Food stamp recipients sue to halt Jan. 1 loss of food stamps for 62,500 Louisianans – 12/18/15

NEW ORLEANS WORKERS’ CENTER FOR RACIAL JUSTICE

STAND WITH DIGNITY

Food stamp recipients file suit to halt Jan. 1 loss of food stamps for 62,500 Louisianans

Community leaders press Gov. Jindal & Gov.-Elect Edwards to reverse decision that will rob Louisianans of $140 million in federal food assistance

NEW ORLEANS, December 18, 2015—Individuals at risk of losing their food stamps on January 1 filed a lawsuit in federal court today (PDF, 2M), seeking to halt the planned termination of federal food benefits for up to 62,500 Louisiana residents. The suit argues that the state food stamp office has implemented new work requirements in an illegal and unconstitutional way.

This lawsuit is part of a New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice (NOWCRJ) campaign calling on Governor-Elect Jon Bel Edwards to reverse Gov. Bobby Jindal’s food stamp policy as soon as the new governor takes office on Jan. 11.

This fall, Gov. Jindal refused to apply for a waiver of the work requirements under the federal food stamp program, even though Louisiana qualifies due to its high unemployment rates. As a result, up to 62,500 Louisiana residents are at risk of losing their food benefits due to a lack of sufficient employment opportunities in the state, which has only one job for every two food stamp recipients. Louisiana’s communities are also set to lose up to $140 million a year in vital federal food aid.

NOWCRJ’s lawsuit (PDF, 2M), against Louisiana’s Department of Children and Family Services, argues that the state agency violated federal law and food stamps recipients’ constitutional due process rights in its politically-driven rush to terminate recipients’ food stamps before properly setting up the administration of the program.

Sima Atri, attorney at NOWCRJ, said: “The state’s program failed to adequately explain changes to food stamps recipients, failed to create mechanisms for people to report compliance and exemptions to the agency, and is erroneously terminating recipients’ benefits due to inadequate notice of what qualifies as work, and to faulty monitoring mechanisms.”

Food stamp recipient Schevelli Robertson, one of seven class representatives in the lawsuit, said: “My caseworker specifically told me that I had to find a paid job to comply with the rules. I do volunteer work and now know that that qualifies as work. I also had surgery and was unfit to work but didn’t know how to report that. Now I’m going to lose my food stamps and have to depend on my children to eat.”

The lawsuit calls on the court to enjoin the termination of benefits until the state agency reforms its food stamp system to come into compliance with constitutional and federal law.

Alfred Marshall, organizer of NOWCRJ’s Stand with Dignity, said, “Taking food out of people’s mouths does not create jobs. The maximum a Louisianan can get in food stamps is $194 a month. That’s not enough to eat, let alone cover rent and other basic necessities. With or without food stamps, Louisianans are trying to find work just to survive.”

“In Louisiana, especially in Black communities, there is a lack of full-time, safe, living-wage work,” said Latoya Lewis, an organizer with Stand with Dignity. “Instead of playing politics with people’s food, Louisiana’s political leaders need to tear the barriers down that lock low-wage people and people of color out of livable work.”

Stand with Dignity has led numerous campaigns addressing lack of training and employment opportunities for low-income communities through local hiring, living wage ordinances, and apprenticeship utilization.

The 62,500 food stamps recipients are represented by counsel from NOWCRJ, Loyola University, and the National Center for Law and Economic Justice (NCLEJ). The plaintiffs have asked the court to immediately issue a temporary restraining order halting the termination of benefits.

“Many individuals impacted by this policy change are surviving on their food stamps,” said Marc Cohan, Legal Director at NCLEJ. “The court needs to understand the urgent nature of this case and act before people’s benefits are terminated over the holidays.”

Bill Quigley, Professor of Law at Loyola University, said: “It is shameful and illegal to force more than 62,000 people to go hungry just because our Governor decided to run for President. We hope Governor-Elect Edwards will do better.”

