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Workers and Legislators Unite to Help Low-Wage Contract Employees

THE AFRO — 32BJ – SEIU, a union which represents over 600 janitors and security guards that were furloughed and didn’t receive wages.

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By George Kevin Jordan

A little over a month ago Faye Smith found herself in the Senate Office Building protesting and searching for Senator Mitch McConnell in order to impress upon him how the federal shutdown was impacting her life.

Now with the shutdown officially over, and another one looming, Smith is back with Lila Johnson another federal contract worker. Both are representatives of 32BJ – SEIU, a union which represents over 600 janitors and security guards that were furloughed and didn’t receive wages. Together they are at the Senate to support legislation that would provide back wages to low wage workers who are federally contracted during a shutdown.

According to the their summary, The Fair Compensation for Low-Wage Contractor Employees Act would, “compensate contractors for the costs of providing back pay to low-wage contractor service employees who have been furloughed or laid off during the shutdown. In addition, some contractors have forced workers to use their annual leave during the shutdown, so the bill would compensate contractors for restoring annual leave as well. For ease of administration, the bill builds on an existing process used by contractors to recoup other shutdown-related costs.”

The District’s Representative to Congress, Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) led the house bill along with Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) and several other House Democrats.

The Senate bill is led by U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) along with U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD.), Ben Cardin (D-MD.), Mark Warner (D-VA.), and Tim Kaine (D-VA.) and supported by mostly Democrats.

Officials said that the legislation would provide back pay for the 35-day federal shutdown that just past. Van Hollen said the hope is that legislation will be added onto the bill to keep the government open and that the legislation will carry the same protections for contractors that a recently passed bill did for federal workers.

“It would apply after any government shutdown,” Van Hollen said.

Some may remember Smith who was featured on several news outlets across the country when she spoke of her journey since the federal shutdown.

Smith works as a security guard for the Smithsonian at the Hirshhorn Museum. When the shutdown occurred she said she had been looking forward to the pay bump she was to receive after relocating from Stone Mountain, GA, to Washington D.C. She went from $12 an hour to $17.50, Smith said.

“I moved down from Georgia thinking I was gonna get the big dream, the money,” Smith said, adding she has a daughter and two grandchildren that live in the DMV area. She got transferred and was only two months into her new job when the shutdown happened.

“I had a panic attack, I was stressed out, I was traumatized, all of that,” Smith said.

Rent was due, and the bills loomed. Thankfully Smith’s story went viral. D.L. Hughley gave her $2,000. A GoFundMe account was set up in her name and she received over $11,000. Now she is paid up for four months. But the threat of another shutdown is still devastating.

Ms. Johnson had been a custodian with the Department of Agriculture for 21 years. Johnson makes around $20 per hour. And she retired from a previous job. But she cares for two of her great grandchildren. So when the furlough happened she had Christmas to worry about.

She found out about the government furlough while watching television. She had been through shutdowns before but she said, “I had no idea it was gonna be for 35 days.”

“I felt it the moment it came on because I didn’t have any money coming in,” Johnson said.

Smith and Johnson are both back at work,.  Smith should receive a paycheck this week, while Johnson expects to be paid by the end of the month.

Both Smith and Johnson will be guests of Norton and Van Hollen respectively during the President’s State of the Union address.

This article originally appeared in The Afro

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Activism

Moms 4 Housing Hold Sit-in Demanding County Supervisors Extend Eviction Protections

All formerly unhoused mothers, the Moms are risking arrest to demand that newly elected Supervisor Lena Tam uphold a previous vote for a strong package of permanent tenant protections for renters in the unincorporated areas of Alameda County as the end of the COVID Eviction Moratorium looms. Participants in the sit-in, are calling on all supporters to come to the 5th floor of 1221 Oak Street or outside the county building immediately to support the protest.

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Participants in the sit-in, which began Tuesday afternoon, are calling on all supporters to come to the 5th floor of 1221 Oak Street or outside the county building immediately to support the protest.
The Moms are prepared to hold this sit-in for 60 hours — for the 60,000 tenants who need these protections, which are set to expire.

By Post Staff

Moms 4 Housing held a sit-in in the nonviolent civil disobedience tradition of Martin Luther King Jr., to demand that the Alameda County Board of Supervisors uphold their original vote to pass permanent Just Cause eviction protections for the 60,000 tenants living in the unincorporated areas of Alameda County.

