Case Studies


Health Industry Jobs Help Build Healthy Economy

When the fledgling United Automobile Workers staged their decisive sit-down strike of 1936-37 in Flint, Michigan, they won union representation for auto workers, collective bargaining, and better wages and benefits for workers in Flint and throughout the auto industry. But as has been true for so many other industrial midwestern cities, global competition has decimated Michigan’s manufacturing sector and left the state with one of the highest jobless rates in the nation.

As auto manufacturing has declined, healthcare has grown into the region’s major industry. Jack Litzenberg, Senior Program Officer at the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation in Flint, says the city and regions like it face a “perfect storm”: a transitioning economy, a stressed education system, comparatively low rates of education, and an aging work force. As a result, Michigan faces a dire shortage of skilled workers—an estimated 334,000 by 2012.

In a study funded by the Mott Foundation, the National Economic Development and Law Center (NEDLC) found that the healthcare industry in Genessee County, in Michigan, was experiencing both a high turnover rate among entry level healthcare workers and a labor shortage. In response, working with NEDLC on program design and planning, the Greater Flint Healthcare Coalition developed Flint Healthcare Employment Opportunity (FHEO).  FHEO works with healthcare employers to make entry level positions a stepping stone to a better life for Flint’s low-income, and primarily African-American, residents. The program provides occupational skills training, and works with employers to restructure hiring, retention, and promotional practices to help reduce turnover and meet hiring needs.

“Around here, a lot of people have just given up hope of finding good work, and I was one of them,” says Sunserria Lorick, who once worked at a GM plant and earned more 25 years ago than she’s been able to earn in the series of jobs she’s had since. “I’ve been laid off more times than I can remember. Finally, I see some light at the end of the tunnel,” she says. Lorick is enrolled in college classes en route to her new career as a pharmacy technician, a job that pays about $20 an hour. “What’s different is that I’ve got people showing me the way to get a real job.”

Strategy and Results

Traditional workforce development programs train workers first and then hope to find employers who need them later. FHEO and other “sector initiatives” take a different approach. Led by a strategic partner with industry knowledge, sector initiatives focus intensively on a specific industry over a sustained period of time, customizing solutions for multiple employers in a region. They strengthen economic growth and industry competitiveness by reducing turnover and increasing the skill level of workers. Sector initiatives also benefit low-income individuals by creating new pathways into the industry and on to good living-wage jobs and careers that offer benefits and provide a means of getting out, and staying out, of poverty.

Greater Flint Healthcare Coalition has Chief Executive Officers from the region’s three major healthcare systems on its Board of Directors. As a result, employers participate on several FHEO decision-making committees, and are active partners in strategy and programming. FHEO and its partners, Flint Strive and Faith Access to Community Economic Development, conduct research on the needs of and best possible solutions for both employers and workers, and deliver well-designed, effective services to both

The FHEO program includes:

  • Outreach, recruitment, training, and placement of low-income adults into entry-level healthcare positions. The entry-level program includes attitudinal and life skills training customized for the healthcare employment environment, optional Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) training, and certification preparation, mentoring, and case management training.
  • “Career Exploration” programs, which inform incumbent workers of training opportunities and career path assistance through FHEP and their respective employers.
  • A scholarship program for FHEO entry-level graduates that fosters advancement from entry-level to mid-level positions.
  • Enhanced training for front-line managers who supervise entry-level workers.

Since the project’s launch in 2002, 100 Flint residents have graduated from its CNA training, and more than half have obtained entry-level jobs in the healthcare field. Ten graduates of the entry-level training have received scholarships from the program and are currently enrolled in college, pursuing mid-level healthcare careers. An additional eight have found living-wage employment in other sectors. The success of FHEO’s work is being used as a model for similar workforce development efforts statewide. In her March 2004 State of the State address, Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm cited FHEO as an exemplary model combining economic and workforce development to rebuild distressed communities, and called for the development of a dozen similar sector initiatives across the state.

Sector initiatives make it possible for people struggling on the economic margins to get jobs with living wages and viable career paths, and help bring about systemic change that benefits workers and the industries they work in.


