Get to Know: Workers Defense Project

This is the first in a regular series of blogs spotlighting organizations tackling major issues in Central Texas.

Guest post from Workers Defense Project:

Workers Defense Project (WDP) is a membership-based organization that empowers low-income workers to achieve fair employment through education, direct services, organizing and strategic partnerships. WDP was founded in August 2002 by employees and volunteers of Casa Marianella, a local Austin shelter, to address the problem of unpaid wages for Austin’s low-wage workers.

WDP is a worker center that provides low-wage workers, concentrating on the construction industry, with legal solutions for wage theft, discrimination and injury cases, as well as ESL classes, safety classes, and the leadership development they need to improve their working and living conditions. With these important resources, WDP members are able to change the conditions that negatively impact working families. WDP provides a source of power and hope for low-wage workers and is part of a national movement of organizations that seek to achieve sustainable change for working families. The organization is one of the most established worker centers in the South and a leader in fighting for fair conditions for working people.

WDP envisions a future where all low-wage and immigrant workers are treated with dignity and respect. In the wake of the 2016 election, WDP has renewed its commitment to fighting for the rights of low-wage workers and immigrants disproportionately affected by the policies of the current administration and its impact on local and statewide governance. This push back includes winning big changes in the construction industry and beyond, including:

  • Passing an ordinance requiring paid sick leave for all employees within the City of Austin;
  • Ensuring paid rest breaks for all construction workers in Austin and Dallas;
  • Suing the State of Texas over the anti-immigrant law SB 4, and moving every major city in Texas to join the lawsuit;
  • Winning fair pay and safe working conditions for more than 16,000 construction workers through WDP’s innovative Better Builder® program; and
  • Recovering more than $1.7 million in unpaid wages for more than 1,800 workers.
There are many opportunities to get involved with WDP, but none are more valued than our volunteers. Register HERE to attend our Monthly Volunteer Orientation and Volunteer Night, the first Thursday of the month at the Austin office. The next opportunity is May 3rd, 2018, 6-8PM. Contact elizabeth@workersdefense.org to learn more about the volunteer program or sign up for volunteer updates. Sign up HERE to receive our monthly e-newsletter, and click HERE to make a donation. We encourage you to visit our website or write info@workersdefense.org to learn more. WDP is grateful for the support of the community- we couldn’t do our work without you!

One simple Twitter trick to help our vision-impaired friends

People with vision impairment sometimes use screen-reading software to help them navigate the web.  The software dictates audio based upon what’s on the screen. This works best when the information is text-based, and when it’s organized well. Unfortunately, not all webpages fit this description.

Images, especially, are hard to parse with a screen reader. It’s long been considered a best practice to add additional “meta” information to images so that they can be read by screen readers (and also by search engines, but that’s another story). Unfortunately, the meta information requires manual input, and most people posting images online either don’t do it, or do it poorly. We are guilty of this, and will strive to do better.

Twitter has a feature that makes adding image descriptions easier. By default, though, this feature is disabled—which is a real shame. Since discovering this feature, we have used it on most of our tweets that contain images. (Further down we’ll explain why we’re not 100% consistent.)

To enable Twitter image descriptions, follow these steps (full instructions are here):

  1. Click on your profile icon and select Settings and privacy from the dropdown (or press the “g” key quickly, followed by the “s” key).
  2. Click Accessibility from the list of settings.
  3. Find the Compose image descriptions checkbox.
  4. Check the box to turn the setting on or off.
  5. Click Save changes.

Once you enable the feature, you’ll have an additional option to add a description to any image you post. Take the time to do this, and don’t be lazy about it. When writing your description of the image, imagine you are describing it to someone over the phone. If you’re posting a screen-shot of text (like someone’s Facebook post, or another tweet), post that same text into the image description. Otherwise, people with vision impairment have no idea what you are posting.

This feature is not foolproof, but it’s a start. Since we enabled it, we’ve noticed a few things that can prevent you from making your images fully accessible:

  • It takes more time. If you’re in a hurry, you can be tempted to bypass the image description or to be lazy about it. Resist that temptation!
  • The mobile app applies the same description to multiple images. On iOS at least, if you post multiple images in the same tweet, you get only one description field that applies to all images in the tweet. Until Twitter changes this, you’ll have to write a description that can be applied to all images in your tweet. (Or tweet the images separately, or use Twitter from a desktop browser.)
  • Third-party apps don’t include image descriptions. If you’re using something like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite to schedule tweets, there is no place to add image descriptions. This is unfortunate. We don’t schedule many tweets in advance, but when we need to, image-tweets will be missing descriptions.