The Moms are prepared to hold this sit-in for 60 hours — for the 60,000 tenants who need these protections, which are set to expire.

All formerly unhoused mothers, the Moms are risking arrest to demand that newly elected Supervisor Lena Tam uphold a previous vote for a strong package of permanent tenant protections for renters in the unincorporated areas of Alameda County as the end of the COVID Eviction Moratorium looms.

Participants in the sit-in, are calling on all supporters to come to the 5th floor of 1221 Oak Street or outside the county building immediately to support the protest.

The Anti Police-Terror Project (APTP), ACCE and EBHO, along with other local activists, are mobilizing outside of the Alameda County Administration Building to stand in solidarity with Moms 4 Housing, an organization focused on uniting mothers, neighbors, and friends to reclaim housing for the Oakland community from the big banks and real estate speculators.

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San Francisco Committee Recommends Massive Reparations Payout for Black Residents

A reparations task committee was established by the state of California last year, and its report from that year detailed the incalculable harm that slavery had caused to African Americans. After George Floyd was murdered, the District of Columbia City Council announced it would create a task team to investigate compensation.

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The San Francisco committee recommended that low-income African Americans get an annual payment equivalent to the region median for at least 250 years, on top of the $5 million payout.
The San Francisco committee recommended that low-income African Americans get an annual payment equivalent to the region median for at least 250 years, on top of the $5 million payout.

‘Centuries of devastation and destruction of Black lives, Black bodies, and Black communities should be met with centuries of restoration’

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

Each Black inhabitant of San Francisco, including those arrested during the racist war on drugs, should receive a one-time, lump-sum payment of $5 million from the African American Reparations Advisory Committee.

Assuming the city council approves the proposal, it would be the largest payment of reparations in American history.

In a study released this week, members of the San Francisco African American Reparations Advisory Committee noted, “We have ultimately established that the repercussions of numerous programmatic and policy actions by San Francisco’s administration have been generational and overlapping.”

Committee members asserted that most prominent period that illustrates how the city and county of San Francisco as an institution contributed to the depletion of Black wealth and the forced relocation of its Black inhabitants was the period of urban renewal.

Further, the committee concluded that “public and private entities facilitated and coddled the conditions that created near-exclusive Black communities within the city, limited political participation and representation, disinvested from academic and cultural institutions, and intentionally displaced Black communities from San Francisco through targeted, sometimes violent actions”

(San Francisco’s African American population grew rapidly between 1940 and 1963).

To address what the San Francisco Chronicle calls “a national racial reckoning,” the Board of Supervisors established the AARAC committee in December 2020.

According to the Chronicle, what happens next “will demonstrate whether San Francisco lawmakers are serious about tackling the city’s checkered past or are merely pretending to be.”

The committee’s investigation determined that segregation, structural oppression, and racial prejudice developed from the institution of slavery had a tremendous impact on the development of the city, even though California was never formally a slave state.

Throughout the 20th century, the Chronicle reported, “San Francisco was a Ku Klux Klan stronghold, prohibited Black people from residing in particular districts, kept them out of city employment, and bulldozed the Fillmore,” a historically Black neighborhood and commercial center.

AARAC chair Eric McDonnell told the newspaper, “Centuries of devastation and destruction of Black lives, Black bodies, and Black communities should be met with centuries of restoration.”

A tale of two cities emerges when one examines San Francisco, as one observer put it.

This committee’s actions are consistent with those of other jurisdictions, where similar bodies have advocated for reparations for African Americans.

Residents must have self-identified as Black or African American on public documents for a minimum of ten years and be at least 18 years old when the committee’s plan is approved to receive the compensation.

Additionally, individuals may be required to show that they were born in San Francisco between 1940 and 1996, have been residents of the city for at least 13 years, and are either a former inmate themselves or a direct descendant of a former inmate who served time during the war on drugs.

The Chronicle said that “to put that in context,” the state reparations task panel believes Black Californians may be awarded $569 billion for housing discrimination alone between 1933 and 1977.

Evanston, Illinois, voted to pay $400,000 to select African Americans as part of the city’s vow to spend $10 million over a decade on reparations payments shortly after the San Francisco committee was founded.

The government of St. Paul, Minnesota, has apologized for its role in institutional and structural racism and formed a committee to investigate reparations.

A report detailing the committee’s proposed financial compensation for African Americans was subsequently made public.