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JUST Jobs? Organizing for Economic Justice | Vol. 14 No. 1 | Spring 2007 | Credits

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Green Jobs Corps in Oakland

In the aftermath of the 2001 California energy crisis, several energy companies were sued for overcharging and contributing to the fake shortages. The companies eventually settled, and $4.5 million of that settlement is earmarked for the city of Oakland, to be spent over the next three years on renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. Thanks to the Oakland Apollo Alliance and the Oakland Mayor’s Office of Sustainability—and pending formal approval in early 2007—$100,000 will be used to create the Oakland Green Jobs Corps.

The program will create paid internships in renewable energy and energy efficiency industries, and will provide a comprehensive job-training pathway— soft skills training and basic literacy, followed by vocational hard skills and on-the-job training. More importantly, the Green Jobs Corps program will primarily benefit Oakland residents with barriers to employment: young adults lacking work experience, kids snared in the juvenile justice system, and immigrants with cultural and linguistic barriers.

In the long run, we need a larger set of overlapping pathways involving major educational institutions. The public school district, community colleges, union apprenticeship programs, workforce training institutions, community-based programs, and the continuing/adult education system must all embrace green job training. And all of these institutions must connect with the industries and businesses that actually employ people. This creates more than a pipeline—it creates a real “green collar” infrastructure.

Consider the Peralta Community College District, which includes Laney College, Merritt College, the College of Alameda, and Berkeley City College, and serves over 25,000 students, 70 percent of whom are people of color. The vast majority of these students seek vocational training and job opportunities, not transfers to four-year colleges. In spring 2006, the District launched the “Sustainable Peralta Initiative,” which will have a chance to prove itself in 2007. Peralta is set to renovate all of its buildings with a recently approved $390 million bond measure. Hopefully, the colleges can train their students, and then actually employ them, renovating Peralta’s own buildings, using green, energy-efficient technology.

A 2006 study by the Los Angeles Economic Roundtable ( revealed 17 promising green technology industries in Los Angeles that are stable or growing, already have over 500 jobs, and pay monthly wages of $2,500 or more. In Los Angeles, thousands are already employed in green jobs, and these numbers will grow.

Oakland needs similar studies. Which “green” industries are likely to grow, and by how much? Los Angeles points the way, but every urban community faces unique challenges, which we believe can be met with opportunities in the growing green economy. By 2020, Oakland should employ an impressive array of sustainable practices: we will be “oil independent” and “zero waste,” with a localized food economy and plenty of renewable energy. While we may not hit the mark in all these areas, few other cities are even trying. Across America, communities have lost their manufacturing base, and are looking for answers. We know those answers need to be sustainable. It’s our belief that Oakland’s long history as a blue-collar town leaves it well positioned to thrive as a green-collar mecca, but only if the city shows real leadership—and if advocates  insist on a place at the table for low-income people and people of color in the new green economy.


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JUST Jobs? Organizing for Economic Justice | Vol. 14 No. 1 | Spring 2007 | Credits

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Painting Boston Schools for a Fair Wage

In spring 2006, Community Labor United (CLU) won its first campaign: to get Boston Public Schools to change its contracting policies, and to hire local residents for high-wage union painting jobs and training opportunities.

The victory reclaimed $2.5 million from non-union companies that had been painting Boston’s schools using dubious business practices and underpaid workers from outside the city. CLU proposed and won an agreement to create a direct-hire program between the Painters and Allied Trades DC 35 for repainting Irving Middle School in Roslindale using 100 percent Boston resident journeyman painters and youth apprentices. With the support of a $50,000 grant from the Boston Neighborhood Jobs Trust, apprentices were recruited, screened, and pre-trained by a network of community organizations, including Women in the Building Trades (WIBT) and YouthBuild Boston, with Sociedad Latina as lead. Throughout the summer, these organizations continued working with CLU and the Painter’s Union to provide union and community mentorship to help each apprentice succeed on the job.  