The lawsuit is part of an ongoing campaign against Gov. Jindal’s starvation plan by NOWCRJ’s Stand with Dignity. Stand brought the issue to the state’s attention through an administrative complaint and letters to the Governor and Governor-Elect, and has raised public pressure through a 1,200-signature petition 15-day fast,and protest at the governor’s mansion. Stand hopes to work with Governor-Elect Edwards to reverse the food stamps decision and to discuss meaningful ways to address high unemployment in Black communities, while protecting the vital food needs of 62,500 Louisiana residents through this lawsuit.

Contact: Colette Tippy, ctippy@nowcrj.org(504) 881-6550

#BlackWorkersMatter Rally at City Hall – Join us Dec. 10!

Tomorrow at City Hall will be a big day: crucial local hire rules, Disadvantaged Business Enterprises, and the fate of white supremacist monuments are all on the agenda. We are expecting white supremacists to come from far and wide with their Confederate flags to intimidate New Orleanians. We must stand together and show that we are not going to back down from white supremacists who are trying to defend their statues or lock Black workers out of jobs!

Enough is enough. The local hire rules that the city is proposing for HireNOLA look a lot like Swiss cheese–there are holes throughout! We need solid rules to make #BlackWorkersMatter in New Orleans. We need all hands on deck to tell Mayor Landrieu we must dismantle the system of white supremacy–from removing all symbols of white supremacy to instituting real enforceable rules for local hire now!

JOIN US TOMORROW:

WHERE: Steps of City Hall 1300 Perdido Street
WHEN: Thursday December 10th at 12:45 PM
WHAT: #BlackWorkersMatter Rally for Real Local Hire
WHY: Because we cannot wait any longer–we are sending the message to the Mayor and City Council: Show us which side you are on.

The rally will be followed by a hearing and vote inside of City Council on the proposed rules. We hope that City Council will stand up and make #BlackWorkersMatter by supporting rules that make common sense and have real consequences for contractors who break them.

Download the letter we sent to City Council today on the proposed rules.

Let us know if you have any questions in advance and we hope to see you out tomorrow in front of City Hall.

Please sign up on Facebook and share with your friends here: https://www.facebook.com/events/947328178694440/

Use social media hashtags #BlackWorkersMatter and #HireNOLA

Stand, #BlackWorkersMatter Push City to Ensure Ordinance Addresses Black Jobs Crisis – 12-2-15

Stand with Dignity campaign members to rally & testify 12/2 on failure of Hire NOLA ordinance to enforce local hiring

What: #BlackWorkersMatter rally and testimony at public hearing on Hire NOLA ordinance

When and Where: Rally at 8:30am across from City Hall, 1340 Poydras Street, New Orleans, LA; Public hearing at 9am, 21st Floor of 1340 Poydras Street

Who: Low-wage workers, members of the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice’s (NOWCRJ’s) Stand with Dignity, #BlackWorkersMatter campaigners

On December 2, 2015, members and allies of NOWCRJ’s Stand with Dignity will rally at City Hall to ensure the city’s Hire NOLA ordinance includes crucial rules to increase local hiring and address the city’s urgent Black jobs crisis. As Mayor Mitch Landrieu has written the ordinance, it fails to address the need for enforceable local hiring or first-source hiring targets, and fails to include workers and community members in monitoring the local hiring program.

Stand’s #BlackWorkersMatter campaign supports local hiring, but cannot support weak rules that will bring no real benefits for Black workers in the city.

“Workers urgently need this ordinance implemented with strict rules for contractors,” said Stand member Roy Brumfield. “Black workers are excluded from jobs that can sustain them. We call on diligence from Mayor Landrieu to ensure family-supporting career paths for Black New Orleanians.”

Black families are in deep crisis in New Orleans, earning just 50% of white families, with 52% of Black men facing unemployment and more than 50% of Black children living in poverty. The estimated $160 billion in post-Katrina reconstruction has only deepened this crisis because of its exclusion of Black workers.

