Working Partnerships USA is a community organization that drives the movement for a just economy by bringing together public policy innovation and the power of grassroots organizing.


Big win on career pathways

September 13, 2016

The Valley Transportation Authority Board just took a groundbreaking vote that will open up career opportunities on over $4 billion in construction projects for local community members who are struggling to find good, family-supporting jobs.

This victory has been nearly five years in the making. Working Partnerships is proud to have led this effort via our Construction Careers Initiative, a collaboration with the Santa Clara Building Trades Council, the South Bay Apprenticeship Coordinators Association, the South Bay Labor Council, affiliated construction unions and apprenticeship programs, and community partners. Through this initiative, the South Bay is building a pipeline into high-road construction jobs - one big step towards shrinking inequality and building an inclusive middle class.

VTA joins the County of Santa Clara in adopting a "Community Workforce" policy covering its billions of dollars in construction projects. The policy expands access to career pathways through creating apprenticeship jobs for local low-income residents.

The next step in making that commitment real is to expand the Community Workforce model, so that greater numbers of our local youth, veterans, women, low-wage workers and other under-represented residents have access to construction careers.

Historic win: Silicon Valley votes for a regional minimum wage of $15 by '19

June 14, 2016

Last week, 15 cities in the heart of Silicon Valley voted overwhelmingly in favor of making a $15 minimum wage the region-wide policy by 2019, setting a timeline three years faster than the one set by the state. Though cities and states have taken action to raise minimum wages, Silicon Valley is the first to take a regional approach to setting such a standard. If adopted by each city council, this groundbreaking wage standard would give raises to 250,000 workers and boost the gross domestic product of the regional economy by $314 million every year.

California passed a historic minimum wage increase to $15 by 2022, but for families in crisis in this high-cost region, we need to act sooner to raise wages, as well as increase hours for part-time workers and improve other job standards like paid leave. With one in three working households in Silicon Valley earning too little to cover even the most basic expenses, raising the minimum wage is a key component in moving working families into the middle class.

The Cities Association's resolution will now come for a vote at each City Council in the region.

Sunnyvale and Mountain View have passed ordinances for $15 minimum wages by 2018 and Palo Alto had already set a goal to achieve the same. Cupertino and Los Altos voted last month in support of a regional $15 minimum wage by 2019. And with 13 cities' representatives having voted for the resolution, the momentum is palpable. We'll be campaigning city by city to make $15 by 2019 the law of the land.

A Hidden Crisis: Underemployment in Silicon Valley

April 22, 2016

In one of the most prosperous regions in the country, far too many working people are barely scraping by. Just released, our new report, A Hidden Crisis: Underemployment in Silicon Valley's Hourly Workforce, reveals an explosion of part-time work that helps drive the poverty that has persisted despite the economic boom.

The report, coauthored with the Center for Popular Democracy and the Fair Workweek Initiative, shows that part-time work in San Jose has shot up from 26% to 43% of the hourly workforce - 64,000 working people - just in the last decade, bucking national trends. And these jobs leave workers struggling to make ends meet:

  • 77% of these workers are paid less than $15 an hour.
  • 58% of their households are rent-burdened, paying more than 30 percent of their total household income for rent.
  • 45% lack access to job-based health insurance.
  • 25% are on Medi-Cal and 11% are on food stamps.

This crisis of underemployment disproportionately affects women, who make up 63% of hourly part-time workers, and people of color, who comprise 69% of this workforce.

The Opportunity to Work Initiative, the first of its kind, would require large employers here in the nation's tenth largest city to offer additional work hours to current qualified workers before hiring new staff to fill the need.

With recent victories in the Fight for $15, the minimum wage is starting to catch up, but working people can't make it on $15 an hour if they aren't getting enough hours on the job. Policies regulating work schedules haven't kept up with the ways in which employers are restructuring employment and shrinking the work week. These trends exist in the broader context of corporations making work more and more insecure - not only through unstable schedules, but also through the use of subcontracting, temp work and Uberized "gigs," which are widespread in and catalyzed by the tech industry.

This speaks to the core reason that communities, workers and faith came together to create Silicon Valley Rising, which launched the Opportunity to Work Initiative. Silicon Valley Rising is about working people rising up - to inspire industry to build an inclusive middle class in this region, and to organize for change through public policy and through a voice at work. We must unite the fight for fair wages, the fight for fair hours and all fights for better jobs to make Silicon Valley a national model for how the new economy can generate shared prosperity.

New Report Finds Subcontracting Worsens Economic and Racial Disparities

March 30, 2016

A report released today by Working Partnerships USA and Silicon Valley Rising, and covered exclusively by The Washington Post, reveals that contract industry workers serving the tech industry receive much lower wages and are disproportionately Black and Latino compared to direct tech workers. This is significant, as the report notes, because in Silicon Valley, the number of jobs in potential contract industries has grown three times faster than overall Silicon Valley employment over the last two and half decades.

"We knew the tech industry was booming, but we weren't seeing that translate into an abundance of jobs for our communities - until we looked at the low-wage jobs in contracting industries. Those are growing fast, just like tech profits are. It's no wonder that one in three working households in Silicon Valley can't make ends meet when these growing industries pay wages that barely cover rent," said Derecka Mehrens, Executive Director of Working Partnerships USA.

The economic status of those indirectly employed by the tech industry is much worse than the directly employed tech workforce in both white- & blue-collar work. On average, direct tech employees earn $113,300, while white-collar and blue-collar workers in contract industries average $53,200 and $19,900, respectively, the report finds.

Moreover, as earnings go down, the proportion of the workforce that is comprised of Black and Latino workers goes up. On average, African American and Latino workers make up just 10% of the directly employed tech workforce, approximately 26% of white-collar subcontracted industry workers and 58% of the blue-collar workforce in subcontracted industries.

"This report shows that the rise in subcontracting has made the high tech sector a weak engine for middle class job creation," said Ben Field, Executive Officer of the South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council. "Additionally, it shows that the few good jobs tech does create go disproportionately to white men."

