Led by Coloradans for the Common Good, the organizations convened virtually last week, concerned primarily about the roadblocks that stand in the way of families being able to fully access the meals that Jeffco Public Schools has been distributing this fall. Problems with scheduling and transportation mean some kids and their family members may be going hungry.
“Our schools, for better or worse, have become a central part of our social safety net, and our social safety net is already deeply frayed in our country,” said Reagan Humber, a member of the group’s steering committee and pastor at House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver. “And so kids are depending even more on that food.”
Members of Coloradans for the Common Good worry that the district doesn’t operate enough distribution sites across communities so that all families in need can pick up food nearby, including those who are limited by transportation. They’re just as concerned that the sites don’t offer the kind of flexible hours that cater to families’ schedules.
Humber would like to see Jeffco Public Schools bus food across the community, noting that drivers have agreed to transport meals to students so that they don’t have to walk miles to pick up food. He is also urging the district to ensure a school in every town it serves offers meal distribution and that every neighborhood serving a population of students who attend a Title I school has nearby access to school meals.
[Photo Credit: Brandan Robertson/Colorado Sun]
'Coloradans for the Common Good' & Educator Allies Leverage $20 Million for Digital Infrastructure, Call for Longer-Term Solutions
After 'Coloradans for the Common Good' and educator union leaders engaged their membership around the impact of the digital divide on teachers and students, they organized virtual summits to publicize what they learned and to begin to build a constituency for change.
Behind the scenes, state lawmakers began crafting legislation to address some of those frustrations, ultimately passing a bill that will provide $20 million in grants for districts to broaden internet access to their students. The monies are part of a state stimulus package developed in a special legislative session.
At its third virtual summit on the subject, the short-term stimulus was announced and celebrated. However, CCG leaders understand that the grants won’t ensure every young Coloradan has reliable access to the internet and plan to continue working for longer-term support.
[Photo Credit: Valerie Mosley/Colorado Sun]
Access to Remote Learning a Challenge in Rural Communities, Colorado Springs Indy [pdf]
This morning, Coloradans for the Common Good issued a joint letter with Towards Justice and UFCW Local 7 urging Colorado's Attorney General Phil Weiser to investigate the workplace safety and public health crisis that has plagued JBS USA, Inc. (“JBS”) workers and their communities in and around Greeley, Colorado during the COVID-19 pandemic.Read more
A family in the San Luis Valley has made an X in masking tape on the kitchen counter. It’s the only place a remote hotspot works so the children can access remote school lessons. A mother who runs a hair salon in Commerce City brings her daughter to work with her. It’s the only place she can access online learning using her mother’s hotspot. But it means the mother has problems running credit cards at the same time. A third of students in the South Routt School district south of Steamboat Springs don’t have internet access. Teachers, parents and school superintendents told these stories during the Internet Access Summit Wednesday calling for affordable and universal internet, faster download and upload speeds and higher data caps, and training to ensure families can access quality connections.
The virtual summit, sponsored by Coloradans for the Common Good, a coalition of education, labor and faith-based groups, included teachers, school officials, elected officials, and representatives of internet service providers Comcast, Verizon and T-Mobile. “It’s frustrating,” said Toby Melster, superintendent of the Centennial School District in San Luis, Colorado. He estimates about 30 percent of his students are falling behind simply because they don’t have a high-quality internet connection. He said companies have donated some hotspots but because there are multiple people in a family who need to go online, “they’ve got to make a decision about who gets access to the hotspot...”
As Colorado Schools Reopen, Thousands Of Students Still Don’t Have Reliable Internet, Colorado Public Radio [pdf]
Coloradans for the Common Good Helps Comcast Close Digital Divide and Include Immigrants in Nationwide Program
[Additional background from the Colorado Sun:]
In March, Comcast began offering [a] discounted service for free for 60 days to new families. The service usually costs $9.95 per month and caters to low-income households. Comcast also increased the service’s internet speed to 25 mbps and plans to continue making it free for 60 days to new eligible customers for the rest of 2020. The company is also offering free public Wi-Fi through the end of the year.
But the Internet Essentials program didn’t necessarily appeal to everyone who qualified. Coloradans for the Common Good this spring approached Comcast to ask the internet giant to modify its application, which asked for Social Security numbers even though other forms of identification were acceptable.
That deterred some immigrant families from attempting to enroll in the service. Coloradans for the Common Good — composed of churches, community organizations and teachers’ unions — reached out to lawmakers and Comcast’s corporate leaders pleading for change. After a series of email exchanges and Zoom meetings, Comcast adjusted its application nationwide to better reflect the variety of identification forms accepted. That change took effect in June, said Marilyn Winokur, co-chair of Coloradans for the Common Good.
