South LA residents deliver trash from foreclosed Watts home

Esperanza Arrizon, Good Jobs LA

imageSouth LA residents determined to hold big banks accountable for cleaning up local communities, delivered trash from a vacant foreclosed home to BNY Mellon, one of LA’s largest holders of foreclosed properties. The action was held ahead of the LA City Council’s scheduled vote on amendments to improve enforcement of city’s blight ordinance.

After a devastating foreclosure crisis caused by greed and recklessness on Wall Street, thousands of bank-owned, foreclosed homes litter LA neighborhoods. These homes – often left unsafe and in disrepair – attract crime, drive down local property values and are a blight on LA’s communities.

imageLA has a blight ordinance that allows the city to collect $1,000 a day from banks that do not maintain their foreclosed homes. To date, LA has failed to collect a single dime from banks violating the law – a lost opportunity to hold irresponsible banks accountable and collect money to rebuild our neighborhoods.

Protesters held up signs reading “Banks Make Bad Neigbors.” One sign claimed banks owe the city of LA almost five million dollars in fines for ignoring the upkeep of foreclosed homes, allowing them to collect trash and centers for criminal activity.

“Big banks are devastating our communities, with blighted houses full of trash, crime, and poverty and taxpayers are covering the cost,” said South LA resident Angelina Jimenez. “It’s time to make the banks clean up or pay up.”

imageActivists collected trash from a home in dangerous disrepair on Wilmington Avenue in the Watts area and delivered three full bags to BNY Mellon’s lobby.

After the event, South LA residents went to city hall, calling on City Councilmembers to approve changes for better enforcement of the blight ordinance and to fine the maximum authorized amount for each bank’s failure to maintain their foreclosed properties.

The protest was organized by Good Jobs LA, SEIU Local 721 and the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment.

Activists complain foreclosed South LA homes promote blight

By Esperanza Arrizon
Good Jobs LA

Activists rode this bus on the foreclosed home blight tour.

On Thursday May 17th, activists from Good Jobs LA joined community members organized by the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) for a South LA blight tour.

The tour showed three bank-owned foreclosed homes in serious disrepair to demonstrate how big banks are hurting local communities by failing to maintain their foreclosed properties.

Garbage fills one of the foreclosed homes on the blight tour.

There are approximately 19,000 LA families in some stage of foreclosure right now. As a result, abandoned bank-owned and foreclosed homes litter LA neighborhoods.

These homes – often left unsafe and in disrepair – attract crime, drive down local property values and are a blight on LA’s communities.

“I’ve been living here for 20 years. That house over there is the worst in this neighborhood,” said Carlos, a neighbor of one of the homes on the blight tour who asked that his last name not be revealed.

Another foreclosed home on the blight tour.

“There is a lot of trash there and it makes our block look very bad. What’s worse is that drugs are being sold out of the house, even to little children.”

Wall Street banks crashed our economy and drove millions to foreclosure and now they’re leaving LA’s communities to clean up the mess.

Activists called on city leaders to enforce LA’s blight ordinance that allows the city to collect $1,000 a day from banks that do not maintain their foreclosed homes.

But LA is failing to enforce the law – a lost opportunity to hold irresponsible banks accountable and collect money to rebuild our neighborhoods.

Julian Corea and his son live next to one of the blighted homes on the tour.

“It’s time for banks to pay what they owe and take responsibility for the activity that goes on in their foreclosed homes,” said Julian Corea, another neighbor of one of the blighted homes on the tour.

“Banks haven’t paid their fair share. They need to pay so we can use the money for public services. Abandoned, foreclosed homes are bringing our property values down. The city needs to collect the money that these banks owe.”

South LA Shareholder Activists Confront Oil Company’s Leaders over Billions in Dodged Taxes

By Esperanza Arrizon
Good Jobs LA

imagePeople from struggling South LA communities took the message of the 99% to Occidental Petroleum’s annual shareholder meeting on Friday. Shareholder activists confronted company executives and directors over Occidental Petroleum’s billions in dodged taxes. Afterwards, they joined supporters for a protest outside the meeting location.

