Speech by Mark Schmidt on Cedar Rapids Rally calling for Immigration Reform in front of Senator Grasley’s office on May-14-2018
My great-great-grandfather came to America as a stowaway in a cattle ship in the late 19th century. He came because of prospect of work. He came because he was fleeing the violence of war and poverty. He came for the American dream.
My ancestors were simply hardworking, God-fearing, families trying to survive, caring for their loved ones and communities. Their story is almost identical to the story of today’s immigrants; here for a prospect of a better future. But because of fear and xenophobia our human dignity was denied much like it is denied to immigrants today. During the anti-German fervor of WWI period, German nationals were required to register at a local government office, to carry papers at all times, and could be stopped, detained, and interred without evidence of wrongdoing. Depicted as blood-thirsty apes threatening white womanhood and American liberty thousands were detained and, collectively, millions of dollars of their possessions and assets seized. Lives were destroyed. Families were torn apart.
But my ancestors, like millions of other immigrants, persevered and have helped to make America what it is today.
Senator Ernst has acknowledged that our state economy needs migrants to fill job openings that our aging population cannot. Our state and our nation benefit greatly from the gifts of migrants, both documented and undocumented.
We are here to ask our senators and all elected officials to recognize the failings of our current laws, to help them see how our current laws harm the dignity of the human person, how they are an assault on the common good and we ask them to change them based on the virtues and principles of love, justice, mercy, human dignity, prosperity for all by caring for the common good and not just the good of some, and a spirit of radical hospitality. Continue reading “We Are All Immigrants”
Blaming too few students signed up for the class, the Iowa City Community School District has decided to cancel the Ethnic Studies elective course scheduled for the upcoming trimester.
Brought about amid protests last school year, the student organization Students Against Hate and Discrimination (SAHD) negotiated the addition of this Social Justice class with the School Board after instances of racial discrimination prompted a school walk-out. “We were devastated because we’ve been demanding and begging and pleading [for the class] and they said yes and got our hopes up,” stated student Lajayn Hamad to KCRG 9 News.
Yet despite their promise to students, the district has decided to cancel the class, Kingsley Botchway, ICCSD Director of Equity and Engagement stating the “district requires at least 24 students for a new class.” Student Lajayn Hamad reported to KCRG News, however, that “other classes at City High have as few as five students [and] the district has made exceptions in the past.”
Here at the Center for Worker Justice, we value and celebrate diversity in our community. After receiving reports from multiple community members of racially-charged messages and harassment, the CWJ participated in a forum as a member of the Johnson County Interfaith Cluster that met with city leaders, faith groups, and local police to address this unacceptable bigotry.
“We believe that we live in a progressive city and that we have values so it’s important to talk about that,” said the Center for Worker’s Justice Executive Director Rafael Morataya to KCRG News. “We definitely need to send a message to those hate groups.”
After hearing from the community during this forum, city leaders and police reaffirmed their commitment to condemning all forms of racism and bigotry.
For more information, read the articles linked below from KCRG News and Press-Citizen:
Eleven CWJ members and allies met with the regional directors of Senators Grassley (Fred Shuster) and Ernst (Brittney Carroll) on Tuesday, January 16 to discuss immigrant justice, including the urgent need to pass a “clean” DREAM Act immediately.
Every day that Congress fails to pass a DREAM Act, more than 100 young people who came to the U.S. as children lose their work permits and are put at risk of deportation. A “clean” DREAM Act means creating a path to citizenship for young people without linking it to draconian measures that criminalize and terrorize their parents and relatives such as walls and ramped up detentions and deportations.
What we heard were essentially identical views from the two senators’ representatives. They are supporting the proposals put forward by right-wing Republicans Tom Cotton (AK) and David Perdue (GA). They have no interest in supporting a “clean” DACA renewal. They have no understanding of why DACA recipients might be concerned. They ask, “Do they think they will be deported on March 5, when DACA expires?”
They choose to emphasize a package of draconian measures for more “border security” (a wall), more prosecution of immigrants, ending what they call “chain migration” and other proposals, as a condition for any relief for DACA recipients.
