Stand with Dignity Expresses Support for Governor John Bel Edwards’ Executive Order That Will Help SNAP Recipients Find Good Jobs – 4/21/16

NEW ORLEANS, April 21, 2016 – On Thursday, April 21, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards released an executive order that creates a plan for SNAP recipients to be supported in finding good jobs. Below is a statement by Latoya Lewis, Organizer of NOWCRJ’s Stand with Dignity on the order:

“Stand with Dignity works every day to address the crisis of unemployment that low-income people and people of color face. Gov. Edwards’ order is a critical step towards addressing barriers to employment and building career ladders for people who have been excluded from work across Louisiana.  As Governor Edwards states, this Executive Order recognizes the daily challenges of individuals surviving on government benefits and seeks to address these issues through programing that leads to meaningful and sustainable employment. We look forward to working closely with the Governor to build and implement a plan that will expand job access and build careers in permanent and justly paid jobs for Louisianans who have been locked out of the formal economy.”

Contact: Colette Tippy, ctippy@nowcrj.org504-881-6550

HANO looking to expand options to people with criminal records – WWL – 3/28/16

WWL

HANO looking to expand options to people with criminal records

March 28, 2016

By Wynton Yates

NEW ORLEANS — The Housing Authority of New Orleans may be changing rules Tuesday to offer housing options to ex-offenders but not without pushback from activist groups.

In August, Marlene Kennedy returned to New Orleans after serving five years in prison in St. Gabriel.

“My charges were always shoplifting” explained Kennedy.

After serving her time now she faces a different problem.

“I don’t know where I’m going to sleep tonight,” Kennedy said.

With nowhere to call home Kennedy is among the city’s population with a criminal record unable to get placed in housing.

Last week The Housing Authority of New Orleans loosened policies that were blocking ex-offenders out of public housing.

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At activists’ urging, HANO revises draft policy on accepting applicants with criminal records – New Orleans Advocate – 3/28/16

The New Orleans Advocate

At activists’ urging, HANO revises draft policy on accepting applicants with criminal records

March 28, 2016

by Jessica Williams

The Housing Authority of New Orleans is seeking to extend a policy that would make it easier for people with limited rap sheets to live in public housing.

The change would make the criminal background screening procedures HANO is proposing to use for its own units mandatory for the private entities that now manage a majority of the authority’s properties.

If the changed plans are approved by the HANO board, it would be a victory for activists who clamored for that modification last week, saying that an older proposal didn’t do enough to afford ex-offenders an opportunity to be reunited with their families.

 

The authority unveiled the new plans on Friday, days after activists staged a protest in front of its Touro Street headquarters and filled every seat in its board meeting room at a boisterous public hearing.

The original proposal, touted as a way to end barriers keeping many ex-offenders out of public housing, said HANO would weigh applicants’ convictions against a set of screening criteria for public and Section 8 housing. Depending on the nature and date of those convictions, officials would either admit the applicants or send their cases to a three-member panel for closer review.

Crimes that would warrant the panel’s review include convictions for armed robbery, homicide, kidnapping and several others.

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Ten Things to Know in New Orleans This Week – Gambit – 3/28/16

Gambit

I-10: Ten Things to Know in New Orleans This Week, March 29, 2016

March 28, 2016

1. Nagin subject of CNBC’s AMERICAN GREED
The CNBC documentary series American Greed has its season premiere March 31 with an installment titled “Ray Nagin: New Orleans Shakedown.” The hourlong report, which begins at 9 p.m., will focus on Nagin’s business dealings, including those with now-disgraced and jailed former tech whiz Greg Meffert. Also in the story: Stone Age Granite & Marble, the granite company Nagin ran with his sons. Nagin, who was convicted on federal corruption charges in February 2014, is serving a 10-year prison term in Texarkana, Texas.

2. Endorsements, and spoof endorsements
“I am really, really irritated by these people who think they are smarter than the American people. … I want to see the American people heard and I want to see Donald Trump president.” — Former U.S. Rep. Bob Livingston, expressing his support for the leading GOP presidential contender.

Meanwhile, the Baton Rouge-based parody website The Red Shtick (www.theredshtick.com) had a story titled “GOP Establishment Hoping to Stop Trump With Bobby Jindal’s Endorsement of Trump.” The spoof story quoted a Republican National Committee spokesman as saying, “We’re hoping Gov. Jindal’s notorious kiss-of-death endorsement will finally undermine Trump’s seemingly indefatigable popularity.”

3. A step closer to REAL ID
The Louisiana Senate Transportation Committee last week approved Senate Bill 227, which would bring state identification cards into compliance with federal “REAL ID” standards, which have been in place since 2005 in an effort to fight terrorism. Previous bills have been attempted, but former Gov. Bobby Jindal and some Republican legislators fought the move, saying it opens the door to invasion of privacy. SB 227 would make REAL ID-compliant licenses available upon request, and has the backing of Gov. John Bel Edwards. Louisianans without REAL ID licenses eventually will need a passport or other identification to board domestic flights and to access federal buildings.