"Tech's Invisible Workforce" reveals that through the rise of subcontracting, Silicon Valley's tech industry is drastically increasing the region's levels of inequality and occupation segregation, especially among people of color. The full report is available online at http://www.siliconvalleyrising.org/TechsInvisibleWorkforce.pdf

Take Up Our Quarrel

By Bob Brownstein

Posted March 18, 2016

The South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council Committee on Political Education gave its Lifetime Achievement Award to Bob Brownstein, Working Partnerships USA's Director of Research and Policy. Here's an excerpt of the speech that Bob gave at the awards banquet, with a charge to the rest of us in the movement for justice.

In two months, I'll be 70 years old. I've been fighting for the rights and well-being of working people for longer than many of the people in this room have been alive.

I made my first speech in favor of health insurance for all Americans in June of 1964. The MediCare Act was signed a year later, but after that the next steps took decades. Finally, the Clinton Administration managed to provide health insurance for quite a few children. But in the year 2000, the Santa Clara County labor movement launched an effort to make us the first county in the country to provide coverage for ALL children. And we didn't stop there. With a little help from President Obama, we helped launch Covered California and expand MediCal. And now our Board of Supervisors has approved a new initiative to generate coverage for undocumented. We are finally virtually there - where every other modern country has been for years - health coverage for all.

What should we learn from this story? We're on a long road - a road with few short cuts and a lot of steep hills.

Well, when you're on a long road, it's critically important to keep your eyes on the prize so you don't make a wrong turn. What's the prize? There's a lot of pieces of it - wages, and health care and housing and retirement - there's the right to organize.

When you put them together - it's all about justice.

Unfortunately, we have to do more than simply walk that long road to justice....

History tells us that in 1776 the British had kicked the heck out of Washington's army and chased him all across New Jersey to the Delaware River.

But there were men and women who wouldn't yield. There was Thomas Paine. He wrote, "These are the times that try men's souls," and he wrote that 1776 was no time for the sunshine patriot.

Well, 2016 is no time for the sunshine activist.

We who are passing the torch know that.

So we who have fought many long battles that brought us as far as we've come tonight - we feel we've earned the right to make a request of those come after us.

We ask only one thing.

Take up our quarrel with the foe.

Read more

A New Opportunity and a Planned Transition

Posted March 9, 2016

We're excited to announce that we are hiring a Director of Public Policy to join our executive team. We're looking for an experienced organizational leader to manage our public policy and advocacy campaigns and to drive our cutting-edge policy agenda to improve the lives of working people and people of color in Silicon Valley. The Director of Public Policy will work to further the momentum we've built launching Silicon Valley Rising, an innovative community-labor collaboration engaging the tech sector in policy and organizing solutions to income inequality and occupational segregation. Working with our incredible staff team and coalition partners, he/she will oversee our public policy agenda in the areas of economic justice, housing and transportation justice, health policy and community development, and budget and fiscal policy. Please help us spread the word!

A Planned Transition

After 17 years of service to our movement for a just Silicon Valley economy, Bob Brownstein is assuming a new role as Strategic Advisor where he will assist with organizational strategy and public policy development with Working Partnerships USA. This summer, Bob will move to part-time and partner closely with our board of directors and Executive Director on strategic plan implementation, health care and housing policy, and fiscal policy strategy. We are excited that he will continue as part of our core team as he moves toward retirement from full-time work.

We're planning a party, too - so click here and we'll make sure you get the invitation!

Thank you for your help spreading the word about this great opportunity to join our team!

Groundbreaking "Opportunity to Work Initiative" Filed

Posted January 25, 2016

Today, key Silicon Valley Rising members, along with community, religious and labor leaders, submitted a groundbreaking measure, the Opportunity to Work Initiative. The measure, proposed for the November 2016 ballot in San Jose, California, will help hourly workers get access to enough hours so their paychecks cover the bills and put food on the table. It will address the crisis of underemployment by requiring employers to offer qualified part- time employees the opportunity to work additional hours before hiring new part-time or temporary employees.

Sign on in support

The Opportunity to Work Initiative is the first measure of its kind in the country. Although San Francisco and SeaTac have adopted similar ordinances, no previous initiative has aimed to provide part-time employees across industries access to more work hours.

"Despite the fact that I work three part-time jobs, I struggle to make ends meet. Every week the number of hours I get changes, so I am never sure what my paycheck will be," said Sara Delete, a fast food employee. "Not having access to more work hours means that I am constantly worried about being able to provide for my son, cover my rent and pay the bills."

While the Silicon Valley economy is booming, working people and their families are caught in an ever-increasing struggle to make ends meet. San Jose and other Silicon Valley cities have set national examples by raising their minimum wages. But a higher wage is not enough to cover skyrocketing living costs if you can only get a few hours of work. By keeping workers part-time, big corporations in low-wage industries avoid providing critical benefits like health insurance and retirements plans. Women and people of color are disproportionately affected.

The Opportunity to Work ordinance will provide fair access to hours for working people stuck in part-time or hourly positions, freeing them to work more so they can earn enough to pay for the basic necessities.

Campaigns to provide opportunities to work have been won or are underway in cities and states across the country and major national chain stores and restaurants. Locally, the Silicon Valley Living Wage Coalition won an opportunity to work policy for employees and contractors at the County of Santa Clara. Now San Jose has a chance to seize the moment and become a national leader in this fight.

Join the campaign

Fact sheet

Stronger Unions are the Way to Rebalance our Economy

Reposted December 11, 2015 from NewsWeek

By Dorian T. Warren - Working Partnerships USA Board Member, Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute and Chair of the Board at the Center for Community Change.

Thousands of Americans who work in fast-food restaurants walked off their jobs for a day again earlier this month, once more disrupting breakfast, lunch, and dinner hours in neighborhoods around the country.

Their strikes have provoked a broad debate over minimum wage levels at local and national levels, which is long overdue.

But that's just part of what this movement is about. From the beginning, the fast-food cashiers and cooks who launched the "Fight for $15" declared that they have a vision for how they can turn their jobs into work that sustains their families and frees them from depending on public assistance: a union.

They are not alone in uniting behind this vision. In an era of increasingly precarious careers and deepening economic insecurity, wide-ranging groups of working people-from adjunct professors to child care workers to digital media journalists to auto parts workers-are joining together to start new unions so they can speak with a more powerful voice about their future.

In a larger sense, all of these people who are working together to restart the union movement are pointing out something that should be obvious by now: that a grand economic experiment that America's wealthy corporate elites launched a generation ago has been a destructive failure for wage-earning Americans.

