modeled after Proposition 200 in Arizona which passed in 2004, was temporarily suspended by the Federal Ninth Circuit court and reinstated by the US Supreme Court. An appeal is in the courts.

Proposition 200 implemented harsh voter identification requirements as well as proof-of-citizenship requirements in 2005. The law requires voters who cast a ballot at a polling place on Election Day to present photo identification deemed “acceptable” by Arizona’s Secretary of State, such as a driver’s license, or two alternate forms of ID that include the name or address of the voter such as a utility bill or a bank statement. Such requirements can disenfranchise voters without photo ID by making it hard for them to cast ballots if they live at a residence where someone else, such as a spouse, parent, or roommate pays the bills, or if they are uninformed about the rules. Students, the poor, and senior citizens are among the groups that are most likely to be adversely affected.
Source: People for the American Way.

The bill analysis for Representative Phil King’s bill, HB626 states:

While there is no evidence of extensive fraud in Texas elections or of multiple voting, both can occur and it could affect the outcome of close elections.

There have been over twenty million votes cast in Texas since 2002 in various statewide elections, and not one single case of voter impersonation has been prosecuted by the Texas Attorney General. Proponents of these laws insist that election fraud is rampant and that the purity of the ballot box is being threatened, but they can only provide anecdotal evidence of this. Turnout in the state of Texas is already pretty anemic. Only 34% of the registered voters in Texas turned out fo the last gubernatorial election in November of 2006.
Source: Texas Secretary of State Turnout and Voter Registration Figures (1970-current)

There are two ways to win an election. One is to get a majority of voters to support you. The other is to prevent voters who oppose you from casting their votes.
Source: People for the American Way Report; The New Face of Jim Crow: Voter Suppression in America

Further reading on election fraud:

2007-Mar-27

Act Today to Save Voter Registration!

Quick, do you have your proof of citizenship on you? Do you even know what counts as proof? Would you be carrying it on you when you head to a music festival, a parade, or immunization day?

Well, certain House Republicans know this, and in an effort to combat unsubstantiated and fabricated ‘voter ID fraud,’ the House Committee on Elections is moving on Wednesday to approve a bill which make it harder for people to become involved, or stay involved. These bills will do three things

  • Require proof of citizenship PLUS an additional ID just to register, at the time of registration.
  • Require even long-term voters to re-register after moving, WITH proof of citizenship — even if they have been dutiful voters for years and years.
  • Require two forms of ID at the poll.

THIS WILL EFFECTIVELY KILL VOTER REGISTRATION DRIVES!
CONTACT STATE REPS AND TELL THEM TO REJECT HB 218 and HB 626

CONTACT INFO:
PHONE NUMBERS

Opposing:

Rafael Anchía
Capitol: (512) 463-0746
District: (214) 943-6081

Lon Burnam
Capitol: (512) 463-0740
District: (817) 924-1997

Joe Farías
Capitol: (512) 463-0714

Favoring:
Leo Berman (Chair)
Capitol: (512) 463-0584
District: (903) 939-2400

Dwayne Bohac (Vice-Chair)
Capitol: (512) 463-0727
District: (713) 460-2800

Charlie Howard
Capitol: (512) 463-0710
District: (281) 565-9500

Undecided:
Kirk England
Capitol: (512) 463-0694
District: (972) 264-4231

FAX NUMBERS

Opposing:
Rafael Anchía
Capitol Fax: (512) 463-0738
District Fax (214) 920-9996

Lon Burnam
Capitol Fax: (512) 463-1075
District Fax (817) 924-6788

Favoring:
Leo Berman (Chair)
Capitol Fax: (512) 463-3217
District Fax (903) 939-2402

Dwayne Bohac (Vice-Chair)
Capitol Fax: (512) 463-0681
District Fax (713) 460-2822

Charlie Howard
Capitol Fax: (512) 463-0711
District Fax (281) 565-1579

Undecided:
Kirk England
Capitol Fax: (512) 463-1130
District Fax (972) 522-5918

EMAIL ADDRESSES

Opposing:
rafael.anchia@house.state.tx.us
lon.burnam@house.state.tx.us
joe.farias@house.state.tx.us

Favoring:
leo.berman@house.state.tx.us
dwayne.bohac@house.state.tx.us
charlie.howard@house.state.tx.us

Undecided
kirk.england@house.state.tx.us

2007-Mar-23

Alberto Gonzales is not the victim

Shame on Mr. Navarette, for defending Alberto Gonzales and assuring us he is not a liar after 3 interviews (see http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/03/22/navarrette/index.html ). He should have done his homework. Mr. Navarette has stated that Gonzales assured him that the firings were related to performance. If that is true then why was David Iglesias, US attorney from New Mexico, ranked the # 4 best US attorney in the nation fired? It seems that Mr. Navarette doesn’t mind continuing to victimize another Hispanic’s reputations in defense of someone who dishonored himself, his country & Hispanics when he chose to carry the water for this less than stellar administration.

