The Working Partnerships Leadership Network (LeaderNet) was founded in 1997 to provide a gathering place for the South Bay’s progressive leaders to build ongoing, strategic relationships.  Since its inception, LeaderNet’s institute has trained over 250 rising and established leaders from diverse sectors, issue areas, and communities.  LeaderNet has acted as an incubator for Working Partnerships’ successful campaigns for a living wage and community benefits for city-subsidized development.

The Interfaith Council
The Interfaith Council on Religion, Race, Economic and Social Justice began in 1997 as a handful of clergy meeting informally to discuss growing inequality in their communities.  It has since grown to become an interfaith association of over 400 clergy and laity from diverse faith traditions who work to address the crisis of working poverty by supporting social and economic justice policies such as living wages, the children’s health initiative, justice in the workplace, corporate accountability, affordable housing, and immigrants’ rights , and by reclaiming the moral debate on issues of race, religion, economic and social justice.

Community Blueprint
In the late 1990s, Working Partnerships USA met with over 400 organizations to discuss health care, education, government accountability, housing, transportation, and economic development.  This “Community Blueprint” process engaged working families in redesigning the social fabric of their community -- asking not only what the participants would like to have, but what they would be willing to collectively organize to achieve.  Together, participants from across different communities and issue areas created a statement of _principles_ [Link to PDF of principles] and vision:

A healthy economy is one in which there is economic opportunity and security for all, and in which people are treated with honor and respect.  Our economic system should promote balance in people’s lives, support a strong family life, and ensure that people are actively involved and connected in the life of their community.

The Community Blueprint established Working Partnerships’ priorities over the coming years as we focused on job quality, affordable housing, access to health care, and government accountability.  Out of the process came several winning policy strategies, including the groundbreaking Children’s Health Initiative and living wage legislation in San Jose.

Support for Workers Rights
Over the years, Working Partnerships USA has organized key community support and provided strategic research for Silicon Valley workers struggling for a voice on the job:

  • In September 2006, an overwhelming majority of workers at the San Jose DoubleTree Hotel signed cards for union representation; they are now negotiating a contract to ensure their safety and dignity on the job. These workers are part of a movement called Hotel Workers Rising, which seeks better working conditions for hotel workers nationwide. Working Partnerships and the Interfaith Council have coordinated community and faith leaders in keeping public attention on the struggle at the DoubleTree. These leaders signed pledges of support; educated their members about hotel workers' conditions; and won fair treatment for outspoken workers who had faced firing and intimidation. The Interfaith Council's Labor in the Pulpits educated dozens of congregations about hotel workers' struggle, gaining almost 15,000 signed pledges of support from Silicon Valley's people of faith.
  • Led by The Interfaith Council, the South Bay community is standing up for immigrant laundry workers at Cintas Corporation who are suffering under corporate intimidation and threat of firings and deportation.
  • In summer of 2006, health care workers and their patients won a contract providing for safe staffing, job security, education and training, overtime fairness, and affordable health care for workers and their families.  The faith community’s support was instrumental to this victory.  Workers at hospitals owned by the Hospital Corporation of America (HCA) deliberately used contract negotiations as an opportunity advocate for safe staffing levels and fair mediation for patient and staff rights.  As part of a statewide effort, The Interfaith Council brought together local clergy to present an open letter from over forty religious leaders to Silicon Valley’s HCA hospitals expressing their concern about these issues. Clergy also participated in a rally featuring Rev. Jesse Jackson and calling upon HCA to protect worker rights and patient safety.
  • Led by the Interfaith Council, the South Bay community is standing up for immigrant laundry workers at Cintas Corporation who are suffering under corporate intimidation and threat of firings and deportation
  • In 2005, rental car drivers at the San Jose International Airport, many of whom had been working 16-hour days to make ends meet, won coverage under the living wage ordinance.  The Interfaith Council provided a critical moral voice, holding a Justice Seder (a ritual for the Jewish holiday Passover) at the airport to shed light on the unethical practices of the employers and honor companies who paid their workers a living wage.  Read news coverage of the workers’ victory.
  • During the 2001 recession, taxicab companies compensated for shrinking profit margins by charging higher fees to drivers.  Facing 12-14 hour workdays just to keep food on the table, taxi drivers approached Working Partnerships USA and the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 428 (now Local 5) about organizing a union – not the standard recourse for contingent workers like them.  Yellow Cab fired 10 drivers in retaliation for their efforts.  Led by the drivers, Working Partnerships USA and UFCW 428 launched a grassroots campaign, and in January 2002, the company rehired the fired workers and agreed to negotiate with their union.  This victory was a milestone in Working Partnerships USA’s efforts to find innovative ways to connect contingent workers with the labor movement and protect their rights and working conditions.  In 2004, drivers gained seats on the City’s taxi taskforce, winning an overhaul of cab concession policies that leveled the playing field.  Taxi drivers’ struggle has continued, though; in 2005, union leaders fired from Yellow Cab founded a worker-owned taxi company, Golden Star.
  • Bay Area grocery workers faced employers threatening dramatic cuts to wages and health care benefits and a “divide-and-conquer” two-tier system of compensation during their 2004-5 contract negotiations.  The workers, organized in UFCW Local 428 (now Local 5), were able to avert a strike and win a contract that union president Ron Lind called “the best grocery contract in the country.” Read our Executive Director’s op-ed about this issue
  • Temporary workers for the City of Palo Alto lacked benefits, job security, voice, and respect – even after over 20 years in their “temporary” jobs.  They battled for years and won representation with the Service Employees International Union Local 715 (now Local 521). In 2004, Working Partnerships published and presented a policy brief in support of their struggle.
    Read more about Working Partnerships USA’s temp worker project
  • In 2003, over a thousand workers at Stanford University were able to retain their health coverage, as well as winning conversion of 40 temporary jobs that lacked health benefits into permanent jobs with health coverage.  [Link to SF Chron article on Working Partnerships USA survey and Stanford Report article on end of student hunger strike, which mentions Working Partnerships USA in one paragraph]?.  Working Partnerships USA worked with the Stanford employees’ union, SEIU 715 (now Local 521), to provide extensive research and technical support to this campaign, including publication of a report addressing the lack of health care and other issues faced by temporary workers at Stanford.
  • The Justice for Janitors campaign, led by janitors’ union SEIU 1877, brought more affordable health coverage for 5,000 janitors in the South Bay and their families in 2003.  Working Partnerships’ roles in this campaign included planning and turnout for grassroots actions, media work, research/technical assistance, and assistance in talks with high-tech companies.
  • After years of thwarted efforts to organize, nearly 200 workers at Hayes Mansion hotel and conference center won a voice at work in 2001 with HERE Local 19, with critical protection by the labor peace provision of the San Jose living wage ordinance.
Find out about current efforts to support workers_ [Link: Focus Areas>O&LD>Campaigns>Support for Worker Organizing#]

© 2008 Working Partnerships USA, All rights reserved.