4. Spring concert schedule overflowing
New Orleans’ spring concert calendar is starting to fill up as the 2016 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival approaches.

The Roots, the long-running hip-hop outfit (and house band for The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon) will perform a guest-filled tribute concert to the late Hot 8 Brass Band saxophonist Clarence “Trixzey” Slaughter at The Orpheum Theater April 29. Warren Haynes, Don Was, John Medeski and others join a tribute to The Band’s The Last Waltz at the Saenger Theatre on April 30.

The Saenger’s Jazz Fest lineup also includes a Janis Joplin tribute (April 18), The Smashing Pumpkins with Liz Phair (April 22) and Trombone Shorty (April 23). The Orpheum Theater has Chick Corea and Bela Fleck (April 16), The Meters (April 22), The Revivalists (April 23), Big Chief Donald Harrison Jr. (April 26) and Galactic with JJ Grey & Mofro (April 30).

5. Big change for public housing up for vote this week
The Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO) is set to approve new rules that would allow people with criminal records into public housing, which can be a crucial part of re-entry post-incarceration. Local housing advocates, however, fear third-party property managers and landlords may interpret the language in the measure as optional, not mandatory.

The proposed measure, set for a HANO board vote March 29, allows people convicted of crimes such as armed robbery and murder to receive public housing assistance, pending approval from a three-member panel. (Currently, families with household members who have been convicted of a crime can be turned away following a criminal background check.) Language in the proposed rule changes doesn’t make the rules expressly mandatory. Members of the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center, New Orleans Workers Center for Racial Justice, Stand With Dignity and Voice of the Ex-Offender, among others, are demanding HANO revise the proposed policy to apply not only to direct-run HANO sites but also to private developers who receive federal funding for affordable housing.

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HANO unveils proposed rules on admitting tenants with criminal records – New Orleans Advocate – 3/6/16

The New Orleans Advocate

HANO unveils proposed rules on admitting tenants with criminal records

March 6, 2016

by Jessica Williams

Nearly three years after announcing its intention to drop barriers keeping residents with criminal records out of public housing, the Housing Authority of New Orleans has unveiled specific rules that will ease the way for less serious offenders.

New policy language adopted in 2013 prohibited officials from excluding applicants based solely on criminal background checks, except when federal law demands it.

The draft guidelines the agency announced last month, however, for the first time outline just how HANO and its partners will vet applicants with checkered pasts. Agency officials hope to present the rules to the HANO board of commissioners for consideration this month.

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After community action, NOPD ends collusion with ICE on immigration policing – 2/23/16

NEW ORLEANS, February 23, 2016—In a victory for New Orleans’ immigrant communities, the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) announced today it is adopting a bias-free immigration policing policy that will end NOPD collusion with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

(Download the new policy – PDF, 4 pages.)

Organizers and immigrant members of the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice’s (NOWCRJ’s) Congress of Day Laborers had long pressed the NOPD to adopt a bias-free policing policy, documenting rampant civil and human rights violations against immigrant communities that resulted from NOPD-ICE collusion.

“Our communities fought for this policy, and we’re celebrating it today,” said Santos Alvarado, a member of the Congress of Day Laborers. “It’s going to improve relations between NOPD and immigrant communities, and it’s going to make all our communities safer by making police more accountable. This is a model policy we will be fighting for other parishes to adopt across Louisiana.”

NOWCRJ Immigration Organizer Jolene Elberth said, “NOPD’s bias-free policing policy is one of best in the country. It’s a big first step toward police accountability at a time when Black Lives Matters and others are building a national movement for more accountable law enforcement. ICE has been recognized as the largest unaccountable law enforcement agency in the U.S. Any police force that wants to move toward accountability—and make its communities more safe—should start by ending collusion with ICE.”

The new policy, which goes into effect on February 28, 2016, will improve community relations by allowing all New Orleanians, regardless of immigration status, interact with NOPD without fear that their immigration status will be used as a weapon against them.

“New Orleans is now the first city in the country where both the sheriff and the local police force recognize that voluntary submission to ICE is bad policy for the community, and have put policies in place to keep ICE out of city law enforcement,” said NOWCRJ Immigration Organizer Fernando Lopez.

Since Hurricane Katrina, NOWCRJ has monitored and documented NOPD’s collusion with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in unconstitutional, race-based community raids that created a citywide human and civil rights crisis. The collusion continued even after NOWCRJ’s 2013 exposé of systematic civil and constitutional violations in ICE’s Criminal Alien Removal Initiative (CARI), which led to a Congressional inquiry and front-page coverage in the New York Times. NOWCRJ’s advocacy of bias-free policing won the support of New Orleans City Council in March 2015, paving the way for the new NOPD policy.

CONTACT: NOWCRJ Immigration Organizer Fernando Lopez, flopez@nowcrj.org, (504) 258-1000.

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