Accessibility on the web is always evolving, and mistakes will always happen. Adding image descriptions is a simple way to start being a better ally to our friends in the disability community, but it’s only a start. We would love to hear how we can do better in the comments.

Example of Twitter description field

Example of a Twitter image description

A Racist Is Not Capable of Negotiating an Immigration Deal in Good Faith

On Thursday, President Trump insulted immigrants and endangered diplomatic relationships by calling African nations “shithole countries,” and demanding that Haitians and others with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) be removed from any bipartisan immigration deal.

The issue isn’t his language. This president has proven time and again to be racist and vulgar.

A racist is not capable of negotiating an immigration deal in good faith.

The issue is the dangerous position that many immigrants find themselves in today, whether they are Dreamers losing their protections on a daily basis, or people with TPS whose lives have been thrown into turmoil.

The issue is the so-called “deal,” and the vision our political leadership has for the future of immigrants who call the US home, and who will have the opportunity to come to the US in the future.

Trump made this statement during bipartisan talks on a possible legislative solution to ensure Dreamers aren’t heartlessly removed from the country they call home. Reports of these talks also indicated that members of Democratic leadership—the party that often claims to be the champion of immigrants—had already made disturbing concessions to the president before his remarks. Those concessions show that Democratic leaders are not seeking a clean DREAM Act, but instead are negotiating the future of Dreamers by blocking family-based visas for their parents, giving the president funding for “the wall,” and ending diversity visas.

The initial deal framework, as originally reported, is unacceptable. We do not ask for ceremonial statements of condemnation of the president’s remarks. We demand those who say they stand with immigrants negotiate protections for those whose status has been compromised by the revocation of DACA and TPS—with no strings attached.

Five Democrats voted against the DREAM Act in 2010 and 17 Democrats broke their promise to protect Dreamers and voted with the GOP before going home for the holidays last month.  Trump’s latest racist comments have given these incumbents a third chance to redeem themselves before this year’s primary season.

Austin-area Rep. Lloyd Doggett has long been on the side of Dreamers, and he continues to push Congress to take quick action and pass a clean DREAM Act (which he co-sponsors). More Democrats need to follow his lead.

More than 120,000 Dreamers live in Texas. Approximately 14,500 Dreamers across the country have already lost DACA status, and 122 more lose their status every day that passes without a permanent solution. If a permanent legislative solution is not passed by March, all 700,000 of our most law-abiding immigrants will lose their status. They will lose their work permits and become immediately eligible for deportation.

Dreamers are not a bargaining chip.

Dreamers are our classmates, colleagues, neighbors, and friends. Here in Texas, 2,000 of them are school teachers. We won’t accept a bad deal for those who have built a better life for their families here in America, and those who seek to.

Friday was the eighth anniversary of the earthquake that killed 160,000 Haitians. Do not let cynicism or Trump fatigue overtake you. Honor their memory and call your members of Congress and let them know you’re watching to see if they can be trusted to protect Dreamers and the American Dream itself.

How Your Voices Are Making a Difference: Flippin’ Flynn

This week brought an intriguing development in the latest Russia report: Michael Flynn abruptly cut off all direct contact with Donald and his team—a pretty good sign that he may be working to cut a deal with Robert Mueller…in other words, to roll on what he may know about Donald and the campaign’s Russia ties. Pass the popcorn, please.

After announcing an end to the Obama-era ban on importing elephant “trophies” from nations without adequate protections for the endangered animals, Donald flip-flopped at loud, immediate bipartisan outcry, and has decided to uphold the ban (for now).

More Republican senators are waffling on the GOP tax scam, endangering its chances of passing in the Senate.

Donald’s tanking approval ratings are even spreading to FOX—FOX News host Neil Cavuto aimed a scathing reprimand at Donald over his tweets that he should have left the UCLA basketball players in jail: “Forget about either comment not being presidential. At what point does the president see such remarks don’t even border on being human?… Last time I checked, you are the president of the United States,” he said. “Why don’t you act like it?”