I am Hispanic, I am from Texas and I am aware of the long history Mr. Gonzales has at failing to do what is honorable & what is good. In Texas he looked the other way rather than intervene in the execution of a retarded man under then Governor Bush. After that came condoning & encouraging torture, his faults are endless. He is an embarrassment to Hispanics. He embodies the saying, “Por eso no sube la raza [that is why the raza (Hispanics) never progress]. It is not just white Liberals who want him gone. Fuera, Sr. Gonzalez.
Margie Medrano

in response to http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/03/22/navarrette/index.html

2007-Jan-26

U.S Citizenship Drive with Rep. Eddie Rodriguez

Filed under: — site admin @ 1:17 pm

LFT’s friendly State Rep. Eddie Rodriguez sums it up: “Immigrants are an integral part of the American community and there is no better way to demonstrate our community’s patriotism and commitment to this country than by becoming full participants in its democracy.”

Help democracy won’t you? Signup for a reminder: http://www.latinosfortexas.com/events/detail.php?eid=212

Full Press Release:

Rep. Eddie Rodriguez host U.S. Citizenship Drive in Austin

Saturday, January 27th, 2007 starting at 8:00 am at the LBJ School of Public Affairs

Austin, TX– State Representative Eddie Rodriguez in collaboration with the University Leadership Initiative, will conduct a U.S. Citizenship Drive on Saturday, January 27th, 2007 starting at 8:00am at the LBJ School of Public Affairs located 2315 Red River Street, (inside the Sid Richardson building). The goal of the workshop is to assist eligible legal permanent residents apply for U.S. citizenship.

Last spring, millions of immigrants and their supporters marched in cities throughout the United States in support of comprehensive immigration reform. The unprecedented levels of participation has motivated thousand of individuals to seek other avenues to continue their civic engagement, including more direct democratic actions such as voting, which requires legal permanent residents to first become naturalized citizens.

“The message is loud and clear: Immigrants are an integral part of the American community and there is no better way to demonstrate our community’s patriotism and commitment to this country than by becoming full participants in its democracy,” said State Representative Eddie Rodriguez. “U.S. citizenship and voting are clearly the next steps.”

Approximately four out of ten Latino adults living in the U.S. are not citizens, of which 5 million are eligible for naturalization. In Texas, there are approximately 800,000 Latinos potentially eligible to become U.S. Citizens. Research demonstrates that Latino naturalized citizens, are voting at higher rates than native born Latinos in many states.

Eligible applicants for U.S. citizenship are encouraged to arrive early, as the first 300 legal permanent residents who arrive and meet the requirements to solicit citizenship will be ensured assistance. To apply, applicants must be:

* At least 18 years old;
* A legal permanent resident for at least five years (3-Years if married to U.S. Citizen);
* Able to read, write, speak, and understand basic English, and have basic knowledge of U.S. history and government.

In addition, the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services requires citizenship applicants to submit a $400 money order along with the application. Applicants are strongly encouraged to bring a money order and complete the full application process on the day of the workshop.

For more information, call 441-8123 ext 101 or 113.

2007-Jan-23

TX Senator Dan Patrick files wire-money bill

Filed under: — SoniaS @ 8:34 am

File this under more wrong headed thinking.

Postcards from the Lege 1/22/07
Patrick, R-Houston, filed Senate Bill 268 which would place a fee on money wired out of Texas to any foreign country. The 10-percent fee on wire transactions under $5,000 would be collected to provide funding for border security.

So what’s wrong with this legislation? Let’s start with the fact that’s it’s basically foreign trade policy and the state of Texas has no authority to negotiate foreign policy on behalf of the U.S. Allowing states to start imposing a tax on international money transfers would be a nightmare for the federal government. Why would Texas or any border state be the only state allowed to take a cut of the billions of dollars that are sent out of this country. Every state would surely want a piece of that action.

Then let’s get into the cost of bureaucracy of the legislation. There isn’t a fiscal note on this bill yet, but there surely will be. The bill calls for banks and wire transfer services to file paperwork and monies remitted to the Comptroller and have the Comptroller deposit funds in a special account for border security.

