A few success stories:
Rebuilding New Orleans after Katrina
When Lisa Fithian went to New Orleans with with advocacy group Common Ground after Katrina, she learned that many residents couldn’t come back because no schools were opened in the Lower Ninth Ward. Over spring break, they organized a teach-in where they got hundreds of college students, residents, and volunteers to strap on Tyvek suits and gut the flooded school. When the police came to shut down the school, they made sure the media was called to come cover the story. At the same time, they circulated a proposal to the City Council, asking for permission to clean the school and use it as a way to revitalize the Lower Ninth Ward. It worked.
Federal Pressure for Austin to Protect Workers
When the Workers’ Defense Project was founded, the main issues were unsafe working conditions and people not being paid. The membership teamed with the University of Texas to do a survey showing Texas was the deadliest place to work in the U.S. Within a week, the US Department of Labor announced they were coming to investigate Austin’s construction industry. Today, not only are worksites a lot safer, but there is also an office for workers to lodge complaints about safety issues.
Sealing the School-to-Prison Pipeline
Over the past few Texas legislative sessions, the ACLU of Texas worked with allies to educate members of the Texas Legislature and their staffs about the need to seal the school-to-prison pipeline. During the last legislative session, this long-term work began to pay off. We worked with allies on both sides of the aisle to pass small revisions of the law that will ensure that less students are funneled into the criminal justice system for engaging in childish misbehavior at school. There is still a long way to go, but the wind is finally at our back.
Rest Breaks for Physical Laborers
Cristina Tzintzun of the Workers’ Defense Project was concerned that many construction workers in Austin do not get rest breaks, even on 100-degree days. There was no legal protection for these workers. Her members did a survey on how many workers were not getting rest breaks, presented it to City Council, and held a symbolic thirst strike at City Hall the day the Council considered and adopted a resolution granting the right to a rest break.