New Orleans can do more. Stand with Dignity has been working with the City to develop local rules that would hold contractors accountable and provide space for community involvement in the implementation of the ordinance. Due to the city’s inaction, Stand with Dignity will present those alternative rules at the rally, and share them again with the City Council at the 9am public hearing. Stand with Dignity also invites community members to speak up against the city’s rules at the hearing. At the rally beforehand, workers will share experiences on the consequences of the Black jobs crisis in New Orleans.

“When it comes to the criminal justice system, a system many poor Black New Orleanians get caught up in, rules are enforced unquestionably,” said Stand organizer Alfred Marshall. “Let’s put strong rules in place that hold contractors accountable, fully support local communities, and build Black New Orleanian families.”

Contact: Sima Atri (504) 264-4209, satri@nowcrj.org

 

 

New Orleans City Council President to join fast to end Gov. Jindal’s starvation plan – 11-18-15

New Orleans City Council President to join fast to end Gov. Jindal’s starvation plan

Stand with Dignity leads rolling fast and campaign against Gov. Jindal’s food stamp work requirement

NEW ORLEANS, November 18, 2015—New Orleans City Council President Jason Rogers Williams will join faith and community leaders from NOWCRJ’s Stand with Dignity on Thursday in a 15-day rolling fast to end the hunger crisis created by Gov. Bobby Jindal.

“Our friends, neighbors and family members who rely on food stamp assistance to survive do not deserve to be penalized by our current governor’s continued attempts to bolster his conservative credentials,” Williams said in a letter to the Times-Picayune Wednesday.

Last week, Stand launched a rolling fast, a national petition, and an administrative complaint over Gov. Jindal’s refusal to apply for a waiver of work requirements for food stamps, which put approximately 64,000 Louisianans at risk of losing their food stamps benefits and going hungry.

“We call on Jindal to file the waiver immediately. It is not too late,” Williams said. “​Join this movement to highlight how hunger is an issue here in our city that is known for its food and feeds the world.”

Fasters from Stand rallied at the governor’s mansion Monday along with labor allies, and continued their action outside the Gubernatorial Debate on Monday evening, pressing Louisiana’s gubernatorial candidates to support a living wage and end the work requirement for food stamp benefits.

Wednesday’s fasters include Justice and Beyond co-moderator Pat Bryant; musician, builder, and activist Zeo Boekbinder; anthropologist Jessica Anne Wheeler; and Ben Gordon of Pax Christi.

“Denial of food to poor families by Bobby Jindal is dumb and inhumane,” said Bryant. “I am fasting to get resolve to take action until all families’ food needs are met.”

Boekbinder said: “I’m fasting because Bobby Jindal’s plan is irresponsible and dangerous. Starving people will not create jobs, and it won’t support the health and safety of Louisiana’s low-income communities.”

“Access to food is a human right,” Wheeler said.

New Orleans Abortion Fund co-founder Amy Irvin, who joined the fast earlier this week, said: “Our governor puts personal political gain ahead of the well-being of Louisiana women and families. Not content to use his personal claims of being ‘pro-life’ to eliminate access to safe, compassionate abortion care—risking women’s personal and economic well-being in the process—his ‘starvation plan’ will deny food stamps to an estimated 64,000 Louisianans. We ask that the Governor apply for the statewide waiver of work requirements, ensuring food for Louisiana neediest, and support self-sufficiency by creating living wage jobs that offer quality healthcare.”

As Gov. Jindal continues to strip the remaining social safety net programs in Louisiana, Stand with Dignity is fighting back against these attacks on poor people, and requesting the state to immediately apply for the work requirements waiver and review its policies to comply with federal law.

Current and previous fast participants include Imani Jacqueline Brown, co-founder of Debt Fair and Blights Out; Don Everard, Director of New Orleans’ Hope House; Robert Goodman, member of Voice of the Ex Offender; Candidate for Louisiana State House Representative Alicia Plummer Clivens; Catechist at Saint Jerome’s Catholic Church Kevin Cahalan; Dominican Sister of Peace Lilianne Flavin, Tulane University student Nick Stracco; and Assistant Director for Mission and Ministry at Loyola University Alex Mikulich.