About 40 years ago, corporations decided to break apart unions in the United States, focusing first on the unions organized by people working in private sector jobs.

The implicit promise about this experiment that was made to the rest of us was that by crushing unions, corporations would be free to be more efficient, more flexible and more profitable. This was supposed to generate more growth and make life better for all of us.

Of course, that's not what happened. In reality, suppressing unions made it much easier for corporations to push the economy way of out balance. With nobody sitting across from them at a bargaining table, it became all too easy for CEOs to simply take more and leave the rest of us with less.

The result has been that working Americans' share of our country's overall economic output-what the Federal Reserve calls the "Nonfarm Business Sector Labor Share"-has collapsed. For decades, wages for most people have stayed flat or fallen. For an ordinary American, the real purchasing power of the average wage is not any higher now than it was in 1973.

At the same time, real incomes for the CEO class have soared to the point that it sometimes seems that they have flown off in their Gulfstream jets to live on a different, better planet.

Economists and historians looking for reasons for why incomes in the United States have become more and more unequal now point towards the dismantling of unions as a key factor.

We need stronger unions again to raise wages and strengthen the purchasing power of typical families, because that consumer spending is what will sustain and fortify our recovery from the 2008 financial crisis and into the future.

We need stronger unions again because everyday American families need institutions that can at least partially offset the astonishing power that the wealthiest Americans have over our government and our elections.

Minimum wage increases are great, but they are not enough. Workers shouldn't have to rely on sporadic and incremental raises dependent on the goodwill of politicians. They need an ongoing vehicle for making sure their wages rise with profitability, productivity, and economic growth.

Nobody thinks that restoring a broad-based, powerful union movement is going to be easy. Corporations have been both relentless and successful in their effort to cripple unions.

More than 90 percent of Americans who are employed by a private company do not belong to a union. In some states, public employees have succeeded in preserving their organizations, but a network of billionaires are funding a pending Supreme Court case that will likely soon make it more difficult for teachers, firefighters and other public employees to maintain strong unions.

Still, there are important reasons to be optimistic when it comes to creating a new kind of movement of working Americans.

There are signs that growing numbers of Americans simply want stronger unions again. The most recent Gallup poll of the overall public found that support for unions spiked up to 58 percent this year, a jump of five percentage points over just one year.

And a closer look at polling trends shows even stronger support for unions among the workforce of the future. A Pew survey released earlier this year found that Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 view unions favorably at a significantly higher level than older workers.

For people who are paid less that $15 per hour, that support is even more intense. A National Employment Law Project survey released last month found that 72 percent of people who are paid at that level support unions. Among 18-29 year olds paid less than $15, support rises to 82 percent.

That shifting sentiment in favor of rebuilding a strong union movement will eventually shift our politics.

For now, nearly all elected Republicans are implacably opposed to any attempt to give Americans more freedom to form unions. But Democratic voters and elected officials are growing more willing to back 21 st century unions as an important method to restore wage growth and create more inclusive prosperity.

Larry Summers and Robert Rubin-both seen as business-oriented "centrists" within the Democratic Party-have recently spoken out boldly about the need to rebuild unions.

Right now, it's too difficult for working people to organize unions, so a shift in politics would certainly make it easier for people to start new unions on a large scale. The 1935 Wagner Act-the law that created a federal right to join a union - was severely weakened by conservative attacks in 1947 and 1959. Progressives in Congress attempted to bolster workers' freedom to form unions in 1977 and 2009, but they failed.

It's time to think about what the law should look like in the 21st century in a service-based, part-time economy.

The conventional wisdom today is that there is little hope for changing the rules for how people form unions because of polarization and gridlock. Many people assume it will stay this way and that it will take decades for a breakthrough to come.

But not long ago, most of us assumed it would take at least a generation for gay Americans to win the right to get married. Change can seem to take forever until it suddenly happens quickly.

It's also important to remember that working Americans succeeded in building unions well before the Wagner Act existed. Even in a fiercely hostile legal and political climate, men who operated locomotives, men who mined coal, women who sewed clothing and many other kinds of working people used tenacious, creative tactics to build unions and persuade corporations to sit down with them, even when they had no real legal right to do so.

Corporations don't have to wait for Congress and the President to let them change how they deal with their employees. A company like McDonald's-which today is struggling with a rapidly declining public reputation at least partly because it pays its employees so little-could decide tomorrow to reboot how consumers think about it by creating a new relationship with the people who serve its food. The company could find a way to support the creation of a McDonald's employee organization and include its cooks and cashiers in the process of making the McDonald's a leading edge business again.

This new kind of organization likely won't look like our grandfathers' unions. Today's economy calls for something different.

But we do need to figure out the organization that allows the more than 60 million people that make less than $15 an hour to be engaged in their economic and political lives. They need an organization that isn't just about raising the minimum wage-one that they can join if they want, that negotiates for wages and health insurance and sick days today and over the long run.

Right now, you've got millions living on the fringes, barely figuring out how to make it. We are supposed to live in a country where our kids do better. That's not the case. The fast-food strikes are just one sign that working Americans have been pushed to the limit and are eager to stick together to fight for economic stability.

For sustained prosperity and a more democratic way of life, there is no substitute for making sure that working Americans have the freedom to build their own strong organizations to join together for jobs that make thriving communities possible.

Victory: $287 billion plan will prioritize good jobs and renter protections

Posted November 20, 2015

Several billion dollars in transportation and land use planning funds flow to the San Francisco Bay Area each year. These funds and the agencies that oversee them have a profound impact on the shape and direction of our region's economic growth.

Yet until recently, virtually no attention has been paid to the type and quality of jobs being leveraged by those investments - with the result that development across the nine-county Bay Area often happens in ways that exacerbate existing disparities and widen the inequality gap.

In a groundbreaking policy shift, the Bay Area's regional planning and transportation agencies voted this week to adopt two new priorities: stemming the Bay Area's displacement crisis, and tackling inequality by growing good, middle-wage, career-path jobs.

The votes were the culmination of more than two years of advocacy by communities and workers across the 9-county Bay Area, spearheaded by the Quality Jobs Network and the 6 Wins for Social Equity. Working Partnerships USA and our networks of grassroots allies have been working with these partners to say that displacement and good jobs need to be at the center of the regional debate.

