Thamara Labrousse named Executive Director
of the Miami Workers Center
(December 19, 2012) Miami, FL – The Board of Directors of the Miami Workers Center (MWC) is pleased to announce that Thamara Labrousse has officially been named Executive Director. Ms. Labrousse, MWC’s former Interim Executive Director since February of this year, will lead the mission to build the power and leadership of low-income and working class communities of color for racial, economic, and gender equality. Ms. Labrousse is a seasoned executive with over 20 years of experience in social and human service settings.
As the year comes to a close MWC has taken time to look at those persons who have worked in communities impacted by the system and with MWC to fight against injustices whether it’s fighting against the economic crisis and or for the immigrant community cause. Recently, last week at an end of year party MWC showed gratitude to these persons in a true celebratory fashion. Former Executive Director Gihan Perera, along with current program Director Sarai Portillo and Lead Organizer Hashim Benford gave out awards to these accomplished members as a sign of recognition of their great service, a service that has only made and continue to make life better for others.
Below is a list of the Sheroes and Heroes
1. The “Step Up” Award – for veteran members who’ve stepped up and taken on more leadership responsibility in the past year: Yvette Norton, Wanda Beniquez
2. “Emerging Leader” Award – For members who’ve gone from participants to active leaders: Trenise Bryant, Julia Pacheco
3. “Always on Call” Award – Recognizing members who are ready to roll, whenever for whatever: Leola Butler, Andres Gonzalez
4. “Solidarity” Award – For answering the call to fight all injustice, no matter the issue or impacted community: Mary Trody, Martina Bryant
5. “Shining Commitment” award for members who demonstrate immense commitment to the organization: Rosana Araujo, Loraine Derby-Henry
6. Faith in the Struggle Award! – in honor of those members whom have faith in the organization itself, faith on the leadership, faith in the overall MWC direction: Clementina Mercado, Rose Marie Mitchell
Jobs & Green Housing Organizing Committee
1. Sandra Newton
2. Rosalie "Cookie" Wiley
3. Devitria Stratford
4. Yvonne Stratford
5. Clarence Mims
Race & Citizenship Organizing Committee
1. Nelly Medina
2. Reyna Gomez
3. Amrry Gonzalez
4. Rafael Medina
5. Rosana Torres6. Patricia Medina
Miami Workers Center and Florida New Majority Protestors against Bank Foreclosures
The announcement of the Department of Justice fining Bank of America's loan company Countrywide 335 Million dollars for their practices with communities of color has shown that the call by Floridians is not only justified but necessary to be expanded to stamp out the greater crimes created by the housing crisis that has swept the nation. Floridians in Miami and Orlando have stepped up and made a public outcry to President Obama and the state’s Attorney Generals to make these banks accountable for the mess they created.
This past Wednesday a new coalition was formed named “Floridians for a Fair Settlement” which includes Florida New Majority, PICO Florida, FOCUS Orlando, Miami Workers Center, ForeclosureHamlet.org, 4closurefraud.org, Organize Now, Unite Here Local 355, SEIU 1199 and a growing number of groups, in order to call on the Obama administration to conduct a full investigation into the fraud that created the housing crisis and to hold the bank and all those responsible accountable.
The coalition will now focus as a next step to put its full weight behind PICO Florida's effort to fight against foreclosure related bills in the Florida legislature that will further negatively impact the communities of color. The coalition will continue to keep vigil on this situation and inform all as things develop.
Community Residents Take Un-Orthodox Site Seeing Tour
After numerous attempts to bring the Carlisle Development Group to the table to make sure they remain accountable for doing sustainable developments in the communities of Northside, Brownsville, Liberty City and Overtown. After repeated refusals to meet every time from Carlisle, The Miami Workers Center, Low Income Families Fighting Together and Power U along with residents of these communities boarded a bright red Double Decker Bus with signs, banners and their voices to take a sightseeing tour of these communities. Over the past ten years Carlisle has received 1 Billion dollars in public funding for such developments.
Past developments without accountability have led to disastrous results time and time again. There would be construction done without hiring those in the community, a lack of institutions that are sustainable for the community and destruction of longstanding businesses and buildings that were integral to community. “The Children should not have to suffer for the lack of opportunity for their parents in any community” was the passionate cry of resident Matthew Bird. Bird continued, “What we need is better jobs for residents; opportunities, affordable housing, better environment and second chances for felons!”
The communities have been adversely affected by developments from the past. On the bus tour the organizations, residents and press were told story after story of how vibrant and powerful the communities were at one point and then how they lost that vibrancy and power over time. There was energy of restoration amongst all on the Bus as the Double Decker slowly went through the communities passing Carlisle sites in various stages of development.