The CLU also won bid language on apprenticeship training that led to a union painter, the McDonald Company, winning and carrying out the $1.7 million repainting of Madison Park High School in Roxbury. Although this job was not carried out entirely by Boston painters and apprentices, the McDonald Company did hire a number of Boston residents and apprentices from the CLU program.  Both jobs came in on time, on budget, and with low apprentice turnover.

This program created a rare career opportunity for recent Boston high school graduates and GED recipients, who earned a starting wage of $15.75 an hour, and will receive raises after every 750 hours of work completed, until reaching journey-level wages after three years. (Journeymen painters working on the Irving and Madison Park Schools earned over $31/hour.) Apprentices will also qualify for Painter’s Union benefits: comprehensive family health insurance, a pension, and an annuity. In addition to on-the-job training, apprentices started twice-a-week classroom instruction in painting and allied trades that will continue for three years, as well as safety training that will continue throughout their painting careers.

Partnership and Research, Keys to Success

The innovative partnership CLU created between the Painters and Allied Trades DC 35, the Boston Teacher’s Union, and 12 diverse community organizations was a major factor in our victory. CLU’s research also provided critical ammunition for the campaign, documenting that in past years only four percent of the public dollars spent to repaint Boston schools went to Boston residents. It also detailed wage, hour, and overtime abuses and very high contract profit margins on these jobs. This information, coupled with the power of the Labor Council and the broad Campaign Committee, got the partnership to the table with the Mayor’s top leaders.

The campaign showed community members the positive role unions can play in their neighborhoods. It also demonstrated why unions matter in the workplace. “We still have to pressure the city to make awards to union contractors,” says Jim Snow, director of organizing for the Painters Union, but “a lot of eyes have been opened among community organizations [that] didn’t know that we have been quietly doing this kind of community-oriented work all along.” 


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Quality Work Through Self-Employment

Traditional wage employment doesn’t work for everyone, and many people dream about the flexibility, earning potential, and control of being their own boss. Since 1988, Women’s Initiative for Self Employment (WI) has provided training, financing, and technical support to low-income women micro-entrepreneurs in the Bay Area. Clients come to WI for many reasons. Many find that they are unable to provide for themselves and their families in low-wage jobs, minimum wage is no living wage for Bay Area families. United Way finds that one of four Bay Area families—nearly half a million households—has income too low to pay for housing, food, transportation, childcare, healthcare, and taxes.1 This problem is particularly acute for immigrants with limited English abilities.

Outcome evaluation research with WI graduates shows that the majority are self-sufficient after participating in the program. Whether or not they start their own business, WI participants see their incomes rise on average $10,000 in the first year. After two years, median household income jumps to $37K from $14K at intake. In addition to the economic advantages of starting a business, WI graduates report that, as entrepreneurs, they are able to do business according to their values—using environmentally sound practices, giving back to the community through volunteerism,2 and philanthropy.3

Micro-businesses Paying Living Wages

Wage increases are often portrayed as damaging to small businesses. The argument suggests that these businesses will not survive if the profit margin is reduced by paying higher wages to workers. Contrary to such claims, research with low-income micro-entrepreneurs who have graduated from training with WI demonstrates that even the smallest businesses owned and operated by individuals with a variety of personal, social, and economic challenges are able to succeed while providing high-quality, well-paying work for others.

Every day, WI works with business owners who supposedly would be hardest hit by mandatory wage increases—those operating on razor-thin budgets with few external resources. WI clients are all low-income women; 83 percent are ethnic minorities; 22 percent have limited or no English-language proficiency; 20 percent are single parents; 12 percent have a documented disability; 33 percent have a high school equivalency education or less. Approximately one in three clients enters the program at or below federal poverty level.

Contrary to common expectations about the ability of microenterprises to pay adequately, WI’s research shows that the average wage paid by graduates—over $15 per hour—is more than double California minimum wage and also significantly exceeds San Francisco’s city-mandated minimum wage. This wage is especially impressive given that many client businesses operate in traditionally low-wage sectors, such as housekeeping and food service.