A reparations task committee was established by the state of California last year, and its report from that year detailed the incalculable harm that slavery had caused to African Americans.

After George Floyd was murdered, the District of Columbia City Council announced it would create a task team to investigate compensation.

Legislators in both Maryland and Virginia have expressed an interest in researching reparations.

Meanwhile, there has been no movement on a federal level on a bill by Texas Democrat Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee to establish a committee to investigate reparations.

The San Francisco committee recommended that low-income African Americans get an annual payment equivalent to the region median for at least 250 years, on top of the $5 million payout.

As an added measure, the city would establish a public bank framework and provide citizens with extensive financial education to ensure that those without bank accounts have access to equal opportunities, including increased access to credit, loans, financing, and other means of managing their money.

The committee also seeks to pay for a broad debt cancellation plan that wipes out all types of debt including student loans, personal loans, credit card debt, and payday loans.

“Given the history of financial institutions preying on underbanked communities — and especially given the vulnerability of subsets of this population such as seniors and youth — this body recommends putting legal parameters and structures in place to ensure access to funds and to mitigate speculative harm done by others,” the committee concluded.

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Department of Education Announces $63 Million in School Grants

The Department of Education said it is working to create new programs or expand existing community schools. “Meeting the needs of the whole child is essential to help America’s students grow academically and improve their well-being,” officials said in a news release.

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The Department conducted robust outreach to expand interest, and almost half of grantees in this cohort are first-time grantees, DOE officials stated.
The Department conducted robust outreach to expand interest, and almost half of grantees in this cohort are first-time grantees, DOE officials stated.

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

The U.S. Department of Education announced $63 million in new five-year Full-Service Community Schools (FSCS) grants to support 42 local educational agencies, non-profits, and other public or private organizations and institutions of higher education working to expand existing community schools or to establish new programs in eight new states and territories.

Those locations include Alabama, Alaska, Louisiana, Maryland, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Puerto Rico.

Additionally, the District of Columbia Public Schools received a $492,000 capacity building and development grant.

The Department of Education said it is working to create new programs or expand existing community schools.

“Meeting the needs of the whole child is essential to help America’s students grow academically and improve their well-being,” officials said in a news release.

DOE officials said that’s why the Biden-Harris Administration remains committed to supporting community school models across the country, which provide comprehensive support to the nation’s students, their families, and communities.

They said community schools meet the unique needs of the neighborhoods they serve by bringing services into school buildings through local non-profit, private sector, and agency partnerships.

This includes services such as high-quality tutoring, health, mental health and nutrition services, and high-quality early learning programs, among others, for students and the community.

“Community Schools are an essential component of accelerating our students’ learning and supporting their social, emotional, and mental health, and deepening community partnerships,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona.

“At the height of the pandemic, community schools connected students and families with vital nutrition assistance, mental, physical, and other health services, and expanded learning opportunities,” Cardona added.

He continued:

“This work continues today because we know that students learn best when there is a comprehensive and holistic approach to meeting their needs.

“I am thrilled that through the historic investment we’re announcing now, the Department is funding the largest cohort of grantees in the history of this grant program.

“This represents a huge step toward the Biden-Harris Administration’s goal of doubling the number of Full-Service Community Schools across the country and raising the bar for our support of children.”

This year’s grant competition received the largest number of applications in the program’s history, which officials said showed how important it is to have a support system in place to address students’ social, emotional, and mental health needs.

The new grantees are committed to implementing the four pillars of community schools, including expanded and enriched learning time and opportunities, and integrated student supports that address out-of-school barriers to learning.

It also includes active family and community engagement, and collaborative leadership and practices.

The White House also released a new toolkit that shows how other government agencies, such as the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Transportation, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, can help.

The announcement comes while Cardona visited Turner Elementary School in Washington, D.C., one of two District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) where FSCS funding will ensure a strong pipeline of services.

The administration said it would further demonstrate the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to providing a high-quality education for all students.

DCPS is one of the 42 local educational agencies, non-profits, or other public or private entities and institutions of higher education to receive this funding.

The Department conducted robust outreach to expand interest, and almost half of grantees in this cohort are first-time grantees, DOE officials stated.

“Notably, this cohort includes the first set of grantees in the history of the program that have expressed a commitment to scaling the community school model across the grantee’s state. With this award, the Department has awarded FSCS grants in 20 states and territories.”

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