This week, after dozens of meetings where community members and workers spoke out about the crises facing the Bay Area's working families, MTC and ABAG adopted two new Performance Targets as part of Plan Bay Area, with the goals of:

  • Reducing the risk of displacement for low- and moderate-income renters.
  • Maintaining and expanding the share of middle-wage jobs in the Bay Area, so that more of our region's jobs will provide livable, family-supporting pay and benefits and be accessible to our local community members.

This victory is the first step towards a new framework for economic development that generates good, family-supporting jobs and access to those jobs for all of the Bay Area's diverse communities.

Our next step is to move from goals to concrete change: making sure that the policies and programs that the regional agencies adopt, and the billions of dollars in transportation, infrastructure and planning funds that they direct each year, have a real impact in supporting our communities' efforts on the ground. The Bay Area's cities and communities need strong regional support to help them push back against the "hourglass economy", the shrinking middle-wage job sector, and the explosion in low-wage, insecure jobs.

If you'd like to get involved, contact Louise Auerhahn at lauerhahn@wpusa.org to learn more about the Quality Jobs Network.

Making Health Care for All A Reality

By Charisse Ma Lebron, Director of Health Policy & Community Development Working Partnerships USA

Posted November 3, 2015

On November 3, 2015, Santa Clara County reached a major milestone in the movement for universal health coverage. The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to approve the Health Coverage Initiative, which will provide access to health coverage to all of our residents, regardless of income or documentation status.

The Health Care Initiative is a program that will expand access to a comprehensive system of care for those who previously had limited or no care. Approximately 167,000 residents in the County of Santa Clara remain uninsured because they do not qualify for Medi-Cal, Covered California, or other existing coverage programs. In the past, many low-income and undocumented patients have sought out a doctor's care only when their health needs reached a crisis point. Now, those same patients will have access to an assigned primary health care provider who can help them with preventive care or chronic disease management, so that their health needs can be addressed before reaching crisis points.

The design of this program was crafted carefully over a period of years and profoundly shaped by the voices of the residents whom the program aims to reach. Hundreds of residents gave input into the program in three languages via a dozen focus groups as well as community surveys held in neighborhoods and gathering places around Santa Clara County.

Beginning January 2016, the pilot phase of the Coverage Initiative aims to enroll 5,000 low-income, undocumented residents over a 12-month period. Better access to low-cost, quality healthcare means better health outcomes for all our residents, regardless of income or documentation status.

To ensure successful implementation of the Coverage Initiative program, Working Partnerships USA will continue working collaboratively with Santa Clara Valley Health and Hospital System (SCVHHS), Community Health Partnership (CHP), and other community-based partners to help facilitate community engagement and a seamless enrollment process.

More on work for Health Care for All

This latest initiative is the culmination of nearly two years of a collaborative effort with SCVHHS and CHP, and a part of Working Partnerships USA's long-standing commitment to Healthcare for All, which began more than 15 years ago with the Children's Health Initiative, expanded into a focus on successful implementation of the Affordable Care Act, and now continues with our latest shared endeavors to reach the last remaining uninsured constituencies in our County.

At the heart of our work is the relentless pursuit and commitment to make sure that Silicon Valley is a place where all communities live, grow, and thrive. We are grateful to stand with dedicated partners and allies in this shared endeavor.

Fighting for Equitable Access to State-of-the-Art Transportation

By Charisse Ma Lebron, Director of Health Policy & Community Development Working Partnerships USA

Posted October 19, 2015

Transportation is a critical part of our lives. It determines our access to quality jobs, schools for our children, the health care services available to our loved ones, and impacts the environment. Yet, there has historically been an underinvestment in transportation infrastructure and services for low-income, communities of color in Silicon Valley.

For underserved communities, transportation is the second largest expense after housing, and residents of these communities either pay more than their counterparts for transit, or they do not have access to a transit system. Because of this inaccessibility, their primary mode of travel in the south bay is via car, which only contributes to the growing traffic congestion and poor air quality.

In an effort to ensure equity in transportation infrastructure spending and reduce adverse environmental impacts in Santa Clara County, Working Partnerships USA convenes the Transportation Justice Alliance (TJA), comprised of 16 organizations and community leaders, housing and transportation advocates, labor, faith communities, and other stakeholders. The TJA is heavily engaged in the Envision Silicon Valley process to ensure that the potential 2016 transportation ballot measure will invest in transportation projects that meet the needs of our most underserved communities and support multimodal travel.

Among the TJA's Major Victories:

From now through fall 2016, Working Partnerships USA and its TJA Partners will continue the fight for transportation justice. Out next steps include:

  • Incorporating a system of feedback and evaluation concerned with equity
  • Continuing to work with the VTA to help fund projects that are responsive to the communities they serve
  • Advocating for an equity-informed expenditure plan for the potential transit tax that meets the needs of the community, consistent with the Envision SV Goals

Transportation is a collective enterprise. We need to work together to make it work for all residents in the south bay, regardless of economic status. It serves all of our communities to have a robust and affordable transportation system that increases ridership, and reduces traffic congestion and impact to air quality. We ask you to join the fight for transportation justice.

Community and Elected Officials Rally to Disrupt Inequality

Posted September 22, 2015

Over 150 community members, workers, clergy and elected officials rallied and marched today to call on Silicon Valley companies Hyatt and Citrix to treat workers with dignity and create jobs that rebuild the middle class.

The action was led by Silicon Valley Rising, an unprecedented coalition of labor, faith and community that is building a tech economy that works for everyone. Working Partnerships USA is a coalition founder.

Citrix contracts with Universal Protection Service, a security services firm notorious for its workers rights violations as its employees have fought to have a voice at work. As UPS's client, Citrix has yet to exercise its tremendous power to ensure its dollars are going to responsible contractors who respect the right to organize.

Hyatt Santa Clara benefits from the explosion of wealth in the region and must be accountable to its workers who provide hospitality to engineers, investors and others who come to Silicon Valley. These hotel workers have been campaigning for better wages, fair treatment and a less hazardous work environment for over seven years.

High tech companies contract out most service jobs to workers who are poorly paid and, for a large part, don't receive basic benefits. And in a stark diversity gap, African Americans and Latinos make up the majority of these janitors, food service workers, maintenance workers, security officers and shuttle bus drivers, yet comprise just three to four percent of the directly hired core tech workforce.