The Story of Franchesca Valdez


A case in point is Franchesca Valdez, who came to WI in 1996 after closing Club Arte, a failing nightclub business she had owned with two partners. Ms. Valdez came to WI to acquire business management skills and financing. Just 10 months after closing the doors of her joint venture, and with only $20 in cash and a beat up Toyota as capital for a loan with WI, Ms. Valdez reopened her nightclub under a new name, Broadway Studios.

In the decade since, Broadway Studios has grown from a nightclub in a rented building employing two people, into a successful club with more than 20 people in a mix of full-time, part-time, and contracted positions, paying on average $25 per hour. “A lot of the employees have been here five or 10 years,” reports Ms. Valdez. “We’re like a family.”

Creating Quality Work

Franchesca Valdez is not alone. WI’s research, following up with program participants for up to five years after their graduation, shows that every year, more than 200 new jobs are created in Bay Area communities by WI graduates. Since that figure includes only jobs reported by clients who stay in touch with the agency, the actual number is significantly higher.4 WI graduates provide quality jobs for food preparers, retail sales representatives, band members, construction workers, magazine editors, ecological cleaners, light manufacturers for clothing and accessories, and many others. Also, WI clients often specifically seek to provide quality work for youth, single mothers, monolingual immigrants, and people with criminal histories, who otherwise might be unable to get work.

Wages are Just the Start

Despite the common belief that a high wage equals a high-quality job, WI research shows job satisfaction closely tied to other factors, including flexibility, autonomy, stability, opportunities for professional advancement and personal growth, and meaningful work that is aligned with personal values.

Providing flexible, quality jobs was a major motivator for Shoshana Frumkin, who started her business, On the Spot Massage, after being on welfare for 14 years. Just six years after graduating from the WI program, Frumkin provides jobs for 50-55 massage practitioners, and two administrative staff.5 She estimates that most workers have been with the company for at least two years. As someone who had found wage work unsatisfying herself, Ms. Frumkin put a lot of thought into providing work that met more than just the income needs of local massage practitioners.

What she has created in On the Spot is a unique employment model that combines flexibility and stability for the therapists. Many practitioners find that the demands of marketing, scheduling, and bookkeeping detract from their core passion, and they benefit from On the Spot’s handling of the bulk of the administrative work. This model allows massage practitioners to gain regular clientele in a visible environment, while building a private clientele for their own businesses.

The economic benefits from WI’s work in the Bay Area, though multifaceted, can best be illustrated with a simple statistic: For every dollar invested in WI, $23 are generated for the local community. These economic benefits are complemented by a range of benefits to the community when clients give charitably, volunteer and mentor, create environmentally responsible businesses, and take on leadership roles in the community.

WI research shows that when low-income women create well-paying, quality work for themselves and others, everyone wins. For WI graduates, quality work allows people to care and provide for themselves and their families, and benefits business owners, workers, and the entire community.


1.     United Way of the Bay Area, “The Bottom Line: Setting the Real Standard for Bay Area Working Families,” September, 2004.

2.     In surveys with over 200 women selected at random, nine of 10 WI clients report spending time volunteering or mentoring each month.

3.     In the past year, 75 percent of WI clients donated money or made in-kind donations, compared to 45 percent of all Californians. The average value of client gifts over the previous year is $734, more than $500 of which was in cash and over $200 in kind.

4.     Research shows that 70 percent of program participants are running a business making consistent sales within a year of starting the program. Between one in four and one in five of these businesses will create paid work for others.

5.     Ms. Frumkin, like many WI clients, also does business with other local women-owned businesses and hires a WI graduate to do all bookkeeping for On the Spot Massage LLC.


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JUST Jobs? Organizing for Economic Justice | Vol. 14 No. 1 | Spring 2007 | Credits

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One Million Good Jobs

This is a story of how the Gamaliel Foundation and the Transportation Equity Network (TEN) took to heart author Jim Collins’ (Good to Great) prescriptions and set about realizing a ‘Big Hairy Audacious Goal’ of moving one million unemployed, underemployed, people of color, women, and poor people into construction jobs with good pay.

