Category Archives: Consumer Affairs

DREAM Beanies for the Holidays

So, you’re freakin’ out that you forgot to buy a few gifts for friends or family members? Well, my friend and DREAMer Jose Luis Zelaya, a grad student at Aggieland U., tells us how he went from homelessness to reaching a professional goal of a graduate degree by crocheting all sorts of cool stuff.

Howdy! In this video I share how I went from being homeless to a graduate student with the help and support from a teacher. I am now pursuing a Masters in Education seeking to make a difference in the lives of my students. In order to pay for College I crochet beanies, scarves, etc. I ask you to please help me and support me by buying beanies and other crafts. Please share this video and tell your family and friends about it. I know everything is possible. CROCHETING MY WAY THROUGH COLLEGE.

Watch the video, fall in love with a great cause, and then place your order here.

FYI – For some of my Harris County Dem friends, Jose Luis was a speaker at 2012’s Johnson Rayburn Richards dinner, so you all need to buy something, too!

Emmett to Isaac Evacuees: Hunker Elsewhere!

Can’t say I’m too shocked, but it’s true. Harris County Judge Ed Emmett has told folks coming this way because of Isaac that they are not welcome, according to a KPRC report.

“To take people from one dangerous area and bring them to another dangerous area, another hurricane zone really doesn’t make sense,” said Emmett.

That’s the reason? Because according to the forecasts, it ain’t hitting Houston. How about a little more honesty, like, “We don’t want you here,” or “We’ve cut our budgets to a point where we can’t even help our own people,” or…I can go on.

Well, the Houston SPCA is accepting four-legged evacuees.

(Houston SPCA) August 28, 2012.  These little evacuees, fleeing Tropical Storm Isaac, arrived at the Houston SPCA in the middle of the night from the St. Bernard Parish Animal Control Center in Louisiana.

They and all their friends will be up for adoption today!  Doors open at 11 am!

I guess there will be agreement with Emmett from a cross-section of folks. I understand the fear of crime and the “drain” on social services aspect of it, but when it comes to helping people, I think Houston is a lot better than this. If we are worried about the “drain” and the crime, then we need to decide if our local budgets are indeed moral documents that ensure we are ready for these kinds of situations.

Something to discuss, because it’s bound to occur again.

Latinos Are Largest Minority Group in Schools, Colleges

This was predicted a long time ago, so, it shouldn’t be a surprise. There are “record numbers” of Latinos in schools and colleges today, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. I’m of the opinion that Republicans sure saw this coming, since they have sliced and diced state K-12 and higher education budgets as this phenomena while occurring.

Although we see the population shifting in K-12 schools to a point where Latinos are a majority in some school districts, it is at colleges and universities where we notice an important data point.

The number of 18- to 24-year-old Latinos in college topped 2 million in 2011, accounting for 16.5% of all enrollments, according to a report by the Pew Hispanic Center. The number means Latino representation in U.S. colleges and universities is on par with the percentage of Latinos among the U.S. population, also 16.5%.

The population shift will surely affect future enrollment at colleges and universities; however, to what degree?

Governor Rick Perry and the Republicans are forcing schools and universities to make more drastic budget cuts. These cuts will affect college-going and school-to-workforce type of programs. One-third of Texas university students are already in developmental (remedial) courses to play catch-up, while half of community college students are in similar courses. The challenges of college readiness will more than likely affect future enrollment and degree completion numbers. And college readiness does not only affect Latinos, but all students.

The “record numbers” reported by Pew show the potential for America’s future workforce, if only they would be taken seriously by Republican legislators when it comes to budget allocations. The 2013 Texas legislative session will have those of us who support public education fighting harder for what is right.

One thing is for sure:  If the politicians aren’t even discussing college readiness (and workforce prep), then they are missing most of the point of effectively funding K-12 and higher education.

Event: Up With The Workers! ~ Gulfton Forum on Wage Theft

From the Inbox

Saturday, July 28th at 2PM

Join us this Saturday at the Neighborhood Centers Baker-Ripley House (6500 Rookin St. 77074) for our first ever “Up with the Workers!” Gulfton Community Forum on Wage Theft. We’ll hear from community leaders, agencies, and organizations supporting workers in their struggle for just working conditions and recovering their due wages. We’ll also hear the latest from the Worker Center and the Down with Wage Theft Campaign…But most importantly, we’ll hear from YOU! Come share with us how wage theft has affected you or your community and how we can work together to bring down wage theft and make Houston a just and prosperous place to work!