Ex-RNC chair Michael Steele called Donny’s backing of sexual predator Roy Moore “sickening” and “beyond stupid” and said he was doing “irreparable harm” to our country.

(Kim Jong Un, as always, takes things a linguistically memorable step further, calling Donald an “old lunatic, mean trickster and human reject.”)

Unlikely superhero Walter Shaub, former head of the Office of Government Ethics, filed a complaint with his former agency regarding Kellyanne Conway’s comments advocating for Roy Moore while in her official capacity—a potential violation of the Hatch Act, a law that forbids federal employees from using their positions for political purposes. Shaub resigned halfway into Donald’s first year, after heroic battles with the new administration, which refused to observe rules and norms the office was designed to enforce, and has been eloquently outspoken since about the many ongoing violations of ethics of Donald and his minions.

Amid claims against one of Roy Moore’s accusers that his campaign refuses to substantiateMoore’s communications director has resigned.

Richard Spencer-organized event was abruptly called to a halt smack in the middle of it when the farmers who managed the venue in Maryland where it was being held learned white nationalist Spencer was behind it and kicked the entire gathering out. Management refunded the group’s money, but stood by its refusal to host the group as “strongly in opposition to our values…including welcoming people of all backgrounds, race, ethnicities, cultures, and religions.”

A second federal judge has ruled Donald’s ban on transgender people serving in the military is unconstitutional—and goes one step farther, ruling that the White House cannot deny funding for certain medical treatments—including gender reassignment surgery.

Another federal judge issued an injunction to permanently block the federal government from withholding funds from “sanctuary cities,” citing the White House policy as a violation of the Fifth and Tenth Amendments, and of the separation of powers doctrine.

Right now, federal judges are helping keep Donald’s unconstitutional attempts in check—but what should scare all of us is how he and Jeff Sessions are feverishly appointing judges to the bench—aided by the GOP’s blockading of legitimate appointments during Obama’s administration, and by their steamrolling the rule that prevents nominees from office if a certain number of senators from the nominee’s home state object (the “blue slip” rule). If conservatives get their way,Donald will add twice as many lifetime members to the federal judiciary in the next 12 months (650) as Barack Obama named in eight years (325). This is a major battle that’s not in the spotlight—and as long as it isn’t the GOP can keep railroading onto the bench extreme-conservative, unqualified, young judges who could change the face of our judiciary for the next 50 years (appointed by an attorney general who was himself judged too racist to serve as a federal judge). Fight, warriors—this will have repercussions for years to come, and generations after us.

La lucha continúa para proteger a Alirio de la deportación

Traducción al español por Jasmain Rodriguez. Lea en inglés.

Ha pasado un poco menos de un mes desde que anunciamos nuestro apoyo a Alirio Gámez. Alirio Gámez aún se encuentra refugiado en la Primera Iglesia Unitaria Universal de Austin, y si sale de allí, será detenido por ICE y será deportado a El Salvador. Si esto pasara, su vida estaría en peligro.

Ha llegado el tiempo de cambiar nuestras tácticas para apoyar a Alirio. El mes pasado, cien personas firmarmos una petición demandando a oficiales de ICE que usaran la discreción acusadora para permitir que Alirio permanezca en el país. ¡Queremos que escuchen nuestra voz!

Le pedimos a usted que haga una breve llamada telefónica para parar la deportación de Alirio. Hemos hecho cientos de llamadas a nuestros representantes electos para oponerse a Trump y su agenda; ahora vamos a usar nuestro tiempo y pasión en nombre de Alirio.

Haz una llamada telefónica a ICE por Alirio.

Por favor haz una llamada hoy (jueves 11/9) o mañana (11/10) durante las horas de oficina de Norma Lacy, Oficial de Inmigración al 210-283-4750.

Cuando escuche el correo de voz, presiona el número 1 y deja un mensaje. Si alguien contesta y te hace preguntas, contesta –Hable con su abogado. Ayúdenos a mantener el conteo de llamadas que se han hecho en nombre de él enviando un correo electrónico a ewelliver@grassrootsleadership.org para darnos el reporte. Gracias.

Guion de ejemplo

“Hola mi nombre es ______. Estoy llamando de (ubicación u organización) para pedirle a ICE que use se discreción acusadora para parar la deportación de Alirio Gámez A#208270481. Alirio huyó de su hogar en El Salvador en búsqueda de asilo en los Estados Unidos debido a experiencias violentas y amenazas de muerte que ha recibido. Él tiene el derecho a vivir en seguridad y eso significa quedándose aquí.

