DAI issue campaigns emerge from a process that begins with conversations among leaders of DAI institutions. Being attuned to the community, leaders identify issues. Not complacent or easily daunted, and energized by a desire to transform hope into action, we form a group to research the problem. In time the group knows the background, defines the issue, and proposes a plan. With support from the rest of the organization, we authorize an issue team and inaugurate a campaign.
After listening to the stories of hundreds of people across the city, DAI realized there was a serious sub-standard housing problem. DAI is currently working to strengthen Dallas’ rental housing code and when the new code goes into effect in 2017, DAI will turn its attention to ensuring that it is properly enforced and find ways to create more safe, healthy and affordable housing options for Dallas residents. The Dallas Morning News recognized DAI’s work on this issue in an August 22, 2016 editorial: “Kudos also should go the Dallas Area Interfaith, which pressed concerns about the conditions of rental units to the council. The group’s involvement throughout the review process kept these issues on the council’s radar and set the stage for many of the most important tweaks in the code.”
Police & Community Relations
DAI has a long worked to encourage stronger police and community relationships, including creating the political will for the City of Dallas to hire 600 more police over a three-year period. DAI’s work took on new urgency on July 7, 2016, when five Dallas police officers were killed, and seven officers and two citizens were wounded. The following Sunday, DAI organized a 600-person prayer vigil that police officers from six local police departments attended. It was a time of tough conversations about the state of relationships between community and police relationships and a time of healing. Minister Jonathan Morrison stated, “Our walls have been torn down, but we believe we can come together to rebuild them.” The pain and publicity from the tragedy will slowly fade away. DAI's slow, patient work of organizing and healing remains.
Sick and tired of low-paying jobs and sub-par workforce training, DAI created Skill QUEST, a labor market intermediary program. It has served more than 300 students and helped graduates raise their annual income from $9,000 to more than $44,000 per year. DAI leaders are committed to ensuring that area residents have high quality job training that propels people earning poverty wages into high-demand jobs paying living wages, plus benefits.
In the 2015 legislative sessions, DAI worked with IAF organizations in Texas to secure $5 million for long-term job training programs like Skill QUEST.
Immigration and Worker Rights
On immigration and worker issues, DAI is working with city, county, local law enforcement, and the District Attorney within Dallas County around issues of wage theft and worker safety. These issues affect a wide range of people, but undocumented workers are most affected. These campaigns were launched in June 2014, when 500 DAI leaders came together at “A Cry for Immigration Reform and a Call to Local Action.” Tired of waiting on Congress to fix the nation’s immigration system, leaders were committed to working on local issues that affect undocumented immigrants.
DAI leaders are fighting to end wage theft, which includes not paying overtime, not paying minimum wage and even not paying a worker at all. These problems are rampant in immigrant communities. We have secured commitments from the Dallas County District Attorney, the Dallas Police Department and the Dallas County Sheriff’s department to enforce a state law that criminalizes wage theft. DAI is also working with members to train those with large immigrant populations about their rights to file criminal and civil charges against employers who steal their wages. As a result of our campaign, Dallas County is one of only two Texas counties to criminally prosecute perpetrators of wage theft.
The personal experiences of construction workers not receiving adequate water and rest breaks during the hot Texas summers prompted our Rest Break campaign. While the majority of contractors allow workers to rest, some don’t give workers this basic human right. Unfortunately there is no federal law mandating that construction workers be allowed a break. DAI is working with Dallas City Council members on an ordinance giving construction workers the right to a rest break every four hours, which would make Dallas only the second city in Texas with such an ordinance.
DAI continues to support expanded healthcare for those in the coverage gap. We worked with elected officials during the legislative session, testified at committee hearings, and we’re coordinating with county officials. Some DAI member organizations have approached Dallas County about becoming permanent sites for Affordable Care Act exchange signup opportunities. Until Texas devises a way to expand coverage with the funding provided by the ACA, the issue of access to healthcare will remain.