Sunnyvale protects neighborhoods, regulates short-term rentals

Posted September 16, 2015

Last night, Sunnyvale adopted Silicon Valley's strongest ordinance that regulates short-term rentals of residential property, such as Airbnb, HomeAway, or FlipKey rentals. With the support of Working Partnerships USA, the Sunnyvale City Council passed an ordinance designed to curb the impact of short-term rentals on affordable housing. The new ordinance allows hosted-only short-term rentals, requires a permit from the City, and does not extend the policy to mobile home parks. It also regulates a maximum of 4 lodgers per night at any given single-family dwelling. Finally, the Council emphasized the importance of monitoring the growth of short-term rentals in their community and any potential impacts to the local affordable housing stock.

When it comes to short-term rentals, neighborhood stability and public safety must be considered, as well as the impact to affordable housing. Bad actors, speculative buyers, or absentee landlords who have little consideration for community concerns or neighborhood preservation may buy apartment buildings or multiple homes and convert them to short-term rentals for profit. This could take rental units off the market and change neighborhood character.

Working Partnerships USA, UNITE HERE, workers, and community members were on hand last night to support the Council taking a strong position on short-term rentals. While Sunnyvale's ordinance has stronger protections than San Jose's, there is room for improvement and learning. The City could add a permanent residency requirement and a cap on the total number of days a property can be short-term rented per year. These requirements would ensure people don't turn residential space into perpetual short-term rentals and remove housing from the market. We will continue to push for these requirements as Sunnyvale continues to consider this issue. Working Partnerships USA and UNITE HERE are working collaboratively to ensure that concerns related to affordable housing and neighborhood preservation are considered as short-term rentals proliferate in the South Bay.

As the 'on-demand economy' grows, we will continue to work on policies that safeguard our communities, support quality jobs, promote a high quality of life, and preserve the ability for local governments to protect their residents. Together, we will continue to build an economy that works for everyone.

San Jose to move forward on minimum wage study

Posted September 16, 2015

On Tuesday, the San Jose City Council voted unanimously to conduct a study on the impacts of a $15 or higher regional minimum wage. According to Councilmember Ash Kalra, many minimum wage earners are women in their mid-30s or older who are supporting a family or spouse.

Read the story here!

A regional minimum wage has support across Silicon Valley: the mayors of Campbell, Palo Alto, Cupertino, Milpitas, Morgan Hill, Monete Sereno, and Santa Clara all support San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo's plan for a regional minimum wage; and the Cities Association of Santa Clara County board of directors voted unanimously in support of this study.

"Today's vote by the City Council shows that Silicon Valley Rising's efforts to regionally raise the wage continue to motivate local cities to take care of their low wage workers," said Derecka Mehrens, Executive Director of Working Partnerships USA.

MSNBC covers Silicon Valley Rising: "We're winning"

Posted September 10, 2015

$15 minimum wages in cities across Silicon Valley. Unions for warehouse workers at Google Express and shuttle drivers at subcontractors serving Facebook, Yahoo, Zynga, Apple and Genentech. Abusive security contractors fired by Apple and Google. Forward momentum for renters' rights in San Jose. All in less than six months. This is what happens when community, faith and labor unite.

Watch this week's MSNBC clip highlighting Silicon Valley Rising

The show's commentators called campaigns like Silicon Valley Rising and the fight for a $15 minimum wage an "unbelievable success" and "the kind of big thinking we need."

We need your help to share the story of what's happening.

Here's a sample post/tweet:

Tech creates 4 low-wage jobs for every 1 good job. Watch #SVRising on @MSNBC: big thinking about how we take action. http://www.msnbc.com/watch/labor-vs-silicon-valley-david-vs-goliath-522294851547

Let's inspire the tech industry to create a new middle class in Silicon Valley.

17th Annual Labor in the Pulpit program brings workers into over 60 services over Labor Day weekend

Posted September 4-6, 2015

This year's Labor in the Pulpit/Labor on the Bimah was a resounding success! 40 volunteer speakers took Silicon Valley Rising’s message of combating income inequality into more than 60 services across Santa Clara County, reaching more than 10,000 members of the faith community. Over 1,000 congregants moved to action, signing our Faithful Contracts in support of Silicon Valley Rising and pledging to get involved in our campaign to build a better, more inclusive economy in Silicon Valley.

This weekend demonstrated that the message of income inequality resonates in all our communities. We all know someone who has faced economic hardships, worked at a job without benefits or livable wages, or struggled to cover the high rents in the region and provide for their family. The labor movement lifts up all workers in our communities by raising regional standards in the workplace and in our daily lives; and the faith community has been a powerful ally since we first started fighting for fair working conditions. We use Labor Day weekend as a platform to remember the common values of labor and faith: that all people deserve dignity and respect, in work and in life, and that we share a moral duty to band together and demand better of our employers, our politicians, and ourselves.

Major Step for Renter's Rights

Posted September 2, 2015

Thanks to leaders and members of Silicon Valley Rising, the powerful efforts of renters and a diverse group of faith, labor, and community leaders, San Jose City Council voted yesterday to move forward towards strengthening San Jose's rent control ordinance and banning unjust evictions.

In a city where rent has increased by 54% in the last five years, this vote marks an important victory.

But the work isn't over yet. Join Silicon Valley Rising to stay connected to the fight for affordable housing.

Nearly 100 community members attended the meeting to show their support, including tenants, labor leaders, students, and seniors.

San Jose is now the largest city in the Bay Area to consider rent stabilization. We must continue to lead the way in expanding renters' rights and affordable housing for those who need it most.

Join Silicon Valley Rising now to keep San Jose in the lead on housing our diverse community.

3 Victories and a Long Road Ahead

Posted Auguest 27, 2015

Working families in Silicon Valley have never had a week like this before.

Google Express workers who barely earn enough to survive voted on Friday to join Teamsters Local 853 to get a voice on the job.

Read the story here!

Santa Clara and Palo Alto voted to raise the minimum wage to $11 starting January 1st with a vision to get to $15 by 2018!

Our communities need to know that change is happening.

