SEIU Texas members kick off fair city budget campaign with “Budget 101” workshop


San Antonians from underserved neighborhoods plan to mobilize for a “working families” city budget throughout the Summer.

On Thursday, as part of We’re All in This Together, SEIU Texas members, city workers and their neighbors, kicked off this year’s campaign to make sure San Antonio is a great place to live and work at the “Budget 101” community workshop. Participants learned how their voices can shape the San Antonio budget to reflect the priorities of working families and expand quality services for our most overlooked communities.

This year, community members voted to mobilize for the following budget priorities:

  • Continued investment for streetlights and sidewalks in underserved areas of San Antonio
  • Higher standards for San Antonians who provide essential city services
  • A $15 minimum wage for all city employees, including contract workers

“The city budget should reflect the needs of people who are often ignored,” said Alma Arevalos, an SEIU Texas member. “When we speak up and take action, city leaders have to take us seriously. Our efforts make it possible for ordinary folks to have an extraordinary impact in our city budget.”

Throughout the Summer, We’re All In This Together members and community partners will put the lessons from “Budget 101” into practice by speaking out at City Council meetings and budget community input sessions throughout the city.

“Everyday, I work to provide the city services we all rely on. I’ve gotten to know our neighborhoods very well and there is some great need out there,” said Alfonso Avilez Jr, Equipment operator, transportation and capital improvements (TCI) with the city and SEIU Texas member. “We can make some smart decisions in our budget to ensure those neighborhood needs are met.”

This community approach to budget planning has already proven successful. In their second year mobilizing for a fair budget, campaign partners worked together to win $1 million for residential streetlights on the west side, $33 million for sidewalk maintenance and repairs and reached a minimum living wage of $13 an hour for city employees who provide essential services.

Follow SEIU Texas members and their campaign to make San Antonio work for everyone by searching #SATXTogether on Twitter and Facebook.

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An Open Letter to Business Leaders from Houston’s Faith Community


Rev. Marty Troyer, Rabbi Dan Aaronson, Rev. Kim Orr, Sister Ceil Roeger, Mustafa Carroll & Rev. Lisa Hunt blessing our bargaining committee.

Twenty-five religious leaders have signed and delivered the following letter in support of living wages for Houston janitors:


As faith leaders in the City of Houston, we support the janitors’ struggle to achieve a “living wage”. This struggle is about what kind of a city we want to be – one where you can work with dignity and build a better life for your family, or one where stagnation and poverty grow as only a small percentage of Houstonians have access to the common good needed for a decent human life that is intended for all.

Despite recent slowdowns, Houston remains one of the strongest real estate markets in the country. However, janitors in Houston are paid significantly less than commercial office janitors in most major metropolitan areas. Most Houston janitors are paid an average of $12,155 per year for part-time work. We call on the business leaders of Houston to do their part to keep Houston families out of poverty.

We are standing up for fair pay and benefits for ALL working people. We’re calling on business leaders to do their part by creating good jobs, raising wages and providing affordable health care to their employees. Together we can restore balance to our economy and create opportunity for future generations.

Signed by:

  • Most Reverend Joseph Fiorenza, Archbishop Emeritus, Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston
  • Reverend William Lawson, William A. Lawson Institute for Peace and Prosperity
  • Rabbi Samuel Karff
  • Bishop Michael Rinehart, Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
  • Deacon Sam Dunning, Office of Justice and Peace, Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston
  • Reverend Glynden Bode, United Methodist Church
  • Reverend Lisa Hunt, St. Stephens Episcopal Church
  • Reverend Marty Troyer, Houston Mennonite Church
  • Rabbi Steven Gross,  Houston Congregation for Reform Judaism
  • Reverend Jonathan Page, First Congregational Church of Houston
  • Sister Ceil Roeger, Dominican Sisters of Houston
  • Mustafaa Carroll, Council on American Islamic Relations
  • Reverend John Fields, First Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church
  • Rabbi Daniel Aronson, Congregation Or Ami
  • Reverend Helen DeLeon, Webster Presbyterian Church
  • Father Albert Zanatta, Assumption Parish, Houston
  • Sister Margaret Bulmer, Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word
  • Father Richard Wahl, Basilian Fathers
  • Reverend James Caldwell, Coalition of Community Organizations
  • Rabbi Dan Gordon, Temple Beth Torah
  • Reverend Hannah Atkins, Trinity Episcopal Church
  • DeWayne Lark,  Visions Fellowship Church
  • Reverend Ronnie Lister,  International Center for Spiritual and Social Activism
  • Father Gerry Kelly, Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers
  • Bishop Myokei Caine-Barrett Shonin, Nichiren Buddhist Sangha of Texas
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Why Airport Poverty Won’t Fly

There was a time when airport jobs were good jobs that paid a livable wage. But years of an outsourcing race to the bottom have hit airport workers hard.Airport Poverty - see the infographic

Our airports have become cities of secret poverty, where travelers never know the poverty work that helps get them to their destination.

