JUSTICE FOR ALL

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MIAMI JUSTICE HACK

 

 A Creative Workshop to Build a Miami Where All People Can Thrive

 

 Our city is in an exciting moment of growth and evolution. The conversation about Miami’s future has never been more active, but we’re not yet having it together, as one community. Many groups are locked in silos or feel left out of the wave of innovation and creative energy surging through the city. To build a vibrant and successful place, we need the perspective and participation of all people who live here—the rich and the not-rich, the young and the not-young, the urban and the rural; Miamians of every race, creed, background and experience.

 

On August 1 & 2  the  Community Justice Project-FLS, the Bertha Justice Institute at the Center for Constitutional Rights, and the Bertha Foundation hosted a gathering at the LAB Miami of approximately 150 people to begin to shape that collective future. How can we work together to ensure that all of our neighbors have a hand in shaping our collective future.  The participants  worked in small groups across disciplines—design, law, art, activism, technology, social enterprise—to generate relationships as well as concrete ideas responding to those challenges in order to make Miami’s future more inclusive.

Sponsored By

Bertha Foundation
Community Justice Project
Center for Constitutional Rights
 
COMMUNITY LAWYERING IN MIAMI

The Community Justice Project, a project of Florida Legal Services, Inc., was founded in 2008 to provide legal support to grassroots community organizations in Miami’s low-income communities. Rooted in the law and organizing movement among poverty lawyers, the CJP’s dynamic style of law practice has many names – community lawyering, movement lawyering, or political lawyering –but is fundamentally rooted in the belief that those most impacted by marginalization or oppression lead their own fight for social justice.We believe lawyers are most effective when they support community organizations accountable to the persons most affected by social injustice. The CJP’s current priority areas are affordable housing and workers rights.  For more on our history and our work go  here

 
OUR CURRENT WORK

We are currently engaged in providing legal support to several community-based campaigns.  

 

Working Conditions - New Vision Taxi Driver Association

CJP’s work with the New Vision Taxi Driver Association (NVTDA) is dynamic and multi-faceted.  NVTDA is a primarily-Haitian association of taxi drivers in Miami-Dade County that has been fighting for the rights of taxi drivers since 2003.  Over the years, CJP has helped NVTDA craft local legislation affording greater protections to taxi drivers, challenge unfair charges under the Sunpass program, and advocate for fair enforcement of the Miami-Dade ordinances vis-à-vis taxi companies and other entities that historically have contributed to the abuse of taxi drivers’ rights.  More recently, CJP has been helping members of the NVTDA form their own taxi company to serve as an example of how a taxi company should treat its drivers and to change the industry from within by acting as a market participant. 

 

School to Prison Pipeline - Power U Center for Social Change

Power U Center for Social Change Miami-based grassroots organization has been a long-time partner of CJP.  Most recently CJP has been supporting their restorative justice campaign.  Power U is  working with youth to oppose harsh school disciplinary practices like out of school suspensions and advocate for implementation of restorative justice in Miami-Dade public schools.     

 

Affordable Housing - Right to the City Allliance/National Low Income Housing Coalition

The National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) was instrumental in getting legislation passed to create a national Housing Trust Fund to provide more affordable housing, funded by a set-aside from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac earnings. Those payments were immediately suspended by the conservator when Fannie and Freddie were put into conservatorship.  On behalf of NLIHC and Right to the City Alliance, a national coalition of local housing advocacy groups, we are litigating the legality of the continued suspension of those payments. 

 

Wage TheftWe Count! and the Wage Theft Task Force  

We assisted in drafting the Miami – Dade Wage Theft Ordinance and in advocating during its implementation.  We have continued to advocate in Tallahassee against preemption.  We are also working locally to improve the administrative enforcement of the  Wage Theft Ordinances.  

 

Immigration – Florida Immigrant Coalition  

We represented Florida Immigrant Coalition (FLIC) in a lengthy and successful opposition to the construction of a new private immigration detention center in South Florida.  Since winning that campaign FLIC has been largely devoted to comprehensive immigration reform. We continue to engage with FLIC on immigration detention issues, particularly as they relate to racial justice and mass incarceration.

 

 
CJP TESTIFIES AT HUMAN RIGHTS HEARING

On March 25th, the 150th session of The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) convened a hearing to examine the impact of stand your ground laws on minority communities in the United States.  CJP Attorney Meena Jagannath testified as well as Sybrina Fulton, Mother of slain teenager Trayvon Martin; Ron Davis, Father of slain teenager Jordan Davis;  Lorraine C. Miller, NAACP Interim President and CEO; Ahmad Abuznaid Esq, Legal & Policy Director Dream Defenders Inc.;  Aleta Alston-Toure, Free Marissa Now;  Caroline Bettinger-López, Esq,  Associate Professor of Clinical Legal Education and Director of the Human Rights Clinic at the University of Miami School of Law;   Alisa Bierria, Free Marissa Now & Center for Race & Gender, UC Berkeley Hilary Shelton; NAACP Sr. Vice President for Policy & Advocacy/ Washington Bureau Director; Charlotte Joseph Cassel, M.P.H., University of Miami School of Law Human Rights Clinic; Dr. Niaz Kasravi, NAACP Criminal Justice Director.   The hearing can be viewed here


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meena Jagannath, Esq. and Ahmad Abuznaid Esq. testifying before the InterAmerican Commission 

 
CJP HELPS NEW VISION TAXI DRIVERS VOICE THEIR OPINION IN THE MIAMI HERALD

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY

Taxi drivers are Lyft and Uber drivers, too

 
 
  MCT
MCT 
MICHELLE KUMATA / MCT

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Complaining about taxis is a Miami sport. Most Miamians have a story about a late or no-show taxi, or about the worn-out and dirty conditions of the cabs themselves, or about our “bad attitude.” But what are the actual conditions for us drivers?