Video statements by the fasters are available online: http://bit.ly/1QixZPS

Stand’s campaign is using hashtags #LAFoodStampCrisis and #Fast2EndStarvation.

Contact: Colette Tippy, ctippy@nowcrj.org, (504) 881-6550

64,000 Louisianans face hunger after Governor Jindal says “No” to food stamp waiver – WGNO ABC – 11/18/15

(WGNO) – “When you look at it, you’d rather have lights and running water, utilities to take care of my family but at the same time, they’re hungry. What am I going to do,” says Sylvania Moore.

Moore and Joanika Davis, are two of thousands in the state who face losing their food stamps if Governor Jindal does not file a waiver of work requirements.

This means any adult without dependents between the ages of 18 and 49 who are not working at least 20 hours a week, go without in January of next year.

“We can’t really celebrate Thanksgiving because we’re trying to make food stretch day by day with the benefits you do receive,” says Davis.

“That one meal that I started yesterday, is going to last yesterday, today and hopefully tomorrow. That’s stretching a meal. And hopefully, by tomorrow when it’s all gone, you can come home and have something else you can put on a stove that last you through Friday, Saturday, Sunday,” says Moore.

Moore’s hours working as a chef were cut and now she’s scraping by.

Davis meantime, lost her job six months ago and is still looking for employment.

Both women are asking Jindal to put politics to the side and consider what it feels like to be hungry and not know where your next meal is coming from.

“The government needs to walk in our shoes, like parents like me to understand that it’s hard out here. We need help,” says Davis.

Up to 64,000 residents risk losing their food stamp benefits, that’s up to $194 per month, if they can’t meet the mandatory employment requirement.

Plus, ‘Stand With Dignity,’ a branch of ‘New Orleans Workers Center for Racial Justice,’ a grass-roots organization, says the required jobs don’t exist in the Louisiana economy to begin with.

There’s one job for every two people seeking employment.

Nearly 20% of Louisiana residents live under the poverty line.

Click here to sign a petition calling for Jindal to file the waiver.

http://wgno.com/2015/11/18/64000-louisianans-face-hunger-after-governor-jindal-says-no-to-food-stamp-waiver/

Gov. Bobby Jindal’s food stamp policy called ‘starvation plan’ – Times-Picayune – 11/10/15

The Times-Picayune

Gov. Bobby Jindal’s food stamp policy called ‘starvation plan’

by Richard A. Webster

November 10, 2015

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Dozens of people gathered outside the New Orleans food stamp office Tuesday (Nov. 10) to protest Gov. Bobby Jindal’s refusal to waive a federal requirement that people work to receive nutrition assistance. They call it Jindal’s “starvation plan.”

The group, led by Stand with Dignity, filed an administrative complaint demanding that the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services immediately reverse its decision, which the protestors said could cut off benefits for as many as 62,000 people. They also announced that 20 of their members will fast for 15 days in solidarity with families going hungry across the state.

Don Everard, director of Hope House, said that despite reports of an improving economy, he daily meets people who struggle to find a job that pays them a living wage. He mentioned a woman who works at a department store for $9 an hour but can’t get scheduled for more than 15 hours a week. Under the changes to the state program, she wouldn’t be eligible for food stamps. “It’s insane,” he said.