“I wanna fight to make sure that Liberty City and all the other communities return to their days of glory,” said Emma Ladson in a very loud resolute voice. This was met with unanimous approval; the only seat where sound was obviously not coming from was that of Carlisle CEO Matthew Greer, which had a picture of him in his place.
The final stop on the tour was in Liberty City where long time resident Mr. Tyrone Green got a chance to tell the story about Liberty City using the fate of businesses and people made homeless over time. In response to this he started the chant “It ain’t going down like that!” This chant was repeated by all and was met with a powerful energy from all in attendance.
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR JOB DESCRIPTION
The Miami Workers Center is seeking a passionate, analytical, politically savvy and seasoned leader to succeed our founding director, Gihan Perera. The executive director is accountable to an 8-12 member Board of Directors composed of allies and community members and is responsible for oversight of all operations to carry out our mission and goals.
The executive director will provide essential leadership to guide organizational and programmatic shifts and help ensure stability during this transition period, especially as we sharpen the organization’s focus on more locally based work.
The successful candidate will be passionate about social justice work. S/he will be a big picture strategic thinker grounded in local politics and committed to playing a prominent role in cutting edge local organizing and advocacy, while also maintaining regional and national alliances in order to increase the scope and scale of impact.
The executive director must have proven leadership and management experience with a track record of managing and motivating high performing staff and achieving desired outcomes; demonstrated commitment to developing grassroots working class leadership; and experience leading fundraising efforts, fiscal management and oversight of a nonprofit organization or program of comparable size.
In addition, the executive director must be ethical and able to build trust, with strong communication and interpersonal skills. S/he must possess a demonstrated ability to build collaborative partnerships among culturally diverse community leaders; develop and empower the leadership of staff; build an effective board; create and implement strategic organizational plans; and passionately support strategies that fully develop the leadership and power of grassroots members and incorporate their perspectives in organizational decision making.
Key Responsibilities and Duties
Program and Staff Management
(Approximately 25% of responsibilities)
Resource Development and Communications
(Approximately 25% of responsibilities)
Community Relations, Advocacy, and Organizing
(Approximately 20% of responsibilities)
Budget, Finance, and Human Resources/Personnel Management
(Approximately 15% of responsibilities)
Board of Directors Development and Management
(Approximately 15% of responsibilities)
Key Qualifications and Skills
Strong candidates will have proficiency in the following areas:
HOW TO APPLY
If interested in this position, send your resume, cover letter and 3 references via email to
Miami Workers Center is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer. Women, people of color, and LGBT identified are strongly encouraged to apply.
For more information, visit our website at www.miamiworkerscenter.org.
By Gihan Perera
As we approach the Christmas holidays, Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich appears to be taking his political cues from Ebenezer Scrooge, who when asked to help the poor during the Christmas holidays stated that the prisons and poor houses were enough for people living in poverty.
Every four years or so, conservatives bring out their bag of hate filled, stereotypical stocking stuffers. This year Gingrich, an old GOP favorite, is taking his turn. The GOP front-runner shamelessly and groundlessly said "really poor children in really poor neighborhoods have no habits of working and nobody around them who works to earn money -- unless it's illegal."
Isn't that brilliant? In one sound bite he is able to rekindle many of the old racially demeaning favorites: welfare queens, the lazy native and ex-slave motifs, and poor, criminal robber kids in dangerous neighborhoods. The only thing he didn't fit in is the alleged sexual promiscuity of black and Latino women, but I think that's buried in there too.
Newt's solution is to eliminate child labor protections and open the door to a new age of exploiting poor children.
In this current age Gingrich is digging out an old playbook loaded with coded language that speaks to stereotypes and lies around class and race. He need not come out and say black and immigrant poor for the images to crop up in the minds of the groups that he is pandering to.
The racialized and class bases of the images of the poor are as old as the country itself. Although the labor of enslaved Africans was the basis of wealth accumulation here in the U.S. and the world they were stereotyped as lazy and unproductive and needed to be pushed to do work. These images have been instituted into the common culture and belief of many Americans.
For those who don't remember Ronald Reagan's 1976 campaign for president, should know that Reagan added a new page to the book of vilifying the poor when he spoke of "Welfare queens". He presented a manufactured persona of a woman who was mired in fraud. This "person" was never identified but the image of this "welfare queen" with all of racist and sexist baggage continues to haunt the national discourse.