Nosotros luchamos juntos por la justicia.

Invisible Austin respeta y continúa el trabajo de la Red Santuaria de Austin y Grassroots Leadership en su apoyo a Alirio y muchas otras causas. Para más información revisa estas organizaciones.

The Struggle Continues to Protect Alirio From Deportation

Lea en español.

It has been a little under a month since we announced our support for Alirio Gámez. Alirio remains in sanctuary at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Austin, and it remains the case that should he leave sanctuary and be apprehended by ICE, he will be apprehended by ICE and will be deported back to El Salvador. Should that happen, his life is at risk.

The time has come for us to change tactics in our support for Alirio. Last month hundred of us signed a petition demanding ICE officials use prosecutorial discretion to leave Alirio alone and let him stay. Now let them hear our voices.

We’re asking you to make a short telephone call to stop Alirio from being deported. We’ve made calls to our elected representatives now hundreds of times to push back on Trump and his agenda; now lets use our time and our passion on behalf of Alirio.

Make a phone call to ICE for Alirio

Please make a call today (Thursday 11/9) or tomorrow (Friday 11/10) during business hours to Immigration Customs Enforcement Deputy Chief of Staff Norma Lacy at 210-283-4750.

When you get a long voice mail, press 3 and leave a message. If someone answers and asks you questions, reply, “Talk to his attorney.” Help us keep track of how many calls have been made on his behalf by emailing ewelliver@grassrootsleadership.org to give us a report. Thank YOU.

Sample script

“Hello, my name is ________ . I am calling from (location or organization) to ask ICE to use its prosecutorial discretion to stop the deportation of Alirio Gámez A# 208270481. Alirio fled his home in El Salvador seeking asylum in the U.S. due to the violence he experienced and the death threats he received. He has established close community ties here and has a positive outlook in spite of the violence he experienced. He has a right to live in safety and that means staying here. Thank you.”

We fight together for justice

Indivisible Austin is admiring and amplifying the work of the Austin Sanctuary Network and Grassroots Leadership in their support for Alirio and many other causes. For more information check out those organizations.

Demand Answers for Young Woman in the Federal Government’s Care

A heartbreaking case making its way through the court system has raised extremely troubling questions on how the U.S. Health and Human Service’s Office of Refugee Resettlement is treating young women in need of medical care.

A 17-year-old undocumented young woman under the government’s custody was given permission by a Texas judge to choose an abortion–but the federal government is refusing to allow her to do so. They have blocked her court-appointed representatives as well as shelter personnel from transporting her to a clinic.

In fact, federal officials have actually pressured the young woman to continue her pregnancy and sent her to an ideologically driven, anti-choice “crisis pregnancy center” to try to change her mind.

This is a stark departure from the Obama Administration’s policy–and while clearly acting reprehensible in regard to this case, their actions demonstrate a broad willingness to block medical care for political reasons and allow federal employees to force their own, personal views on others.

More from the Washington Post:

Under the directorship of E. Scott Lloyd, an antiabortion activist appointed by President Trump to lead the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement, ORR began preventing federally funded shelters from “facilitat[ing]” access to abortion services unless Mr. Lloyd approved. Instead, shelters for undocumented minors may support only “pregnancy services and life-affirming options counseling.” Mr. Lloyd has personally reached out to several pregnant teenagers to counsel them against seeking abortions, reportedly viewing himself as a “foster father.”

Calls to action:

  1. Demand that your representatives tell HHS to release the young woman and to immediately cease interfering in personal medical care.
  2. Call E. Scott Lloyd’s Office of Refugee Resettlement at HHS and demand that they allow Jane Doe access to the medical care to which she is legally entitled, immediately. PHONE: 202-401-9246. FAX: 202-401-0981.

Tell John Cornyn to Withdraw Support for Judicial Nominee Jeff Mateer

We call upon Senator John Cornyn to publicly withdraw support from Jeff Mateer, who is nominated for a lifetime seat on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas.  We request that the senator vote against his confirmation both in the Judiciary Committee and on the Senate Floor.

Mateer has called a first grader part of “Satan’s plan” because she is transgender. Regardless of where Sen. Cornyn stands on civil rights for the LGBT community, surely he can agree that someone who would make such a cruel and biased statement is not fit to serve as a judge.