“We want to get as many, many families that don’t have internet access to have the access that they need in order to participate in remote learning should it happen again,” Winokur said.
[Photo Credit: Kathryn Scott, Special to The Colorado Sun]
Big Wins on Internet Access, Fair Wages for School Workers, Coloradans for the Common Good
In 1965, Bayard Rustin reflected on what the Civil Rights movement achieved in the previous ten years, including the 1954 Supreme Court decision on school desegregation and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Writing for Commentary magazine, he said:
“The very decade which has witnessed the decline of legal Jim Crow has also seen the rise of de facto segregation in our most fundamental socio-economic institutions. The median income of Negroes has dropped from 57% to 54% of that of whites. [...] More Negroes attend de facto segregated schools today than when the Supreme Court handed down its famous decision.”
“...the task of the [Civil Rights] movement is vastly complicated by the failure of many whites of good will to understand the nature of our problem. There is a widespread assumption that the removal of artificial racial barriers should result in the automatic integration of the Negro into all aspects of American life.”
Coloradans for the Common Good recently partnered with Avail in a joint effort to research the impacts of the COVID-19 health crisis on landlords and renters across Colorado. Avail is a technology company providing a seamless rental experience for DIY landlords and their renters.Read more
[Photo Credit: Nathan W. Armes/Chalkbeat]
Comcast has made its low-cost program, called Internet Essentials, free for two months to families that qualify for programs such as food stamps or subsidized school lunches. But....undocumented families may not have the identification required to sign up for free internet service or may not feel comfortable providing it.
“We want to work with you to ensure equity of access for all of our students,” said a letter that the advocacy group Coloradans for the Common Good sent to Comcast executives Monday. “We hope to meet with you as soon as possible to discuss potential solutions.”
The letter was signed by faith leaders and the president of the Colorado Education Association, as well as the presidents of several local teachers unions, including Denver and Jefferson County....
To sign up for Internet Essentials, Comcast asks for a Social Security number. If a person doesn’t have one, Comcast instructs that person to take a picture of themselves holding their identification or to bring that identification to a company store.
Emilio Ramos, a social worker who works at two Denver elementary schools, said he’s heard from families where the parents are undocumented and don’t have a Social Security number.
He said parents are afraid that if they admit they’re undocumented and also provide their photo and personal information, that information could be flagged in Comcast’s system and shared with the government, making them a target for arrest or deportation.
Originally, the free internet was available to families who signed up by mid-May. Comcast has extended the deadline to June 30, a step praised by Coloradans for the Common Good, the coalition of labor union and faith leaders that pushed for the change.
Press Conference Video, Coloradans for the Common Good
Two weeks after Colorado teachers unions and faith leaders called on Comcast to reduce internet barriers to online schooling, the service provider has extended the deadline by which low-income families must sign up for a free internet program.
But union leaders said Comcast has not addressed another issue that is discouraging some families from signing up: asking for a Social Security number. If an applicant doesn’t have one, they can check a box that says, “I don’t have a Social Security number.”Read more
Low-Income Families Have More Time To Apply For Free Internet, But Some Who Are Undocumented Still Fear Doing So
Comcast is extending its deadline for eligible families to apply for two months of free internet service, the company announced this week.
That’s welcome news to a Colorado coalition of faith, education, and labor groups that want to reduce barriers to access for students while remote learning continues due to COVID-19. The coalition, Coloradans for the Common Good, met with Comcast regional officials recently to discuss how to do so.Read more
Despite Gov. Polis’ forceful encouragement to local governments, county courts and landlords to halt evictions, tenants still are getting threats to pay now or get out!
It’s no wonder people are clamoring for rent strikes, mortgage forbearance and other measures.
Coloradans for the Common Good (CCG), a broad-based, nonpartisan organizing strategy with member congregations, unions and civic organizations, is demanding an immediate statewide moratorium on evictions and a long-term plan to help the housing industry get back on its feet.Read more
In an attempt to bridge the gap between renters and landlords, as well as the banks that play a critical role in the housing market, Anderson has joined forces with Coloradans for the Common Good, which describes itself as "a broad-based, non-partisan network of organizations, affiliated with the Industrial Areas Foundation — the oldest and largest community organizing network, organized for ordinary people to have a powerful voice in the decisions that affect their lives and communities...
“Even during normal times, it’s not unusual for someone to spend 50% to 60% of their monthly income on housing. But now, that’s untenable,” said the Rev. John Anderson of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Arvada.