Oh and to make the bill more palatable to American citizens who just might have to wire money outside the country, they can go through some more bureaucracy to apply for a refund of their fees with the Comptroller. Maker sure you have your copy of your birth certificates you lazy slackers.

Here’s the only safety valve on this type of legislation

Patrick’s bill: SECTION 4. This Act takes effect immediately if it receives a vote of two-thirds of all the members elected to each house, as provided by Section 39, Article III, Texas Constitution. If this Act does not receive the vote necessary for immediate effect, this Act takes effect September 1, 2007. Reality: This bill never takes effect because it never passes in the Senate so long as Democrats control 11 of the 31 votes. The 2/3 rule is still in effect for the Senate this session, and that essentially means the the Democrats alone can block putrid immigration bashing legislation like this from ever coming to the floor for a vote.

2007-Jan-12

Rep. Eddie Rodriguez showing love for citizens, even the blogging sort

An excellent start to the Lege, from LFT-endorsed State Rep. Eddie Rodriguez (D-Austin), which not only allows, but, can it be true, actually encourages people to be more involved in politics, and the process.

Representative Eddie Rodriguez to propose amendment to support Bloggers

AUSTIN– Representative Eddie Rodriguez (D-Austin) will propose an amendment to the house rules today that will give established Bloggers access to the House floor.

“With the rise of citizen journalism, it no longer makes sense to limit access to House business solely to the traditional press outlets,” said Representative Rodriguez.

Political blogs are some of the limited media that focus solely on reporting the happenings at the Capital and many of these Bloggers regularly break stories that show up in the traditional media.

Bloggers, as defined by this revised rule, produce original reporting and informed comment worthy of credentials. This amendment will allow increasingly popular non-traditional media, the privileges necessary to more effectively inform citizens on governmental issues.

“This kind of measure would encourage citizen participation in government and help demystify the system for the general public,” said Rodriguez.

2006-Nov-17

Henry Bonilla Cheats Minorities

Filed under: — SoniaS @ 9:06 am

(cross posted on BOR, DU, Texas Kaos and Stop Bonilla blog)
In 1999, Henry Bonilla took over an independent Political Action Committee known as the American Dream PAC.  Bonilla promised to “give significant, direct financial assistance” to minority political candidates.

Under the first four years of Bonilla’s supervision over the American Dream PAC, Bonilla collected $550,000.00 to fulfill his promise to help fund minority political candidates, but Bonilla gave less than $50,000 to minority candidates seeking public office.  Bonilla used less than 9% of the funds collected to serve the interests which Bonilla promised to serve.

Instead, Bonilla used over twice as much money collected by this supposedly “independent” Political Action Committee (more than $100,000.00) to pay off partisan Republican Party organizations and causes, including  corrupt Republican Tom DeLay’s criminal defense fund.  This is the same Tom DeLay who violated the Voting Rights Act to illegally gerrymander Bonilla’s congressional district in a failed attempt to dilute the votes of over 100,000 Latino voters in Bonilla’s district.  Even the Republican-dominated Supreme Court had to reject Bonilla’s gerrymandered district because DeLay and Bonilla “took away the Latinos’ opportunity because Latinos were about to exercise it” against Bonilla.

Bonilla said that his corrupt PAC gave only small donations to the minority political candidates he pledged to support because he couldn’t find “good, solid minority candidates to expend the funds on. We tried to be judicious and not just throw money out the window.”  Bonilla did not comment on why he considered fulfilling his promise to fund minority candidates throwing “money out the window” while he didn’t consider giving away those funds to Tom DeLay’s criminal defense fund throwing money out the window.

In 2003, Bonilla’s committee treasurer pleaded guilty in a San Antonio federal court to embezzling $119,021 of the funds collected for promising minority candidates, and she was sentenced to 15 months in prison.  Due to lax oversight, Bonilla did not discover this theft for over four years, and even Bonilla had to admit that this “was a black mark on my judgment.”

Henry Bonilla, with his record of broken promises and corruption, must be stopped!
——————–
I’m posting this for blogger StopBonilla with permission.  The new blog is :
stopbonilla.blogspot.com/

Let’s collect the ways Henry is bad for this district. He doesn’t represent the voters in this district.

2006-Nov-16

SEIU and Non-violent Civil Disobedience in Houston

An update on the Houston Janitors/SEIU strike for fair wages from major national cleaning contractors.