Gamaliel and TEN fought for and won a workforce development amendment to the nation’s second biggest spending bill ever, the Safe, Accountable, Flexible and Efficient Transportation Equity Act (SAFETEA-LU), which became law in August of 2005. SAFETEA-LU funds more than $286 billion in highway and transit spending over six years. The workforce amendment treats highway and transit projects as economic development projects, in addition to being transportation initiatives, and creates job and training opportunities on highway and transit construction for local residents.


SAFETEA-LU Sec. 1920 Transportation and Local Workforce Investment

It is the sense of Congress that Federal transportation projects should facilitate and encourage the collaboration between interested persons, including Federal, State, and local governments, community colleges, apprentice programs, local high schools, and other community-based organizations that have an interest in improving the job skills of low-income individuals, to help leverage scarce training and community resources, and to help ensure local participation in the building of transportation projects.

The successful workforce development amendment campaign was led by United Congregations of Metro-East (UCM), an affiliate of Gamaliel based in East St. Louis and Illinois, and supported by three key lawmakers—Senators Barack Obama (D-IL) and Kit Bond (R-MO), and Rep. Jerry Costello (D-IL).

Using the ACJC Success Story

The workforce development amendment was based on an earlier ground-breaking program developed by the Alameda Corridor Jobs Coalition, a grassroots organization in California, which won an agreement that guaranteed 1,000 job-training slots for low-income people and reserved 30 percent of the work hours for low-income residents on a $2.4 billion Rapid Rail project. The program was a tremendous success and put more people to work than projected, saving the state over half-a-billion dollars in welfare, incarceration, and childcare costs.

Using the SAFETEA-LU budget on highways, $244.1 billion with the ACJC projections, the potential impacts are enormous. One billion in highway expenditures generates 47,500 work years (jobs), so $244.1 billion should generate 11.6 million jobs. About five million of the jobs will be in supporting industries, such as manufacturing I-beams and steel cables, but at least six million jobs will be in the construction field, and it is not unreasonable to expect that one to two million of them can be set aside for apprenticeship positions to move the unemployed and underemployed into construction careers.

A Shared Platform

Aware that in the past, low-income people, women, and minorities had been left out of highway construction opportunities, TEN came up with the following innovative platform—later adopted by the rest of the TEN network—for city and county ordinances, project agreements, and state policies regarding highway construction:

  • Thirty percent of all work hours will be reserved for low-income, women, and minority construction apprentices.
  • Half a percent of the project budget (or in the case of state policy, federal highway funds) will be used for job training programs and contractor incentives that will include recruitment, mentoring, support services, and pre-apprentice programs.

How to Raise Hell with DOTS

Exactly 50 years after Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of the bus, the ground work for the workforce development program was laid at Gamaliel’s 2005 National Leadership Assembly in St. Louis, where 1,200 concerned members rallied to support it. They secured a commitment from a top official at the Missouri Department of Transportation (MODOT) to work with local Gamaliel affiliates to use a pending $500 million interstate highway construction project to generate as many jobs as possible for low-income people, women, and minorities.

Assembly attendees went home to their states with a mandate to form their own workforce development task forces and, this recommendation from Professor Todd Swanstrom of St. Louis University: “Go and raise all sorts of hell with DOTs!” These efforts, supported by a monthly TEN conference call for sharing ideas and materials, seemed to be paying off.

In Michigan, Governor Jennifer Granholm has publicly pledged to direct $4 million in federal highway funds per year towards workforce development. Gamaliel affiliate and statewide TEN member MI-VOICE is currently working on fleshing out the policy agreement with Michigan DOT and other stakeholders.

In May 2006, Metropolitan Congregations United, Gamaliel’s St. Louis affiliate, worked out an agreement with MODOT that reserved 30 percent of all work hours for low-income, women, and minority apprentices. MODOT will also invest half of one percent of the project budget ($2.5 million) in incentives, support services, and training to promote workforce development. MODOT has pledged to follow this policy on a project-by-project basis and also to consider a state policy that encapsulates the workforce platform. Currently, MODOT is in negotiations with Gamaliel’s Kansas City affiliate on a $250 million Kansas City project.