Imagine a job where you have to pay to work; where even when you are not working because of sickness, bad weather or a day off, you still have to pay. The job comes with constant scrutiny, and if you make a small mistake, you might either have to pay more fees or lose your job without future opportunity to work again.

You often experience police harassment and overzealous targeting for tickets and fines at the hands of code enforcement inspectors. The job is among the top 10 lowest-paying, most dangerous jobs in the United States, and includes extremely long hours with no benefits. When you work, you can expect to clean up body fluids, deal with aggressive and inebriated people, and receive constant mistreatment. But you take this job because often it is the only job available to you, and you have a family to feed and bills to pay.

This is our story, as Miami-Dade’s taxi drivers who are not medallion owners — medallions being the prohibitively expensive for-hire license needed to operate a cab. Taxi drivers have to pay from $550 to $750 per week to lease a medallion, depending on whether we own the vehicle. We pay this fee (even if we are unable to work) to taxi companies that own or administer medallions. The majority of drivers do not own medallions. This means no time off unless we want to pay for it. Any small accident or fender-bender can cause the cab company to kick us off its insurance, which means no more job — unless we pay the company $2,000 and fix the car ourselves, as the cab company’s insurance only covers the passenger, not us or our cars.

These same cab companies denounce the illegality of Lyft and Uber, calling for the arrest of their drivers. Yet, stories abound of code violations by taxi companies, including charging drivers extra fees after an accident because they know that drivers are desperate to keep their job. Additionally, cab companies rarely provide drivers with their contracts, despite the code provision that requires otherwise.

New Vision Taxi Drivers Association has been organizing since 2003 for better working conditions for Miami-Dade taxi drivers. Most of us make poverty-level wages, even after working 16-hour days, because of hefty leasing fees. Some of us have started to work as Uber of Lyft drivers as the only way out. When we work with taxi companies, we pay them 80 percent of what we make; when we drive for Uber or Lyft, we keep 80 percent of what we make.

Our association supports legalizing Uber and Lyft in Miami-Dade, while keeping a watchful eye on their treatment of drivers. We would like to see our contracts printed out and carry copies of the insurance policies. These new ride-sharing companies must not follow in the footsteps of taxi companies. Instead, they should commit to implementing standard processes and transparency around driver dismissal and provide clear methods of communicating with company managers.

 
FLORIDA LEGAL SERVICES TO FLORIDA LEGISLATURE – EXPAND MEDICAID FOR ALL

 

 

The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) provided a path to affordable  coverage in two ways: 1) by providing subsidies to people with moderate income so that they could purchase affordable coverage through the Health Insurance; and 2) by greatly expanding Medicaid to cover most low income adults. However, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the Medicaid expansion was a state option.  So far, the Florida Legislature has chosen not to expand Medicaid. even though the federal government will pay virtually all the increased costs.  We want everyone to understand the importance of the Florida legislature accepting this generous federal funding and covering more than a million people.  Florida’s current Medicaid program only covers adults who are disabled, or pregnant, or have minor children. And even if a person does have children, the current Medicaid income limit is very low. a single parent can only earn $5400 a year. If Florida expanded Medicaid, virtually all low-income adults would be covered and the income limit would be greatly increased.   For example, a single parent could earn up to $21,707 and still be eligible and low income nondisabled adults without children could also receive coverage.   The $50 billion in federalfunding that would pay for this expansion over the next 10 years would not only help save lives andimprove health outcomes; it would serve as a boost to the economy and create over 120,000 new permanent jobs in the state. All the information you need is available here.  If you still have questions regarding eligibility or the campaign to expand Medicaid contact Miriam Harmatz at Florida Legal Services - 305 573-0092 ext 206

 

 
BROOKLYN LAW STUDENTS SPEND SPRING BREAK HELPING CJP

  

 

 

CJP thanks Sarah Khan 2L, Anita Yee 2L and Jerehme Bamberger 1L, Brooklyn Law students who spent their 2014 Spring Break helping CJP represent our clients.  
 

 

 
STUDY SHOWS POOR MIAMI RENTERS PAY TOO MUCH RENT FOR SUBSTANDARD, OVERCROWDED HOUSING AND ARE WITHOUT LEGAL PROTECTIONS

In 2008, the Power U Center for Social Change, created the Renter Majority Project (RMP) in response to growing epidemic of substandard conditions and illegal evictions in the low-income historically African-American neighborhood of Overtown. As one of its initial projects the RMP began a study of renter conditions with the assistance of the Data Center and the  Community Justice Project (CJP) of Florida Legal Services.  The results of that study have just been released.   (The full study is available here.)

 

OUR HISTORY

 Formally begun in 2008 by  Chuck Elsesser, Jose Javier Rodriguez and Purvi Shah, the Community Justice Project now consists of Chuck and Meena Jagannath.  The Project is dedicated to working with its many community partners in their efforts to organize and empower the low income communities in Miami and throughout Florida. During the past two decades, there has been a dramatic resurgence in both the number of grassroots organizations in South ...

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