Continue reading

Community Groups Launch 15-Day Fast & File Administrative Complaint to End Gov. Jindal’s Starvation Plan

STAND WITH DIGNITY

NEW ORLEANS WORKERS’ CENTER FOR RACIAL JUSTICE

MEDIA ADVISORY

Community Groups Launch 15-Day Fast & File Administrative Complaint to End Gov. Jindal’s Starvation Plan

Stand with Dignity fights food stamp work requirement, demands $15 minimum wage & job access for all

What: Rally at Food Stamp office, launch of fast to end Gov. Jindal’s starvation plan, filing of administrative complaint, and theatrical action

When: Tuesday, November 10, 2015, 11:30AM

Where: New Orleans Food Stamp Office, 1661 Canal Street, New Orleans, LA

Who: Food stamp recipients at risk of losing their food stamps under Gov. Jindal’s starvation plan, members of NOWCRJ’s Stand with Dignity, Fight for 15, the POWER Coalition, Fast to End Jindal’s Starvation Plan Fasters, Justice and Beyond, and other allies

Contact: Colette Tippy, ctippy@nowcrj.org(504) 881-6550

On Tuesday, November 10, members and allies of NOWCRJ’s Stand with Dignity will rally at the New Orleans Food Stamp Office to launch a campaign to protest the hunger crisis Governor Bobby Jindal has created in Louisiana.

On October 1, 2015, Gov. Jindal refused to apply for a waiver of work requirements for food stamps, putting approximately 64,000 Louisianans at risk of losing their food stamps benefits and going hungry. Without the waiver, adults without dependents who are between the ages of 18 and 49 and are not working at least 20 hours a week will lose their access to food stamps on January 1, 2016.

With very limited employment opportunities in Louisiana and an unemployment rate that is significantly higher than the national average, Gov. Jindal’s refusal to apply for this waiver punishes the people of Louisiana for living in a state without adequate access to jobs. As Gov. Jindal continues to strip the remaining social safety net programs in Louisiana, Stand with Dignity is fighting back against these attacks on poor people with a two-week fast, a national petition, and an administrative complaint requesting the state to immediately apply for the work requirements waiver and review its policies to comply with federal law.

“We are taking a stand Tuesday because the cost of food is too high, and there are not enough jobs for everyone to get work,” said Stand with Dignity member Freddie Washington. “Gov. Jindal’s decision will take food out of my mouth and my children’s mouths. I don’t want to depend on food stamps to eat—I would rather have a full time job that pays me a living wage so that I do not need food stamps. If the governor wants to reduce dependence on food stamps, he should set the minimum wage at $15 per hour and make more jobs available. That is what real self-sufficiency looks like to me.”

Tuesday’s events are part of the Vote for $15 National Day of Action in New Orleans.

Contact: Colette Tippy, ctippy@nowcrj.org, (504) 881-6550

ICE Releases Gustavo Barahona Late Night, But ICE Director Fails to Answer Charges of Racial Profiling & Biased Policing – 10-26-15

NEW ORLEANS WORKERS’ CENTER FOR RACIAL JUSTICE

Contact: Jolene Elberth, NOWCRJ’s Congress of Day Laborers, jelberth@nowcrj.org, 504.881.6647

ICE Releases Gustavo Barahona Late Night, But ICE Director Fails to Answer Charges of Racial Profiling & Biased Policing

NEW ORLEANS, LA, Oct. 26, 2015—Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) released civil rights whistleblower Gustavo Barahona from immigration detention late night Friday after holding him for nearly 150 days and scheduling him for deportation. ICE continued to remain silent, however, on the racial profiling and civil rights violations faced by Barahona and another immigrant worker, Jose Adan Fugon, who was deported last week.

“I am glad to have my freedom, but I still don’t have any answers.” Mr. Barahona said after being reunited with his family outside the LaSalle Immigration Detention Center in Jena, Louisiana. “We waited for 5 months in detention for our case to be investigated, only to have ICE to rush to deport us. Jose Adan must be reunited with his family, and ICE should be held accountable for cooperating with racial profiling and refusing to follow its own guidelines.”

The detention of Barahona and Fugon brought national attention and condemnation, including coverage by the LA Times and from the editorial board of the New York Times, after the release of emails from the Department of Homeland Security’s own Civil Rights Office to ICE Director Sarah Saldaña, which acknowledged that the workers had been racially profiled by local police, and recommended that they be released.