“In 2008, taxpayers bailed out financial institutions,” Anderson said. “So banks are in a strong enough position today to help take the lead on this solution. And if landlords were given help with their mortgages, then they also ought to — in return — help their tenants.” He added that he hoped landlords and banks would contact the coalition, Coloradans for the Common Good, but that there was no active effort to push for an executive order or legislation to mandate the group’s goals...
[Photo by: twinsterphoto]
Faith-labor Coalition Calls for Keeping People Housed During Pandemic, CP Colorado Politics [pdf]
An additional 30,000 Colorado workers get emergency paid leave!
Friends – after another intense week of organizing we have gained emergency paid leave for over 30,000 food and beverage manufacturing workers in the state. This is the second expansion of the Colorado Health Emergency Leave with Pay (CO HELP) rule, following our successful effort last week to protect 20,000 grocery store workers.Read more
April 3, 2020
Chief Executive Officer
JBS USA Holdings, Inc.
Greeley, Colorado, USA
We write with deep concern about the health and well-being of the workers at your meat-processing plant in Greeley, CO. The Denver Post reported this week that hundreds of workers called in sick. UFCW Local 7 claims that over 1,000 workers have called in sick this week, presumably due to the spread of Coronavirus in your plant.Read more
Coloradans for the Common Good Leverages Grocery Worker Win: Paid Sick Leave and Emergency Childcare
At the urging of Coloradans for the Common Good and the United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW), Governor Jared Polis expanded the consideration of "essential workers" to include food and grocery store workers on the front lines of the coronavirus crisis. The protections include emergency paid leave and child care, and will benefit 20,000 grocery store and commercial food processing workers across the state.
In a meeting with the Governor, faith and labor leaders successfully made the case that grocery store workers are essential and should be eligible for supports then-available only to front-line medical workers.
[Photo Credit: Mykal McEldowney/IndyStar]
Tens of thousands of Colorado workers, including those holding grocery, food processing, and construction jobs, will now qualify for free emergency child care through a statewide effort to provide child care for workers essential to fighting the coronavirus pandemic.
Originally, only health workers, first responders, and staff at residential care facilities were eligible for emergency child care, which launched March 24. State officials made a raft of new job categories eligible for the care in an announcement Monday morning. They also announced that tuition will be fully covered for the next seven weeks — through May 17.Read more
Coloradans for the Common Good (CCG), a broad-based organization of congregations, unions, and civic organizations, took action in support of additional protections to grocery store workers in Colorado. Clergy, union presidents and nonprofit directors met with Governor Polis Tuesday afternoon, and were pleased to gain his support to further protect essential workers who may have been overlooked in recent Executive Orders.Read more
A new black educators caucus within the Denver teachers union called on the district Thursday to address systemic racism, including by creating a team to focus on hiring more teachers of color. Despite previous district efforts, Denver’s teaching force remains overwhelmingly white.
“I can vividly remember the four black teachers I’ve had in the 13 years I’ve been a [Denver Public Schools] student,” said Jhoni Palmer, a senior at East High School.Read more
At the only public hearing the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment held on its proposal to expand overtime protections, many were supportive, but wanted the proposal to go further.
Workers and advocates packed a downtown Denver meeting room to urge the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment to more quickly implement its proposed expansion of overtime protections and to include agricultural workers among those eligible.Read more
In the post-Citizens United universe of dark money, secret donors, and billionaire influencers, it’s easy to think that working stiffs have no access to political power. In fact, that is a common refrain in the presidential campaigns.
Here in Colorado, a groundswell of activity is building to give voice to the rest of us who can’t buy our way into the board rooms, the private aircraft, and the exclusive gatherings of the elite.Read more
More than 500 leaders from congregations, educator groups, and civic organizations around the Denver metro area gathered last Thursday night to publicly launch Coloradans for the Common Good, a local organizing strategy affiliated with the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF). The Founding Assembly drew leaders from over twenty member institutions, plus a dozen guest institutions, from Denver, Aurora, Commerce City, and Jefferson and Boulder counties.Read more
The Division of Labor Standards and Statistics, part of the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, is looking at whether to update the Colorado Minimum Wage Order, which hasn’t had a major overhaul in two decades.
Colorado IAF is standing with teachers as they negotiate with the Denver Public School District to improve teacher compensation and classroom conditions. After a winter assembly, in which hundreds of Colorado IAF leaders challenged school board members to stand with teachers, many elected officials publicly declared their support, including a Colorado State Senator, Denver Public Schools Boardmember and local City Councilmember.Read more