Build the movement by posting about our communities' accomplishments via Facebook and Twitter. Here's a sample tweet:

"1 week, 3 big wins! @GoogleExpress unionizes w/ @Teamsters. Santa Clara & Palo Alto raise the #minwage to $11 . Get involved w/ #SVRising https://actionnetwork.org/forms/i-stand-with-the-working-families-of-silicon-valley

Community, faith and labor coming together through Silicon Valley Rising is what makes change like this possible and we thank you for your role in making it all happen.

$11 Minimum Wage wins

Posted Auguest 20, 2015

On Tuesday, the City of Santa Clara voted to raise the minimum wage to $11 an hour and committed to make it $15 an hour by 2018. That's the highest minimum wage in Silicon Valley.

Thanks to Councilman Dominic Caserta for bringing this issue forward, Mayor Jamie Matthews, Councilmembers Pat Kolstad, Teresa O'Neill, and Lisa Gillmor for their support, and the hundreds of you who have stood up for good jobs. A special thanks to Congressman Mike Honda for being a longstanding ally of working people who personally came to speak and listen at the meeting.

Santa Clara is the fourth city in Silicon Valley to raise the wage, joining San Jose, Sunnyvale and Mountain View. The momentum is incredible. But tens of thousands of workers in our Valley are still struggling at $9 an hour - some working right on the campuses of the world's largest tech companies.

Sign up for Silicon Valley Rising to say that tech can do better.

Our organized base of more than 50,000 voters in low-income neighborhoods has been engaged in the fight to get Silicon Valley to $15 an hour. We'll be out talking to them about this win and how much farther we still have to go. This is our chance to show those voters how many people are standing together for justice.

Will you join us?

Big win for good jobs

Posted Auguest 17, 2015

Last Tuesday, Silicon Valley's second largest employer - the County of Santa Clara - extended living wage protections to its nearly 17,000 employees. Thanks to Supervisors Ken Yeager and Dave Cortese for bringing this issue forward, Supervisor Cindy Chavez for joining them in championing it, Supervisor Mike Wasserman for his support, and the hundreds of you who have stood up for good jobs.

The Silicon Valley Living Wage is the most comprehensive in the country, and the first to include fair workweek provisions to protect workers from unstable, abusive schedules and help part-timers get more work hours.

We need your help to make sure it's not the last. If we can make this kind of change, so can the tech companies.

Join us in calling on tech to make a change.

While tech companies make massive profits, the workers who keep them running smoothly get left behind. Santa Clara County's living wage shows how to create good jobs for everyone - not just the engineers and executives, but the janitors, security officers, groundskeepers and cafeteria workers.

Sign up for Silicon Valley Rising to say that tech can do better.

As we celebrate this win for nearly 17,000 workers, there's no better time to fight for tens of thousands more who are still struggling.

We're shaking things up!

Posted July 17, 2015

Did you hear us on NPR this week?

If not, check it out! They ran a two-part series highlighting how Silicon Valley Rising is "Shaking up Silicon Valley" and winning big victories for service workers in tech.

While we've made incredible gains in the several months since our launch, we still have a lot of work to do. To continue shaking things up here, we need you to join us:

Join the Silicon Valley Rising Campaign.

We've had so many wins that the short NPR pieces couldn't even touch on them all! Check it out:

  • Renters Rights was prioritized by the City of San Jose to be one of the top issues the City will focus its time and resources on this year. Over the next several months we will be reaching out to you to share your experiences as a renter in Silicon Valley and join us on this piece of our campaign. #SVRentersRights
  • Service workers are rising up. Shuttle bus drivers are forming unions, security officers have convinced tech giants to drop irresponsible contractors, and workers across the tech industry are standing up for fair treatment.
  • We're coming to you. We're getting ready to have conversations about Silicon Valley Rising in congregations through the Interfaith Council on Economics and Justice's yearly Labor in the Pulpits program throughout Santa Clara County.

Join the Silicon Valley Rising Campaign.

Lastly, thank you for all you do as part of this movement for a just economy. It might be a crazy idea, but we truly believe Silicon Valley can be better for all of us and are honored to be in this fight with you.

Let's keep on keepin' on!

Sign up by June 29! Trades Orientation Program builds the pipeline into a construction career

Posted June 26, 2015

In an economy where good, family-supporting jobs are scarce and getting scarcer, the high-road construction industry offers one of the best opportunities to work hard and move up to the middle class.

The Trades Orientation Program (TOP) is a free, intensive 130-hour pre-apprentice class designed to put students on the pathway to a job as an apprentice and a career in the building trades. Because it is a collaborative partnership with industry representatives from the Building Trades Council and the Apprenticeship Coordinators, graduates not only earn a nationally recognized certificate, but are directly connected to local employment and apprenticeship opportunities.

Women, youth (age 18+), veterans and underrepresented minorities are especially encouraged to apply.

Information/application sessions will be held June 29 - July 1 in San Jose. If you know anyone who might be interested in getting a start on a construction career, they can find out more and sign up for an info session at http://www.wpusa.org/top/.

Healthy Corner Stores Team Helps Construct Mural on First Street

Posted June 3, 2015

From May 29th-31st, Working Partnerships partnered with young volunteers, the Health Trust of San Jose and artists from Empire 7 Studios to paint a mural on the side of the First Street Market at 748 South First Street.

As part of the Healthy Corner Stores initiative, this project focused on getting community involvement in the construction of this mural.

In the past, Working Partnerships and the Health Trust spoke to dozens of stores in low income neighborhoods in order to convince them to take part in the ‘Good to go’ campaign. The addition of healthy foods into these small markets is crucial for the surrounding community because of the overwhelming amount of impoverished families that have health problems related to unhealthy foods.

‘Good to go’ has been implemented at many corner stores all around San Jose. This campaign focuses on getting healthy foods into neighborhoods that do not have much access to fruits and vegetables.

New Report on Women’s Economic Equality?