We were heartened to hear that Sen. Cornyn is reviewing with his staff the new information that has come to light about Jeff Mateer, and we believe the only appropriate response to the nominee’s bigoted remarks about Sen. Cornyn’s LGBT constituents (and his other disqualifying statements) is for the senator to immediately withdraw his support.

Mateer doesn’t believe the Constitution protects  any LGBT civil rights. He says, “I’ve read the 14th Amendment thousands of times…I don’t see anything about right to same-sex marriage. I don’t see anything saying right to homosexuality. I don’t see anything about right to privacy.”

But that’s not surprising from someone who doesn’t even believe the Constitution protects religious freedom, saying that there is no “provision in the Constitution that guarantees the separation of church and state verbatim.”

We encourage the senator to take his role of advice and consent on behalf of Texas, and as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee very seriously. If he rubber stamps this unfit judge, he puts loyalty to President Trump above ensuring that the people of Texas can rely on an fair and decent judiciary.

Call to Action

Please call Sen. Cornyn today and say:

Thank you for reviewing the new information that has come to light about Jeff Mateer who is up for a lifetime seat on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. Calling a young child part of “Satan’s plan” because she is transgender makes Mateer unfit to serve on the federal bench. Please publicly withdraw support from this nominee and vote against his confirmation in the Judiciary Committee and on the Senate Floor.

October 19: Sarah Kendzior in Austin

We are excited to kick off our new speaker series, “Understanding Autocracy,” with the writer Sarah Kendzior. Get tickets below or on Eventbrite.

Kendzior has been eerily prescient about the Trump administration.

Her essay “We’re heading into dark times. This is how to be your own light in the Age of Trump,” published on November 18, 2016, stands alongside works by Masha Gessen and other experts on authoritarianism as a roadmap for what to expect, and what we can do about it.

Kendzior’s writing appears in The Globe and Mail and many other publications, and she is a frequent guest on NPR, MSNBC, Al Jazeera, CBC News, BBC World Service and other broadcast outlets.

As part of a new series called “Understanding Autocracy,” Indivisible Austin is proud to host an opportunity to hear Sarah Kendzior speak and answer your questions.


Indivisible Austin strives to be a vocal ally for marginalized communities. A portion of proceeds from our Understanding Autocracy speaker series will go toward local organizations working to change systemic injustice and inequity. These are two organizations we are supporting.

Austin Justice Coalition is a grassroots, activist-led organization addressing community needs, increasing political involvement, empowering communities, and criminal justice reform at the local level.

Mama Sana Vibrant Woman is a community organization that works to facilitate access to culturally appropriate and quality, prenatal and postnatal care for women of color in Austin and Travis County.

Our Commitment to Showing Up

Re-posted from TX21 Indivisible with minor edits and permission:

It hasn’t been a week since the Charlottesville terrorism, and it’s the only thing on some of our minds. Organizers in particular, many of whom have been recruiting people to show up to all the things for seven months running, are asking ourselves whether personal risk has been materially escalated or if it’s always been this high. In the end, every activist must choose for themselves how and when they will show up, and that has been true since forever. It just feels like the stakes are really high now.

With that in mind, and knowing that many of us are committed to showing up, please be sure to exercise caution and make safe choices. A few suggestions:

  • Read / re-read this protest safety document, authored by George Schorn.
  • If you can, take a protest safety course. Let us know when you see training opportunities!
  • If you’re worried about being publicly identified, google yourself preemptively and see what information is available about you on the internet. And then take steps to scrub whatever you wouldn’t want a rabid militia member to know about you.
  • Attend rallies and protests with a buddy. Stick together and keep each other calm, cool-headed, and safe.
  • Make sure that your phone battery is charged and, if possible, bring an extra battery so you can be connected at all times.
  • Let others who are not attending know where you’ll be, and when you should be home. Have a check-in plan for after the event.
  • If there’s an “alt-right” / white supremacist / hate protest and you opt out of the counter-protest, consider contributing to a fundraiser like this one, so you can protest with your dollars instead.
  • “Sheet-caking” as per Tina Fey’s recommendation has not been proven an effective activist technique, but you can decide for yourself.

With appreciation for everything you’ve done and continue to do to fight for progressive values for all,

TX21 Indivisible