Up to 50 janitors from Houston and Around the Country to Risk Arrest Today to Challenge Industry to Settle 4-week Old Strike

HOUSTON—Up to 50 janitors and supporters from around the country and in Houston prepare to risk arrest to challenge the real estate industry to settle the strike and agree on a contract that provides the 5,300 janitors in Houston with higher wages and affordable health insurance. Houston has never seen non-violent civil disobedience on this level, and the sheer size of the arrests—as many as seventy over two days—shatter any previous records. For details on actions planned in Houston today, please call SEIU’s Lynda Tran at 202-907-1172.

Yesterday, janitors and supporters in 20 cities staged a variety of demonstrations at Chevron stations and Chevron-owned buildings, including acts of non-violent civil disobedience at Chevron corporate headquarters in San Ramon and Houston, to prompt the oil-giant to intervene and ensure that the janitors who clean up after them are provided with health insurance and decent wages. Twenty-four janitors and supporters were arrested in the two actions.

In Houston, the janitors split up into delegations and visited the offices of various building owners and tenants in the city. Some fanned out to the financial advisors for J.P. Morgan asking them for help in figuring out to raise a family, own a home, and save for retirement on $20 a day.

Support Pouring in As Civil Disobedience Intensifies

Yesterday, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Rev. James Lawson, President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) of Los Angeles—and one of the civil rights leaders who organized the Memphis Sanitation strike with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.—were the latest to sign on to a statement in support of the Houston janitors and the use of civil disobedience. The statement reads in part:

“The goal of these “Freedom Fliers” is to promote workers’ rights, civil liberties, and the opportunity to achieve the American Dream. We applaud the bravery and courage of these janitors, who will be risking arrest to fight for a better future for all American workers. Victory by the Houston janitors will build momentum for a new movement for better jobs and affordable health care in Houston and throughout the southern United States.” To read the entire statement, visit www.houstonjanitors.org.

Janitors in Houston work for many of the same national cleaning firms in buildings owned by the same national commercial landlords as janitors in other cities but earn significantly less and are not provided with health insurance. Janitors in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and other cities make more than $10 an hour, have health insurance and full-time work. In contrast, Houston workers are paid an average of $20 a day, with no health insurance for part-time work.

Last fall, 5,300 Houston janitors made the historic choice to form a union with SEIU (Service Employees International Union). Their decision capped one of the largest successful organizing drives by private sector workers ever in the Southern half of the United States. Since forming a union with SEIU, Houston janitors have been seeking a raise to $8.50/hour, more hours, and health insurance in a citywide union contract.

Nationwide, more than 225,000 janitors in 29 cities are members of SEIU.

2006-Nov-14

Farmers Branch Fuels Anti-Immigrant Sentiment

Filed under: — SoniaS @ 9:18 am

Dallas Morning News story this morning “FB moves against illegal immigrants”. Even their framing in the news story title makes it sound so uncontroversial. Or does it? I think Farmers Branch stepped back into the 20th century. They have basically fallen for the “blame the immigrants” frame. Nevermind that 37% percent of their population is Latino and the majority of them are not illegal.

FB moves against illegal immigrants
Farmers Branch on Monday adopted strict measures against illegal immigrants, requiring apartment renters to provide proof of citizenship or residency and making English the city’s official language.

The City Council also unanimously agreed to let police apply to participate in a federal program that would enable them to check the residency status of suspects in custody and initiate deportation proceedings in certain cases.

The measures, believed to be the first of their kind in Texas, brought cheers from supporters but sparked anger among some Hispanics and other opponents that the action will cause further racial tension in the city.

Protesters gathered at Farmers Branch City Hall hours before Monday night’s City Council meeting. Shouting matches periodically erupted outside the council chambers between supporters and opponents of the ordinances.

Some Hispanic activists said they will sue the city over the decisions.

Well not that I had any dealings with Farmers Branch right now, but I’m certainly not going to have any now. They have just joined the ranks of Vidor in Texas racist history.

2006-Nov-2

Houston janitors and supporters intensify their efforts for good jobs and health care

The hard-working folks who help keep Houston clean, and their newly formed SEIU union, send in an update on the on-going struggle for decent and comparable pay for Houston’s Janitors. For the latest on the strike and its national implications and supporters, check http://houstonjanitors.org/

Janitors, Community Supporters Intensify Calls on Hines, Chevron, Transwestern, Crescent, and Brookfield Properties to Ensure Good Jobs with Health Care for Houston Families
Janitors’ supporters block intersection of Post Oak and Westheimer in protest of real estate industry’s stance

HOUSTON—Janitors and community supporters intensified their calls on the five economic powerhouses who drive the commercial real estate industry in Houston to ensure good jobs with health insurance for Houston families. The five landlords have the power to settle the 2-week old strike by directing the cleaning contractors they hire to provide the wages, benefits, and work hours janitors need to support their families. Today community supporters protested the real estate industry’s failure to ensure good jobs with health care in Houston by engaging in an act of non-violent civil disobedience by closing the intersection of Post Oak and Westheimer in the Galleria area.