For more information, email or call 713-862-8222

Texas Dem Chair Hinojosa Calls for Continued Support of Janitors

“It is like we’re disposable. They can use us for a while and then they just discard us, like if we were trash too.” –Hernan Trujillo, a Houston janitor tells the Houston Chronicle

“…Just because we’re janitors doesn’t mean that we don’t need to be treated with dignity and respect, but we’re not.” – Alice McAfee, a Houston janitor, tells the Houston Chronicle

Dear Democrats,

Last month we shared with you the story of a group of Houston janitors, many of whom are paid less than $9,000 a year. These men and women put in a hard day’s work every day, are paid less than half the federal poverty level, and are not treated with respect.

After a month of protests, hundreds of Houston janitors walked off the job to fight for a living wage, demand a better life, and to protest negotiations in bad faith from many of the employers. On Friday, Houston Mayor Annise Parker sided with the janitors and said that their actions of civil disobedience were appropriate.

No person should be treated as if they were not a human being.

During a strike by African American sanitation workers in 1968, workers held signs with the slogan “I AM a Man.” These men were striking after their request for better safety conditions fell on deaf ears. They made the requests after two workers were crushed to death at the workplace.


It’s not hard to draw the parallels to today’s striking janitors. Economic dignity and workplace safety are civil rights. People who work hard and play by the rules should earn the opportunity to have their families live with a level of dignity. Dr. King recognized this, which is why he supported the striking sanitation workers. In fact, the speech he gave at the strike was Dr. King’s last.

Sadly, dehumanization continues today. Many of Houston’s janitors are treated like less than people, and to paraphrase one of the striking janitors, discarded like trash.

Show the Houston janitors that you support their right to make a living wage by signing this petition.

This is about a belief that working men and women should be treated with dignity and respect. The strike that began in Houston has garnered national attention and has spread to six different cities across the nation.

Thank you for supporting our brothers and sisters.


Gilberto Hinojosa
Texas Democratic Party

Janitors on Strike–A Week of Action

It has been an action-filled week for Houston Janitors who are on strike. With corporate employers not agreeing to a pay raise for these hard-working individuals, the Janitors have had no choice but to go on strike and demonstrate outside of Houston’s high rises in downtown.

On Wednesday, fifteen (15) supporters of the striking Janitors were arrested after blocking traffic in Downtown during the lunch hour.

The group sat in a circle in the intersection of Smith and Bell about 12:30 p.m., surrounded by about 250 supporters carrying mops and banging on drums. Police closed the street about a block away, and some traffic backed up behind the roadblocks.

The Service Employees International Union said in news releases that the people arrested came from around the country. Fewer than half are from Houston, and none are janitors themselves, according to a list included in one release.

On Tuesday, I met some of these folks and saw their organizing skills in action as Janitors protested at the ExxonMobil HQ in Downtown Houston. I also lent them my support and marched with them.

This past weekend, the children of the Janitors staged a protest.

While we get so caught up with political campaigns, we must not forget about the working people our campaigns talk about–and that goes for the candidates, too. But I will say it has been good to see a few of our elected officials out there, but more are needed.

On Thursday at 7PM, a Mass will be held at the Co-Cathedral in Downtown. Attend and show your support of these hard-working Houstonians Taxpayers who are being mistreated by local corporations.

Join Houston Janitors at Mass for Justice

From the Inbox:

Dear Friend,

First of all, we would like to thank you for your constant support for Houston’s janitors.  It is people like you that give us strength to continue fighting for a better future for all of Houston. Saturday’s Children’s Day of Action was a great success you helped make happen.  The Houston Chronicle highlights the event.

As you may know, hundreds of Houston janitors walked off the job and initiated a city-wide strike last week.   Many leaders have pledged support and momentum has swung in favor of the workers. Friday, the strike grew from 9 to 18 buildings. Hundreds more are expected to join later this week as the strike escalates.  We will continue the strike until business owners and contracting companies agree to pay us a fair wage.

Just like you, our brothers and sisters from all over the world are standing with Houston janitors.  Members in Hong Kong, Australia, England, Poland and France urged J.P. Morgan Chase, Hines, Crescent-Barclays, and ISS in their respective countries to do right by Houston’s janitors.  Colombia and UNI Americaswrote letters in support of Houston’s janitors to the Greater Houston Partnership, while members in Brazil wrote a support letter to Houston’s Mayor Annise Parker.

But we can’t stop there.  On behalf of Houstonian janitors and Archbishop Emeritus Joseph Fiorenza We would like to invite you to come to a very special Mass at theCO-CATHEDRAL OF THE SACRED HEART on Thursday July 19th at 7:30pm. The Mass was organized to celebrate the link between faith, work, and justice and to call on business leaders to support the good jobs our communities desperately need.

In order to restore the middle class in Houston, we must stay connected.  Please text OurHouston to 787-753 to receive the latest updates on Houstonian Janitors.