Today, the UC Berkeley Labor Center released a report entitled ‪Course Correction‬: Reversing Wage Erosion‬ to Restore Good Jobs‬ at American Airports‬, which shines a light on that hidden poverty.‬

The report paints an alarming picture – pay for airport workers has plummeted as airlines and airports have increasingly outsourced their operations. Average salaries for low-wage workers at our airports have fallen by 15% in the last ten years.

In just ten years, the average baggage handler has seen a 45% real terms pay cut as jobs have been outsourced.

The industry should raise up the hard work those workers do, not push them further and further into poverty. The poverty they face is bad for the workers, bad for local economies and the constant staff turnover it creates is bad for safety at our airports.

But right now, airport workers across the country are standing up. People like Carlos Calderon, a wheelchair attendant at Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport who struggles to provide for his family on just $220 a week. Carlos is just one of thousands working an outsourced poverty job at Houston’s airports.

Carlos and his co-workers are taking action to raise wage and safety standards by forming a union for contracted employees at Bush Airport. They join airport communities across the country working to bring back good jobs to our airports.

Voters in the airport community of SeaTac, Washington, will soon decide whether to raise their minimum wage to $15 an hour. Workers at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport are taking part in the Yes! for SeaTac campaign in favor of Proposition 1 for good jobs.

Voting finishes tomorrow on Prop. 1. I am hoping for a victory, but win or lose, this epidemic of airport poverty is a problem that needs a solution.

As airport workers across the nation come together, we are building that solution.

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San Antonio Members Score Budget Cut Victory

CRTsSanAntonioThe San Antonio City Council proposed a number of budget cuts to vital public and community services in the last few weeks including cutting the staff of Crisis Response Teams (CRTs) that assist domestic violence victims and cutting back on hours and services at libraries, recreation centers, and pools.

SEIU members took these cuts as a call to action and joined neighborhood activist, community members, and co-workers to stand up against domestic violence and other cuts to community services – and they won.

The City Council received the message loud and clear, restoring cuts to CRT teams to continue providing services to domestic violence victims, parks, libraries and programs for children and seniors.

Live in San Antonio and want to help make it better for all of us? Sign up here!

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SEIU Texas Turns Up the Heat on the GOP to Pass Immigration Reform

Early this month, SEIU Texas members continued in their fight for commonsense immigration reform – this time by showing broad political support in Texas. SEIU members joined other mothers, fathers, students, and teachers from both sides of the aisle to give the GOP one, unified message: it’s time for commonsense immigration reform.IMG_9297 

“There are various Republicans that we know are kind of on the fence and this is … to get their attention to show there are people in this area support reform,” said Jose Diaz, a Republican from Houston. The delegation called on Republican lawmakers at the Harris County Republican Party headquarters to follow the Senate’s lead and give the people of Texas a vote and debate on immigration reform in the House.

The message delivered by the delegation – both at a march and in a formal letter was clear: when 67% of Texans support comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship, it is time for Republicans to act in the best interest of our families, communities, and our economy and give us a vote on immigration reform in the House.

Johnathan Gwyn, another Republican at the protest said, “It’s important to pass the reform now because it’s good for the economy, it’s good for the community, it’s good for the countries, it’s good for the borders.”

IMG_9288The immigration reform bill is now in the House after having cleared the Senate with a bipartisan majority of 68-32. Although 14 Republicans in the Senate voted in favor of the bill, Texas Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn voted against it.

SEIU Texas members will continue to press their representatives in Washington, and your voice is needed to ensure that 2 million Texans gain a pathway out of the shadows. TAKE ACTION for commonsense immigration reform!

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One Step Closer to Fixing Our Broken Immigration System

Senate Bill Passes with Bipartisan Support, but Without Texas’ Senators

IMG_7024On June 27, Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn were in the minority of Senators opposing the passage of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 (S. 744). The bill cleared the Senate with a bipartisan majority of 68-32, including every Democrat and 14 Republicans.

SEIU members across the state are excited about the momentum created from the Senate’s vote and hopeful for what it means to two million people in Texas.

“I am so happy to have cleared this bar on the path to achieving immigration reform. I’ve been living the American Dream for 30 years and I hope to finally be able to have a real voice in my adopted country. As a San Antonio city employee I work hard every day to contribute to my community, just like all immigrants do. We will keep this energy going as we move forward in the House of Representatives,” said Maria Webster a San Antonio Animal Care Service employee and SEIU Texas member.

Even with an amendment that will mean unprecedented build-up at the border, Senators Cornyn and Cruz remained unwilling to support the reform package, revealing that they were never serious about immigration reform, and instead just wanted to stand in the way of millions of aspiring Americans getting on a path to citizenship.

“While I am disappointed in Senators Cruz and Cornyn’s decision to turn their back on Texans, I am also not surprised. Their votes prove their far right motives. We need a realistic approach in Texas that reflects our diverse communities,” says SEIU Texas member Sergio Barron, an MRI Technologist at Las Palmas Medical Center in El Paso.