“ICE must be accountable to the deeper civil rights issues exposed by these cases,” said Jolene Elberth, Organizer with NOWCRJ’s Congress of Day Laborers. “Jose Adan must be returned to his family and Sec. Saldana must explain ICE’s actions in these cases and the civil rights protections in place within the agency, including implementation of ICE’s victims memo.”

Mr. Barahona and Mr. Fugon, were racially profiled and arrested by New Llano Police in Leesville, Louisiana, then improperly transferred to ICE and held in custody for months. ICE deported Mr. Fugon to Honduras on October 20, and subjected Mr. Barahona to solitary confinement and other abuses as it processed him for deportation ahead of his late-night release on October 23.

NOWCRJ has filed complaints with the Department of Justice and the New Llano Police Department over the collaboration between ICE and local police. NOWCRJ’s Congress of Day Laborers is planning a delegation to New Llano next week to demand a response to its complaint and public records requests and to urge the New Llano police department to adopt a bias-free policing policy.

Gustavo Barahona Resists ICE Retaliation to Continue Civil Rights Fight – 10-22-15

Contact: Jolene Elberth, NOWCRJ’s Congress of Day Laborers, jelberth@nowcrj.org, 504.881.6647

Gustavo Barahona Resists ICE Retaliation to Continue Civil Rights Fight

Will ICE Director Saldaña deport racial profiling witness after DHS’s civil rights staff recommended his release?

NEW ORLEANS, LA, Oct. 22, 2015—Civil rights whistleblower Gustavo Barahona reported enduring solitary confinement and being deprived of food by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) staff Wednesday as retaliation for denouncing ICE abuses.

ICE continues to speed Mr. Barahona’s deportation, schedule for early tomorrow (Friday Oct. 22) morning, in spite of clear evidence of civil rights abuses during Mr. Barahona’s arrest, continued investigations into the abuses, and a recommendation by DHS’s own civil rights staff that he be released.

Speaking by phone from the LaSalle Detention Center in Jena, Louisiana, Mr. Barahona continued to demand a response to the unconstitutional actions leading to his arrest: “I’ve been waiting for almost five months now in detention, and ICE hasn’t told me anything. Everything in here is designed so that you don’t want to fight your case—so that you can’t fight. But I won’t give up. I know I have to be strong for my children, and so this doesn’t happen to any other father in the future.”

Mr. Barahona and another immigrant worker, Jose Adan Fugon, were racially profiled and arrested by New Llano police in Leesville, Louisiana, then improperly transferred to ICE and held in custody for over 140 days. ICE deported Mr. Fugon on Tuesday, and has subjected Mr. Barahona to solitary confinement and other abuse as it has processed him for deportation.

“ICE Director Sarah Saldaña has a choice: she can confirm by deporting Mr. Barahona that racial profiling, improper detention, and civil rights abuses mean nothing to ICE, or she can listen to DHS’s own civil rights office director and release him,” said Jolene Elberth, organizer with New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice’s (NOWCRJ’s) Congress of Day Laborers.

As detailed in a newly released investigation by Vox.com, local police continue to engage in racial profiling solely to transfer undocumented immigrants into ICE custody, in spite of a proscription against the transfer of low priority individuals by DHS’s new Priority Enforcement Program. NOWCRJ has filed complaints with the Department of Justice and the New Llano Police Department over this ongoing collaboration.

ICE is planning to deport Mr. Barahona to Honduras even though his family and two young U.S. citizen children live in the United States, and he has no criminal convictions.

Meanwhile, 14 immigrant detainees at the LaSalle Detention Center in Jena, Louisiana, launched a hunger strike this week in support of South Asian asylum seekers who have been held in immigration detention for up to two years, subjected to solitary confinement and reported physical abuse.

A new report released today by the National Immigration Justice Center and the Detention Watch Network details how immigration detention centers are not safe, abuses are widespread, and detention facilities consistently fail to meet basic minimum standards.