Kind Regards,

Houston Janitors


Thursday, July 19th- 7:00 pm


Budget Amendment Time at COH

Well, while we continue to enjoy all of the post-Convention excitement (or complaints), there’s still a City that is being run–and it’s budget time! And it’s time to look at some of the budget amendments proposed by our members of Council.

Helena Brown:  Yes, let’s start here. Seems the right-winger wants to destroy the City by having it default on contributions to the city’s pension funds. She wants to let the Texas Supreme Court decide. Yeah, that’s the right-wing way; send all of their bad ideas to a right-wing Supreme Court who will rubber stamp it.

What may have been one of Brown’s more lucid ideas was that of proposing the city go to a city manager-run government.  Then she basically uses it to attack the employee unions and out goes the lucidity. There’s a better way to argue for a manager-run city hall. Kuff has more.

Jack Christie:  His fill-it or kill-it idea has some good qualities; however, taking away the freedom from department heads to fill a position as they see fit, and forcing them into a justification phase that could take weeks, doesn’t do the city a service. Better to have a little bit of freedom than simply pretend Council is cutting jobs.  Christie also proposes that revenues exceeding what the city expects to take in should go directly to the pension investment. Seems like a good idea, but after undergoing so many cuts, the City should have some freedom on how to spend that money. With a looming hot summer that may bring another drought, we need to be ready for anything.

Ellen Cohen:  The former State Rep. is offering her “pole tax” to the City for the purpose of clearing the rape kit backlog. The $5 fee to “adult entertainment establishment” operators based on the number of customers could bring in $3 million per year. I think it’s a good idea.

Ed Gonzalez:  The Mayor pro-tem’s amendments were pretty solid this year. Complete streets and pocket parks are great ideas; however, the one that really caught my attention was the creation of an Office of Efficiency and Effectiveness which would “use data-driven decision-making to ensure that departments are meeting their goals and objectives in order to best serve our citizens.” Some questions that will be asked:  Another bureaucracy? Can this be folded into the Controller’s office? Etc. Frankly, I like the idea of an independent office that would work well with employees and management to determine goals and objectives and a path on how best to be effective.

That’s all I have for now. I’ll seek out other budget amendments today, or just send them in.

Inbox: Janitors Fired for Defending Their Rights

From Service Employees International Union:

Janitors across Houston have been without a contract for more than a week and they have now been forced to call strikes in multiple buildings due to employer harassment and intimidation. They’re doing what they have to in order to protect their families, and they’re standing up for fair wages for all Houston workers.

But now, eleven janitors who work for New York based cleaning contractor Pritchard were notified today that they would not be allowed to return to work—in apparent violation of federal law. The janitors work at 363 North Belt.

Janitors need your support now more than ever. Can you take a minute to send an email to the owner of 363 North Belt urging them to tell Pritchard to hire back the janitors who were illegally fired?

Houston is facing a crisis. Over half a million Houstonians are paid less than $10 an hour, meaning that even if they work full-time, they take home less than $1600 a month – and as a result, one in four children in Houston now live in poverty.

Janitors want to change the tide for ordinary people in this city. And no one should be fired for exercising their right to organize and stand up for fair benefits.  Will you stand with them?

Click here to send an email in support of the North Belt janitors.

Are you ready to stand with janitors in the fight for good jobs and a fair economy? Join us tomorrow:

Tuesday, June 12th


Tranquility Park, Houston TX

Thank you,

Houston Janitors

$1.65 an Hour Raise, Too Much?

Houston Janitors conducted a strike and work stoppage on Tuesday as the companies that hire them aren’t willing to give them a $1.65 per hour raise, along with other contract requests.

Service Employees International Union has been organizing Janitors in Houston for quite some time and have achieved various successes for Janitors in the recent past. Well, the contract has ended, it is negotiation time, and it is time the seven companies in the negotiations treat their employees with some added respect; not to mention incentive, for cleaning up after them.

The janitors, whose contract expired May 31, want to boost their pay to $10 an hour over the next three years. Most janitors in Houston top out at $8.35 an hour.

Martinez said janitors might strike at other locations this week.

“We want to give owners and contractors a chance to respond,” she said. “As the weeks go by, it could get bigger.”

Let’s hope the message is received, so that all those involved achieve job security and a slight raise. Or as SEIU puts it:

As Houston’s poverty and hunger rate rise, janitors are calling attention to the income inequality that’s contributing to the deterioration of our communities. Houston janitors clean the offices of some of the richest corporations in the world, including profitable energy corporations Chevron, Exxon Mobile, Shell Oil, Penzoil, Centerpoint Energy and Reliant. Despite record profits and ballooning CEO pay, janitors who clean Houston’s office buildings are paid less than $9,000 a year—less than half the poverty level. A janitor would have to work more than 2,000 years in order to earn what the Exxon and Chevron CEOs make in just one year.