Father Richard Creason, past president of Metropolitan Congregations United, characterized the experience this way: “Going into this campaign felt like David against Goliath. By the end of Friday’s negotiations, it felt more like the chosen people walking together into the Promised Land. A feeling that we accomplished something unique!”


 A Growing Coalition

At least 17 grassroots groups—also Gamaliel affiliates and TEN members—are working on their own workforce development campaigns. They are:

  • Ohio: AMOS in Cincinnati, NOAH in Cleveland, and ACTION in Youngstown
  • New York: ARISE in Albany and NOAH in the Niagara region
  • Missouri: MCU in St. Louis and MORE2 in Kansas City
  • Illinois: UCM in East St. Louis and Granite City SSAC in Chicago
  • Indiana: Interfaith Federation in Gary
  • Michigan: MIVOICE (statewide), MOSES in Detroit, EZEKIEL in Saginaw,
  • ISAAC in Kalamazoo, and JONAH in Battle Creek
  • Minnesota: ISAIAH in Minneapolis

To join the conference calls, get supportive materials, and bring this campaign to your community, contact: Dr. Ron Trimmer, (618) 604-6216, [email protected]; or Laura Barrett, (314) 443-5915, [email protected]; or visit

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Work Work Work

Studies have shown that the time workers believe they have to themselves really belongs to an authoritarian presence, particularly on weeknights. For no apparent reason, a subject will up and leave a movie, a party, even a steamy moment of passion. In 97 percent of the cases, the explanation the subject gave was the same: “I have to work tomorrow.”

Further, results of comprehensive survey research show that during the “work week” there’s a dramatic increase in cell phone usage, television-watching, web-surfing, and anti-depressant drug-ingesting, paralleled by an astounding decrease in learning behavior, and a strange affinity for traffic, collars, ties, high heels, panty hose, and pancake make-up, even on stifling hot muggy afternoons. This has led experts to believe that the time a worker can likely claim as his or her own is, in fact, limited to weekends—though with the arrival of the unofficial six-day work week, even this is in doubt.

 But supposing one does have a “good job” with weekends, holidays, benefits, and two weeks of vacation, we might conclude that for two days a week, your life belongs to you. 2 × 52 weeks in a year + 10 days of vacation + the 9 official holidays = 123 days of life per year. Now, if one has gone to college and graduates in 4.65 years, as per government statistics, and works full-time from age 22 until a retirement age of 66, one can count on a total of 123 × 44 years, or 5,412 days of life during this period.

In other words, the average “40-hour” week worker is alive 14.82739726 years (5,412 days / 365 days in a year) from the time he or she is waiting for life to begin after graduation, up until the time he or she is still waiting for life to begin, not long before death. Fourteen years, nine months and a little over 28 days. Let’s round this figure to the 15 year mark, because after all, in spite of statistics, people do manage to get some time off using “sick” days. In fact, if you can manage to swing 10 “sick” days a year and two days off for Thanksgiving and Christmas each, you could pull off 16.2739726 years of life. That’s a bonus of almost 1.4 years.

There you have it folks: 15 years of life, 8.25 of which must be subtracted in that 44 year period, if you’re the average 4.5 hour-a-day TV-watcher, according to Nielsen. Six-and-three-quarters years of life, 21 spent in purgatory waiting for this life, and 29 years of indentured servitude to enrich those who’ve hardly worked at all.

So just don’t do it, is all. Join a union, organize a general strike for a 36-hour or less work week, engage in anti-work. Anti-work at something you love, something that will better our collective lives and bring down a system of primarily unnecessary, even harmful work: like real estate speculation, market manipulation, health insurance gouging, writing government propaganda, and designing nasty widgets for the purpose of blowing up cuddly little children. Stop the machine and turn on the dream, that’s the real work to be done in a society such as ours.


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