SEIU in Texas and other leading immigrant advocates have been fighting for a path to citizenship for 11 million aspiring Americans for years, and today the Senate brought America on step closer to achieving fair immigration reform. Although the legislation is not what we would have crafted, the bill maintains a clear and direct roadmap to citizenship, strong worker protections for current and future working families and keeps families together.

“We’ve been working to keep a path to citizenship alive in the bill and we’ve succeeded. This bill is good for our economy, it will keep families together and we know Texans want it to happen. That’s why I’ve been visiting congressman in Washington, DC, along with other SEIU Texas members to urge them to vote yes. It’s disappointing that some are overly focused on militarizing our border, but compromise is hard to come by and we’ve made it very far,” said Marlene Matute, a janitor in Houston.

Across Texas, members have made thousands of calls, visits to senators and congressman and organized public events and marches to generate support for immigration reform with a path to citizenship. For the past two weeks, Texans have joined fellow SEIU members from around the country to visit members of congress in favor of passing this bill through the next round of legislative processes.


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Anishia Anderson of Houston’s IAH tells White House about life on poverty wages

wh minwage eventCross-Posted from Airport Workers United. 

On the 75th anniversary of the establishment of the minimum wage, 20 minimum wage or tipped workers were invited to the White House, including Anishia Anderson of Houston, Texas.

Anishia works as a wheelchair assistant at Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) in Houston, Texas. Anishia has escorted elderly or disabled passengers to their flights and around the airport for the past five years. For her service, she is paid $7.25 an hour, the federally mandated minimum wage.

Despite working full time, Anishia earns about $900 a month, an amount too small to make ends meet and she finds herself facing a growing mountain of debt. Recently, Anishia had no other choice but to put a $3,000 dental bill on the credit card—a bill she does not think she will ever be able to pay off at her current wage.

Anishia’s health has declined and she has been diagnosed with a thyroid condition. Without access to employer-provided health insurance, Anishia has been unable to receive treatment for the thyroid condition because even the doctor’s visits alone are too expensive. She also receives no sick days—meaning that if she does not go to work when she is sick; she loses a day’s pay – a difficult choice when every penny is budgeted.

BNnmCYlCcAAEX2B.jpg-largeAnishia’s story is just one of the 452,000 Texans who work for minimum wage. According to data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in May, Texas has the highest number of minimum wage workers in the US.

Anishia’s story also highlights the problem of poverty jobs at our airports, where passenger service workers are paid as little as $12,500 a year. This is in stark contrast to the massive wealth Houston’s airports claim to generate for our region, ringing in at $27.5 billion annually. Workers like Anishia worry that without training and the proper equipment needed to do their jobs they are not serving passengers well. With this in mind, Anishia has begun to form a union with her co-workers to ensure airport employees receive proper training on emergency preparedness and safety.

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Update: HOPE and allies put tax fairness on Houston’s agenda

HOPE (1)When the owners of high end office buildings fail to pay their fair share in property taxes, we all feel it. On May 14, over a hundred people stood together and asked the city to fight for the future Houston. Congratulations to our sisters and brothers in HOPE and other organizations that are standing up for tax fairness in our city. Read more about their victory here.

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The Results Are In! Meet the SEIU Texas Advisory Committee


SEIU Texas members have taken another step toward becoming one strong voice for working families.

Members across Texas came together to elect 42 representatives to serve on the SEIU Texas advisory committee. Committee members represent all SEIU Texas cities and work as healthcare providers, janitors and municipal employees across our state.

Read the full list of advisory committee members here.

“I am proud and excited to represent my fellow SEIU Texas members by serving on the advisory committee. Now that we’ve united as one union, it’s time to roll up our sleeves and get to work creating a solid framework that will help us change our state for the better. I invite my fellow members to share their thoughts with us,” said Adela Valle, a janitor in Houston and newly elected member to the SEIU Texas advisory committee.

Members can share their ideas with their advisory committee here.

The committee will meet this summer to prepare a constitution and bylaws.

Later in the year, all SEIU Texas members will be able to vote on the committee’s recommendations.

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SEIU Texas Joins Allies to Highlight How High End Building Owners Manipulate Property Tax Appeals

Cross-posted from

Hope_bldg_eventHoustonians are paying their property taxes right now — so are huge companies that own the biggest office buildings in town. But that’s where the similarities end.

On Wednesday, in the shadows of Houston’s biggest office towers, parents, homeowners, teachers and city employees highlighted the issue by playing, “The Price is Wrong,” a parody of the popular daytime game show.  Check out the scenes below.

During the noon time event, contestants guessed how big a discount building owners ended up with after manipulating the system — 30%?, 50%, 60%?

How much would you pick?

The answer? Three of Houston’s signature skyscrapers- Williams Tower, Wells Fargo Plaza, Bank of America Building – paid a little more than half of the tax they should have, based on the market value of the buildings based on recent property sales figures.

Read more here.


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