When you dig down deeper there is no foundation to these beliefs. Facts show that most poor people do work and that poor children have many ready and visible examples of working people, most often at least one of their own parents. These people are often working more than one minimum wage part-time job that requires a full time commitment to maintain. They work without medical benefits or even sick leave. They often have to spend much of their earnings for transportation to and from these jobs.
They have little opportunity to obtain the education and skills to potentially earn more money. But one thing that cannot be denied is that they are some of the hardest working people in the country and though often made invisible in their labors, the working poor keep many essential elements of life and economy going. This includes instilling deep values and working class discipline into their children.
Where the values gap exists is among the 1 percent. Since the 70's income disparity has increased in this country where a small number of people have growing richer while more and more people are being crushed into the ranks of the poor. Policies of cutbacks in social services, and deregulation have contributed to this scenario. Many African-Americans remain on the very bottom.
Amongst the uber-rich, whose kids increasingly are born not having to work, there is a real crisis of values. Their lot in life is increasingly concerned with just hanging onto their wealth rather than being productive members of society.
As far as illegal activity the poor have nothing on the rich. For example, in Rachel Shteir's book The Steal, she points out that Americans with incomes of $70,000 a year shoplift 30 percent more than those earning up to $20,000. However wealth or celebrity shoplifters are rarely prosecuted. The rich also have other legal if not just and moral ways to steal with special tax breaks and loopholes that only benefit the rich and put a larger and disproportionate tax burden on middle and lower income families.
Unfortunately their greed, like Scrooge, in the Christmas Tale, consumes them. We have come to a point in U.S. history where this is not just a personal tragedy. The hording of wealth by the 1 percent, and their refusing to reinvest in the US economy is not only destroying their own moral fiber but also the well being of the rest of us.
Miami Workers Center Charges UC Program with Discrimination
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE. Miami, Florida, (November 22, 2011) – Miami Workers Center (MWC)), a Florida non-for-profit 501(c)3 organization based in Miami, Florida, has filed an administrative complaint against Florida’s Unemployment Compensation Program with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Civil Rights Center in Washington, D.C. MWC’s complaint names the Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) as the agency responsible for Unemployment Compensation and charges that the program is inaccessible to persons with disabilities, limited literacy, or lack of English proficiency. MWC is represented by attorneys with Florida Legal Services, Inc. (FLS).
The complaint centers on the state’s new law requiring applicants to complete an online skills assessment before they can get their first check. At the same time, the state law exempts illiterate individuals and persons with language barriers from the skills assessment while federal law protects workers with disabilities. MWC charges, however, that DEO fails to inform people that they can be exempted or accommodated. Most troubling is the complaint’s allegation that when applicants fail to complete the assessment online, they don’t get their benefits even if they have a valid reason for not being able to do the skills assessment.
National Employment Law Project attorney George Wentworth notes, ““Today in Florida, workers who are unemployed through no fault of their own face more obstacles to accessing unemployment benefits than anywhere else in the country. This is the direct result of deliberate actions earlier this year by the Florida legislature and executive branch to make it harder than ever for average workers to apply for the unemployment insurance they have earned through their history of employment.” Florida Legal Services lobbyist Arthur Rosenberg adds, “These hurdles undermine the very purpose of the program: to temporarily help those who lose their jobs and are looking for work.” MWC executive director Gihan Perera notes, “The upshot is that if your disability interferes with using a computer, or you can’t read or understand English well, your benefits can be stopped just because you can’t do some skills test on the Internet.”
DEO is expected to say that anyone can request an exemption from online filing or for special assistance by phone, but attorneys for MWC say that response doesn’t cut it. According to attorney Valory Greenfield, “The Agency is aware that its phone system is inadequate to meet the needs of Florida workers. You can not hide the key to benefit access within a maze that puts people on hold for half an hour.” Attorney Cindy Huddleston adds, “We understand that Internet filing represents an advance in faster claims processing, but that cannot happen at the expense of persons with legitimate barriers to computer use.”
Founded over a decade ago, MWC educates and organizes low-income Floridians to increase the grassroots perspective in governmental decision-making especially with respect to systemic barriers that contribute to poverty.
We have entered a period where the majority does not seem to have a voice, yet the voice of the few dominate. We are in an Economic Crisis caused by the few yet the Majority is the most negatively impacted. We are at a time where our resources bailed out the few from their self-inflicted crisis yet we still suffer from decisions that are sponsored by the few. To add insult to injury, one of the few that were bailed out Bank of America; has decided now that they are on solid footing again, to charge their customers for using debit cards.