Posted May 18, 2015

By Rachel Deutsch

A new report released by the Center for Popular Democracy shows that erratic and abusive work schedules are a major culprit in keeping women prisoners of income volatility – called the new “hidden inequality” by the New York Times. Here are some report highlights:

  • With 38.8 million women paid by the hour - including 72 percent of Latina workers and 68 percent of African American women workers - women and people of color are disproportionately affected by the concerns facing the hourly workforce.
  • 41 percent of all hourly workers [in a national survey of early career adults] reported that they know their work schedule a week or less in advance and that they have almost no say in their schedules (p. 3), making it nearly impossible for them to schedule childcare, school or a second job.
  • 25 percent of the 12 million (p. 1) women working part-time would prefer full-time work (p. III), but without predictable, flexible work schedules, these women workers can't increase their hours while still fulfilling their family responsibilities or pursuing education.
  • A third of workers have a fluctuating monthly income and 42 percent of them cite irregular work schedules as the cause. (p. III)

Read more on The Left Hook: Politics with a Punch.

Rachel Deutsch serves as Senior Staff Attorney for Worker Justice for the Center for Popular Democracy, focusing on the Fair Workweek Initiative.

Mountain View Goes Bold with BRT

Posted May 6, 2015

Too often, policy decisions are made on narrowly focused considerations, such as politics or special interests, and do not give proper weight to the true benefits of a proposal.

Last Tuesday, the Mountain View City Council bucked that trend by voting in favor of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT).

Councilmember Ken Rosenberg, Vice Mayor Patricia Showalter, and Councilmember Michael Kasperzak courageously led the charge to bring affordable transportation options and more walkable, bikeable streets to Mountain View—through BRT with transit-only lanes.

The vote for BRT with transit-only lanes sends a signal to the region that Mountain View is committed to responsible planning and solutions that reduce our environmental footprint and provide real transportation options that can be enjoyed by residents and workers of all incomes.

Rather than killing a good project with some imperfections or loose ends, supportive policymakers have positioned themselves to instead work with VTA to make the project even better, such as allowing public/private shuttles to use the transit lanes and ensuring better connecting transit services.

Read more on The Left Hook: Politics with a Punch

Interested in learning more? Please contact Charisse Ma Lebron, Director of Health Policy and Community Development at 408-809-2124 or charisse@wpusa.org.

Graduates on their Way to a Construction Career

Posted April 23, 2015

On Monday night we celebrated the graduation ceremony for the Spring 2015 class of the Trades Orientation Program!

The 17 graduates came from all walks of life, with one thing in common: seeking a good, family-supporting career.

Through their hard work and dedication, they are now well on their way to entering that pathway into a rewarding career in the construction trades.

Most of the graduates are already in the process of applying for apprenticeship in their trade of choice, including Carpenters, Electricians, Ironworkers, Plumbers, Sheet Metal Workers, Surveyors, Roofers and more.

Many thanks to our Construction Careers Initiative partners who helped make this program possible, including the Santa Clara Building Trades Council, the South Bay Apprenticeship Coordinators Association, work2future, the work2future Foundation, NOVA and the California Conservation Corps. And a BIG congratulations to all of the graduates!

Interested in learning more? Find out about the Trades Orientation Program and how to apply for the next session at www.wpusa.org/top.

 Angela Y. Davis on "Inequality and the Role of Resistance"

Posted April 6, 2015

For our next Social Innovators Speaker Series, we are excited to host Angela Y. Davis, '60s civil rights activist-intellectual and UC Santa Cruz professor.

Dr. Davis will discuss the current social movements challenging police violence, mass incarceration, and social inequality.

When: Thursday, April 16 at 7 pm.  Doors open at 6:30 pm. Come early to reserve your seat!

Where: Morris Dailey Auditorium, Tower Hall at San Jose State University (near San Fernando and 5th Streets) [map]

Free admission for students.  General admission is also free, as donations are appreciated.


Download the flyer

Questions? Contact Son Chau, son@wpusa.org or 408-809-2122.

Behavioral Health and the Affordable Care Act (ACA)

Posted March 19, 2015

Behavioral Health is an important piece to maintaining a healthy and well balanced life, by ensuring that your mental and emotional wellbeing is taken care of.

Through the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), all health plans under the State Health Insurance Marketplaces cover substantive disorders and mental health services, such as depression screening and rehabilitative services.

On March 18th the Santa Clara County Health Reform Implementation Stakeholder Group received a presentation on these important issues around Behavioral Health. The Health Reform Stakeholder Group, led by Working Partnerships, is comprised of stakeholders from the various fields of healthcare. The group works to develop models for service delivery, workforce development and health prevention strategies to ensure successful implementation of the ACA in the County.

Toni Tullys, Director of Behavioral Health Services in the County, and Elisa Koff-Ginsborg, Executive Director of Behavioral Health Contractors Association spoke on the many changes around behavioral health in the county, including details on who are eligible to receive behavioral health services, how services are provided, and what are the new funding opportunities with the state to improve access to these services. The presentation can be found here.

On April 15th the Stakeholder Group will be receiving presentations regarding the importance of nutrition. If you are interested in being part of these discussions around health, please contact Research Associate Esha Menon, esha@wpusa.org.

Advancing Health Care Coverage for All in Santa Clara County

Posted March 11, 2015

According to Covered California, nearly half a million new Californians have signed up to get health coverage this year.

This is a huge success that the Santa Clara County (SCC) Outreach and Enrollment Committee has been a part of, through hosting enrollment events to get families in the county enrolled into affordable health coverage.

The implementation of the Affordable Care Act and the expansion of Medi-Cal in California ensured that tens of thousands of previously uninsured SCC residents gained access to health insurance. However, an estimated 130,000 – 150,000 SCC residents still remain uninsured. Residents remain uninsured for numerous reasons; some are ineligible for coverage due to documentation status; some missed signing up for coverage during Covered CA enrollment periods; others cannot afford the coverage offered through their employer or Covered CA; and others still are not enrolled into Medi-Cal or simply choose not to enroll.

Working Partnerships USA (WPUSA) has long been committed to ensuring comprehensive health care coverage for all Santa Clara County residents, regardless of their income or documentation status. In 2001, WPUSA pioneered the first-in-the-nation effort to achieve universal health insurance for children on a countywide level, which has since been replicated in 30 counties in California. Also known as the Children’s Health Initiative (CHI), the program provides health coverage to more than 161,000 SCC kids.

Building on this work, as of June 2014, WPUSA, Community Health Partnership, and Santa Clara Valley Health and Hospital System have been working on a collaborative project to create a Coverage Initiative proposal for the remaining uninsured in SCC. The collaboration involves research, analysis, policy development, community outreach and engagement in order to craft a quality, financially viable and needs-informed Coverage Initiative proposal. The Collaborative is expected to bring a Coverage Initiative Proposal for consideration to the SCC Board of Supervisors in summer 2015.