José Rios spends five nights a week cleaning six floors of Chevron’s downtown Houston office building. For just $20 a night and no benefits he has to clean and vacuum six floors in just four hours. “Chevron can afford to provide more for workers. It’s very hard for someone my age to do this kind of work but what other choice do I have?” said Rios, 70. As a building owner and office tenant, Chevron controls more real estate in Houston than any other company.

At the Westin Hotel today, while Houston’s commercial real estate elite gathered to discuss ways for the multi-billion dollar industry to increase revenues, janitors and community supporters at the hotel invited representatives of the five companies to take a break from the meeting and resolve the strike.

Building owners and managers negotiate and set rates with the janitorial contractors who keep their buildings clean and employ the janitors. Current janitorial service contracts do not allow for higher wages or health insurance for janitors. The janitors are calling on individual building owners and mangers to direct their contractors to meet the janitors’ proposal of $8.50 per hour, more work hours, and health insurance, and to tell their contractors to bargain in good faith with the union as the law requires.

National, International Support for Houston Janitors

Houston’s janitors are receiving national and international support from other SEIU members, sister unions, and community organizations. SEIU janitors in Los Angeles and Chicago have honored Houston picket lines already this week with janitors in other cities expected to follow suit in the coming days. Next week, Houston picket lines could be set up simultaneously in at least half a dozen cities around the country.

Internationally, there have been delegations by union activists in Mexico City, Moscow, Berlin and London calling on Hines—Houston’s largest landlord—to stop standing in the way of Houston janitors’ efforts to move out of poverty. Similar actions have been held at Chevron-owned gas stations in London and Utrecht, Netherlands. This week and next supportive members of labor unions in nine other countries—England, France, Italy, Argentina, Panama, Brazil, Poland, Germany, and Australia—are planning delegations to properties owned by Hines and Chevron in support of Houston janitors.

For the latest on the strike and its national implications and supporters, check http://houstonjanitors.org/

2006-Oct-20

National Labor Relations Board to investigate five Houston cleaning firms treatment of Janitors

From our friends at the SEIU:

At downtown rally in Houston today…
Janitors to Announce Civil Rights Abuses by Cleaning Firms

National Labor Relations Board to investigate charges that companies illegally fired and intimidated janitors who were active in their union

Houston – Houston’s five largest cleaning firms will face an investigation by the federal labor board over charges the companies illegally fired and intimidated janitors who have been involved in their union. Twenty-two “Unfair Labor Practice” charges, being filed today against the five cleaning companies, will be announced at a rally downtown at 4:30PM today, October 20 outside 1100 Louisiana. After the announcement, janitors will lead a march through Houston’s downtown business district.

“I work hard but I was fired when I spoke out for the basic things all families need,” says Margarita Sintillo, a member of the janitors’ bargaining committee and former Pritchard janitor at the Bechtel building. An unfair labor practice charge filed on Sintillo’s behalf by her union, SEIU (Service Employees International Union) charges Pritchard with firing her for participation in union activities protected by federal labor laws. “My co-workers and I have the right to work together to win a better life.”

Contract talks for more than 5,300 janitors ended Tuesday with the five largest cleaning companies in Houston refusing after months of negotiations to propose even modest pay and benefit improvements to janitors making $20 a day. Janitors are now ready to strike in protest of their treatment on the job and the companies’ failure to bargain in good faith.

More than 5,300 janitors who clean the majority of Houston’s office space have the lowest wages and benefits of any major city in the United States—earning an average of $5.30/hour with no health or other benefits for almost exclusively part-time work. Since forming a union with SEIU last year, they have been seeking a raise to $8.50/hour, more hours, and health insurance in contract talks with the city’s five largest cleaning companies, ABM, OneSource, GCA, Sanitors, and Pritchard. On September 23, the janitors overwhelmingly voted to authorize their bargaining committee to call at a strike at any time.

