44 progressive Florida organizations that could use your help right now
15 February 2017
Elliana Dix, Denise Diaz and Jonathan Alingu
Central Florida Jobs with Justice
The labor movement has always been a key part of the resistance in America, says Denise Díaz, and right now, organizers are preparing for a full-on attack if a fast-food chain executive takes over the federal Department of Labor.
Díaz is the executive director of Central Florida Jobs With Justice, a coalition of labor unions, community organizations, students, faith-based groups and workers that strives to build power for working people through several campaigns, such as raising wages or protecting collective bargaining. Díaz says sometimes it involves supporting farmworkers and organizing airport baggage handlers to vote on a union, while other times it's sending delegations to a work site. Right now, though, organizers are preparing their response to Trump's nominee for labor secretary: Andrew Puzder, the CEO of CKE Restaurants, which runs the Carl's Jr. and Hardee's chains. The millionaire opposes several worker protections, such as expanding overtime pay, and has complained about raising the minimum wage.
"Florida is already a right-to-work state, so the little protections workers have on the federal level, like discrimination protections, we're afraid will go away," she says. "People are not really sounding alarms for worker's rights, I think because people live it every day. But I think we're going to start seeing a lot of workers organizing and learning their rights."
Central Florida Jobs with Justice is just the place to do that, Díaz says. With a team of two other people, Díaz is trying to make sure workers know their rights and teaching activists to become organizers.
"Right now we're in crisis mode," she says. "We see emerging activists at protests, and I think we need to turn those people into organizers who can build power. You went to a protest; now how do you become someone who can lead a meeting and lead others in a protest?"
Currently, the organization is looking for volunteers to participate in actions, phone banks and protests. Central Florida Jobs With Justice also provides organizer trainings to its members, Díaz says.
"The labor movement is the resistance that keeps capital and corporations in check," she says. "Now we're seeing corporations in a place where profit comes before people. I think everyone has a stake in the labor movement being stronger, and it's been rolled back so much that we really have to do what we can to keep it intact." – MC
Hope CommUnity Center
In the 40 years Sister Ann Kendrick has been working to support immigrant communities in Central Florida at the Hope CommUnity Center in Apopka, this is the worst it has ever been, she says.
A sense of fear permeates the community. After the election, a group of about 100 kids who gather at the center reported racial slurs and bullying at their schools. Some people have already packed their suitcases as they anxiously wait to see what executive order President Donald Trump signs next after ordering a U.S.-Mexico border wall and threatening to take away federal funds from sanctuary cities, among other actions. Kendrick says some children have come to the center crying, including an 8-year-old boy who was afraid his undocumented mom would be deported.
"He was afraid his mother would be taken away because then who would take care of him," Kendrick says. "People ask us what we're going to do, and I tell them, 'We're doing what we always do, except the stakes are higher. We have to ratchet up.'"
Kendrick, Sister Cathy Gorman and Sister Gail Grimes came to this area in the 1970s to help farmworkers and the working poor in the community. Decades later, they have set up two centers in Apopka where they provide a litany of services, including literacy classes, GED help, school tutoring, citizenship classes, youth groups and other resources for immigrant communities.
Kendrick says now Hope CommUnity Center is working on two fronts to address what will possibly come down from the presidential administration. First, they're teaching people to know their rights when stopped by the police, and also, they're creating "safety and dignity" plans for undocumented immigrants.
"Everybody, documented or not, is being caught up in this anti-immigrant attitude and scrutiny because some see immigrants as hostile and not adding to the fabric of our country," she says. "We're teaching them how to behave if you're stopped by law enforcement, which is usually for driving without a license or can be racial profiling, and explaining to them what to say, what not to say, what can be incriminating."
The center is also helping undocumented immigrants put together "safety and dignity" plans consisting of medical records, school records, bank information, power of attorney letters, prescription information, letters from the community and other records that would be helpful to have readily at hand in case of detainment or deportation. Kendrick says community members who care can start assisting at the center by helping people put together their "safety and dignity" plans or by donating money to help a family in need. She adds that people can also help out by becoming tutors at the center and by letting the immigrant community know they have allies in the fight.
"We can help by creating community," Kendrick says. "We're a safe place where people can come and be introduced to a bigger world. Now is the time to step up." – MC
Council on American-Islamic Relations
You already know the Council on American-Islamic Relations as the national Muslim civil liberties and advocacy group suing the Trump administration to stop what they call the "Muslim Exclusion Order."
You may not have known that our state's chapter, CAIR Florida, supports these legal efforts by providing training to a wide range of people, and not just Muslims.
CAIR Florida teaches "Islam 101" courses for law enforcement officials, and "know your rights" workshops for civilians. They provide cultural competency training for doctors who see Muslim patients, and personal safety training at community centers. They help serve Muslim children through partnerships with organizations like Big Brothers/Big Sisters of South Florida.
Rasha Mubarak, the Orlando regional coordinator for CAIR Florida, says these collaborations have grown and emboldened "the movement family" in Central Florida.
Mubarak and a handful of local activist leaders organized a successful protest inside Orlando International Airport on Jan. 29. The event made news and brought pro-immigrant demonstrators within earshot of the families of Syrian and Iranian travelers being questioned by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.
Many protesters heard about the action through online forums usually dedicated to UCF student progressive groups, Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ advocacy.
"These relationships have been built over time, over being there together," says Mubarak. "By joining one movement, you learn about other people doing great work without reinventing the wheel. None of us are free so long as any of us are oppressed."
CAIR and CAIR Florida need donations and volunteers, but Mubarak says there are other important ways for people to help.
"We encourage people to donate but we also ask for support in the form of coming out to our events and inviting us to participate in your conversations, letting us now how can we provide our support at your organization or community center," Mubarak says. "There are always volunteer opportunities like tabling with us, helping us set up new events, and making allies and connections with different interfaith groups and support groups."
Mubarak also recommends following CAIR Florida on social media, as well as following related groups like the Support Central Florida Muslim Community, Floridians Responding to Refugees and the Muslim Woman Organization.
"Let us know how we can be there for you, too." - DP