To learn more about Working Partnerships USA’s ongoing efforts in health care, contact Charisse at 408-809-2124 or email charisse@wpusa.org

Apple Responds to Movement to Raise Wages and Conditions for Low Wage Workers

Posted March 3, 2015

Major Bay Area Tech Company takes important step in justice for invisible workers.

On the heels of the launch of Silicon Valley Rising, tech giant Apple has announced plans to hire security officers as full time Apple employees, conferring on them full health insurance, retirement options and a series of other benefits.

“Apple’s decision is a major victory in the effort to ensure that service workers in high tech are treated fairly,” said Ben Field, Executive Officer of the South Bay Labor Council, “This win, along with similar wins at other tech companies, is creating momentum for tech companies to do right by all their contract workers.”

“The disparity in employee compensation and benefits in the Bay Area technology industry is nothing short of economic and occupational segregation,” said Derecka Mehrens, Executive Director of Working Partnerships USA, adding, “today’s decision demonstrates that the Silicon Valley Rising strategy is effective. When workers and community rise up and corporations respond, Silicon Valley can be a place that works for all”.

Silicon Valley Rising has adopted a three-point plan to improve the standards of low wage workers at tech campuses:
• Raise wages and benefits for Silicon Valley workers;
• Develop public policy solutions for the region’s affordable housing crisis;
• Increase corporate accountability for the treatment of contract tech workers.

For more information, please contact Maria Noel Fernandez of Silicon Valley Rising at (408) 506-5875 and www.SiliconValleyRising.org 

Silicon Valley on the Rise, Now's the Time to Organize

Posted March 3, 2015

“We’re together – We’re stronger.” That message echoed throughout McDonnell Hall this past Friday at the launch of Silicon Valley Rising – a pact between faith leaders, community organizations, labor leaders and everyday residents to advance the singular cause of raising the standard of living for the often “forgotten” workers and families in the Silicon Valley tech economy.

Nearly 200 listened as interfaith leaders pleaded for justice for the invisible but vitally important component of our tech economy –low wage workers who support the operations at tech companies by cleaning their offices, preparing and serving them food, guarding their facilities and driving their employee shuttles to and from work.

Gathered in the same room where 50 years ago Cesar Chavez passionately pled for justice for migrant farm workers, community leaders listened to the testimonies of housekeepers, shuttle drivers and security officers. These are the people who support the coders, software engineers and hardware engineers that are working on “the next big thing.” These are the people who are barely surviving in Silicon Valley.

Friends, last week we sowed the seeds of a new movement.

Please join us in the next innovation borne from our region, Silicon Valley Rising.

 Join Silicon Valley Rising and help build an economy that works for all.

Silicon Valley Rising Launch

Posted February 24, 2015

Silicon Valley Rising Launch

Friday, February 27th from 1:30 - 2:30 p.m.

Where: McDonnel Hall 2020 East San Antonio Street, San Jose [map]


Every day, low wage workers get up in the morning to serve, drive, and protect at tech campuses where more than $103 billion dollars in profits was made in a single year. Yet one out of three families in Silicon Valley does not make enough to meet their most basic needs and the housing crisis in our community continues to grow.

It’s time to act. Please join us for Silicon Valley's Launch this Friday!

We believe in a Silicon Valley where all workers, their families and communities are valued and are a part of our region’s prosperity.

Silicon Valley is the national symbol of inequality, of the haves and have nots, of racial division and those of us who call this place home are ready to build something different.

It’s about community, faith and labor leaders coming together to say we can do better and we have a plan; we believe in a Silicon Valley that works for everyone, not for a select few; and we believe that when we’re together – we’re stronger.

Trades Orientation Program builds the pipeline into a construction career

Posted February 19, 2015

In an economy where good, family-supporting jobs are scarce and getting scarcer, the high- road construction industry offers one of the best opportunities to work hard and move up to the middle class.

But many people who are looking for just such an opportunity either don’t consider construction as a career option, or don’t understand how to get into the industry. Gender balance is especially skewed – among all California construction workers, fewer than 3% are women.

The Trades Orientation Program (TOP) is a pre-apprentice class designed to put students on the pathway to a job as an apprentice and a career in the building trades. Because it is a collaborative partnership with industry representatives from the Building Trades Council and the Apprenticeship Coordinators, graduates not only earn a nationally recognized certificate, but are directly connected to local employment and apprenticeship opportunities.

Partners work2future and NOVA provide additional support for career navigation and job readiness.

The first 2015 TOP class started last week with 20 students. Recruitment for the next class will open at the end of March – if you know anyone who might be interested in getting a start on a construction career, they can find out more at http://wpusa.org/top/.

Last Day for Covered CA: February 15th

Posted February 10, 2015

Do you know what’s coming in less than a week? No-it isn’t Valentine’s Day, but something equally important.

February 15th is the last day of Open Enrollment to enroll in a health plan through Covered California. Covered California is the state’s health exchange where individuals and families who do not yet have health coverage, can find affordable and quality health insurance.

Last year over 60,000 Santa Clara residents signed up to get health coverage through Covered California. Not only that, but over 80% of individuals received tax credits that helped lower the cost of their coverage, to make it even more affordable.

To sign up for coverage follow these easy steps:
1. Go to coveredca.com
2. Click on the APPLY tab on the top right hand of the page.
3. If you had signed up for coverage last year through Covered California, your information has already been saved and you’ll be able to navigate through the process faster. Otherwise just follow the steps to get enrolled.
4. If you still have questions or would like to sign up in person, visit scchealthconnection.org where we have posted enrollment events in Santa Clara County this week, with the contact information of the enrollment counselors.

*Covered California also serves application services in other languages including Arabic, Armenian, Chinese, Korean, Khmer, Lao, Persian, Russian, Spanish and Vietnamese. Just scroll down the Covered CA website, and click on the language that’s best suited for you.


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While tech companies make massive profits, the workers who keep them running smoothly have been left behind.

 Silicon Valley Rising is here to fix that by raising wages, creating affordable housing, and growing our middle-class. We're building a tech economy that works for everyone.

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