WHAT: Announcement of Civil Rights Abuses / Downtown Rally
WHEN: 4:30 PM, Friday, October 20 - TODAY
WHERE: 1100 Louisiana, Downtown Houston
WHO: Janitors

2006-Sep-22

Houston’s Justice for Janitors and the Contract Convention for the American Dream

Amber Goodwin of the Justice for Janitors campaign of the SEIU sends in an update on their great work fighting for SEIU union janitors’ living wage and health benefits:

The Houston area’s five-largest cleaning companies and the Service Employees International Union are entering into the final stages of negotiations over a contract that will cover 5,300 commercial office janitors. Currently, janitors in Houston make $5.30 per hour, have no health insurance, and on average work four hour shifts, leaving them deep in poverty and forcing them to make nearly impossible choices between food, rent, medicine, and other basic necessities.

Attached you will find a one page document called “Why Not Houston?” [download pdf] detailing clearly what the janitors are fighting for in their efforts to achieve the American Dream. This details the wages and benefits proposal that they shared with their employers in hopes that they can come to an agreement. Janitors believe that after so many years of going backwards, this is what it is will take to win a fair contract for the janitors .

As many of you know, this weekend’s Contract Convention for the American Dream is a critical event for the Justice for Janitors Campaign, and along with hundreds of community, elected and faith supporters we will be gathering to talk about what it will take to win for the janitors.

Please come out and join us this Saturday!

Janitors Contract Convention Details
What: Contract Convention for the American Dream
When: 2PM Saturday, September 23, 2006
Where: Hilton Hotel, 1600 Lamar

All Houstonians need access to quality health care and wages and benefits that support a family—that’s why it’s critical that we take a stand with janitors in their historic campaign for justice.

Amber Goodwin
Houston Justice for Janitors
www.houstonjanitors.org

Service Employees International Union (SEIU)
4299 San Felipe Suite 200
Houston, Texas 77027
(713) 907-0008

2006-Jul-5

Janitors take it to the Courts in Austin and San Antonio

Amber Goodwin, of Houston Justice for Janitors and SEIU writes in with lots of good information and links to the now-not-front-page issue of how some corporations (and/or their contractors) deal with immigrants’ labor. I personally find it hard to believe (and i wonder if the Ken Lay, Jeff Skillings, Bernie Ebbers, et al precedents will prevail) that corporate chieftains dont really know what is going on with their underlings and/or contractors. Is ‘willful ignorance’ an excuse that works under the law??

Janitors sue Target in Austin and San Antonio over wage violations

The exploitation of hard-working immigrants throughout Texas and nationally has received a lot of news coverage lately. But a lawsuit filed on June 29 against Target department stores and their cleaning contractor in Austin and San Antonio suggests the problem may be particularly rampant among major corporations and the companies they hire to provide janitorial services. Janitors in Target stores say they were required to work up to 70 hours a week without overtime pay and often worked seven days a week with only one day off every other week.

http://www.dfw.com/mld/startelegram/news/state/14939912.htm
http://www.equaljusticecenter.org/

In fact, the lawsuit in Target stores is the latest in a growing number of lawsuits and investigations by federal agencies into similar practices—including cases involving janitors who clean national supermarket chains Safeway, Vons, Albertsons, and Ralph’s, United Parcel Service (UPS) facilities, and Wal-Mart stores.

In Houston, the company that cleans the offices of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas, Professional Janitorial Service (PJS), violated the federal Fair Labor Standards Act by instructing janitors to work “off-the-clock” and unlawfully withholding—and in some cases failing to pay—wages due to janitors upon termination of employment, according to a new class action lawsuit filed on June 15.

http://www.statesman.com/news/content/news/stories/local/06/16janitors.html
http://www.nytimes.com/2004/12/07/national/07janitor.html?ex=1151812800&en=178282c8d9609f2d&ei=5070
http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/business/20040128-9999_1b28watchdog.html
http://www.houstonjanitors.org/

2006-Jun-28

Supreme Court to ‘protect minority voting rights’ in Texas Redistricting case

Filed under: — site admin @ 8:34 am

No real details yet, but ABCNEWS reports:

WASHINGTON Jun 28, 2006 (AP)— The Supreme Court on Wednesday threw out part of a Texas congressional map engineered by former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, saying some of the new boundaries failed to protect minority voting rights.

The fractured decision was a small victory for Democratic and minority groups who accused Republicans of an unconstitutional power grab in drawing boundaries that booted four Democratic incumbents out of office.

UPDATE:
from New YorkTimes Online, a useful graphic:
Texas Redistricting along racial lines

The NYTimes story: Justices Back Most G.O.P. Changes to Texas Districts

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