They need to hear from us now! A clean DREAM Act is good for workers, good for our economy, good for families, and it’s the right thing to do.
In 2015, Johnson County workers won a long-overdue, historic minimum wage increase when the Johnson County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved raising the minimum wage in three steps: to $8.20 in November 2015; $9.15 on May 1, 2016, and $10.10 on January 1, 2017. After years of inaction from Congress, County Supervisors joined 29 states and dozens of other cities and counties in taking necessary action to address the growing crisis poverty wages are causing for Iowa families, schools, social services, and local economies.
By 2017 when the state legislature banned local minimum wage increases, three other Iowa counties had followed Johnson County’s lead and were poised to raise wages for tens of thousands more working Iowans. CWJ has since led efforts to maintain the Johnson County increase by seeking commitments from employers to voluntarily honor the $10.10 minimum wage. Over 160 Johnson County businesses have so far pledged to maintain the higher wage, with many now proudly displaying signs in support of the higher minimum.
Iowa’s current minimum wage of $7.25 per hour translates to $15,080 for a full-time, year-round worker, not enough to meet an individual’s basic needs in any Iowa community, much less support a family. Iowa’s minimum wage was last increased on January 1, 2008, meaning Iowa minimum wage workers have not had a raise in a full decade.
“This report is the latest milestone in our ongoing community campaign to achieve living wages for all workers. Two years ago, Johnson County residents came together to demonstrate broad community support for increasing the minimum wage. Data in the county’s new report backs up what workers and employers alike have experienced since 2015: raising wages is good for families, for business, and for our local economy. In 2018, we’ll continue urging more Johnson County employers to join the over 160 businesses who have already pledged to uphold our community wage standard of $10.10. The Iowa legislature attacked workers in 2017 by making local wage increases illegal and trying to lower the wages of 65,000 Iowa workers. But they can’t stop our local progress or keep our community from coming together to raise wages and strengthen our economy.” Rafael Morataya Executive Director of Center for Worker Justice
Over 100 businesses have committed to honoring a livable wage within our community – but we’re not going to stop there. Every day, we’re working to make sure that number grows, and working to make sure that each worker in our community is getting what they need and deserve.
Click the headline for the full list of businesses so far, alphabetically organized. Want to support our fight? Donate here!
“The foot of charity is well-received in society because it generates a “feel good — one with humanity” kind of sentiment in us. It is socially acceptable because it is practiced by saints, religious organizations, civic groups and well-intentioned individuals. The hallmarks of charity are food pantries, bus-tickets, homeless shelters, and handouts that satisfy the immediate needs of people.
The foot of justice, on the other hand, is not always so well accepted, and its effects not so immediate or obvious. Justice addresses the root causes of hunger, homelessness and poverty. It can be controversial, because it is practiced by organizers, activists and prophets. The hallmarks of justice are community organizing, advocacy and political involvement. Justice looks for long-term results…..
….By law, employers can revert to paying the old minimum wage. But legal and moral are not necessarily synonymous. No, there are moral implications as to how we treat workers, how we invest in our community and how we promote the common good. These are the questions employers should be asking themselves and these are the questions consumers need to be asking before frequenting certain businesses. And more to the point, in the downward spiral of wages, who is it that has to bear the brunt of the kind of regressive legislation we are seeing in 2017?”
Celebrate local progress with us at CWJ’s Second Annual Gala on October 21, 2017 at 6:00 PM! Our members and allies have built a vibrant organization bringing hundreds together across boundaries of race, national origin, and immigration status. Through the hard work of our community, we’ve redefined what’s politically possible in our region.
We’re delighted to announce the return of the amazingly talented duo, Calle Sur, as the night’s musical guest as we honor the achievements and hard work of our members.
Case came to the CWJ in April for help in recovering over $400 in unpaid wages owed by her former employer – money needed for car payments, groceries, and other essentials. After working with us and out supporters, she was able to receive pay for her missing hours.
Wage theft and abuse has no place in our community, and even one instance of it is too many. In April of this year, the Center for Worker Justice helped recover over $1000 in unpaid wages, in part of our efforts to demand better for our workers and our community.