“We made our voices heard and delivered our message that tax-dodging corporations, like Occidental Petroleum, need to pay their fair share,” said Debra Taylor Padgett, a local resident who attended the company’s shareholder meeting. “I’m proud of what we did today and I’m proud to be part of the 99%.”

From 2008 to 2011, Occidental Petroleum – the country’s fourth largest oil company – made $15.8 billion in profits by extracting valuable oil resources from communities across California and the U.S. Occidental Petroleum executives and directors have rewarded themselves with millions – paying CEO Stephen Chazen $31.7 million in 2011 and members of its Board of Directors up to $1 million a year for part-time work – but the company is leaving the communities it operates in behind.

Occidental Petroleum paid only a 15.2% average federal tax rate and received $3.1 billion in tax subsidies over the past four years. At the same time, the company spends millions opposing efforts to compensate California for oil extraction, leaving California as the only state that does not tax oil production.

When profitable corporations like Occidental Petroleum fail to pay their fair share in taxes, communities cannot afford teachers, firefighters, police officers, health care and other essential public services.

“These corporations have to pay taxes! I had to pay property taxes even after my house was taken away and it just isn’t fair that companies like Occidental Petroleum get away with tax dodging, especially when so many communities that are struggling,” said Silvia Sanchez, a Compton resident who attended the protest.

South LA residents go to DC to “Take back the Capitol”

imageSouth LA residents Debra Taylor-Padgett and Irene Cruz are among a group of people who traveled to D.C. to “Take Back the Capitol.”

A group of about 22 people, mostly from struggling South LA communities, hopped on a red-eye flight on Sunday night headed for Washington, D.C. The objective: to “Take Back the Capitol.” They’ll be spending a “week of action” urging Congress to pass legislation that will help the unemployed and all others who identify as part of the 99 percent who are in need.

Among the South LA residents who embarked on the Good Jobs LA-organized trip is Debra Taylor-Padgett, a self-employed caterer from Inglewood, who works part-time.

“I felt it was my duty as a citizen to be here in D.C. to get a message across that we mean business,” she said via phone from the nation’s capital.

“This is an opportunity of a lifetime, to be able to represent the American public. The 99 percent are in need of jobs, of health care, of reform of our system. And the elected officials refuse to the job they’re supposed to do. They turned down the jobs bill. Nothing’s getting done in Washington. We need to hold our representatitves accountable.”

That’s why she signed on to be part of the South LA delegation that hopes to get its voice heard among the thousands of people from around the country that are expected to participate during “Take Back the Capitol” week.

According to Good Jobs LA organizer Refugio Mata, the South LA group spent Monday – the first day of this initiative – setting up camp on the National Mall. They will be going to Capitol Hill tomorrow, where they plan to target congressional offices.

They want to convince the elected representatives to pass legislation that will create good jobs and tax Wall Street banks, wealthy corporations and millionaires to avoid job-killing budget cuts.

“Our elected representatives need to remember we elected them,” says Taylor-Padgett. “We voted them in and they should know we can also vote them out.”

On Wednesday, the group will participate on a march on K Street – a major thoroughfare in downtown Washington, D.C. known for the high number of lobbying firms and special interest groups located there that play a big role in influencing Congress. They’ll also engage in a march and rally at the Capitol on Thursday, before returning home on Friday.

You can see a video of the group as they prepare to leave LA here:

Activists “occupy” foreclosure auction


By Jacob Hay, Good Jobs LA

More than 50 activists organized by Occupy LA and Good Jobs LA disrupted Bank of America’s auction of 7,000 homes – including homes in South LA – at the Norwalk Courthouse. The protest took place last Friday, December 2.
As Bank of America sold the homes of LA families to the highest bidder, protestors chanted “banks got bailed out, we got sold out,” “keep LA families in their homes” and held signs declaring “we are the 99%”. Activists also set up tents – a symbol of the occupy movement – in middle of the auction.

“We are here to stop Wall Street banks from throwing people out of their homes,” said Laura Jamie, a South LA resident who attended the protest. “My community has already been devastated by the foreclosure crisis and today Bank of America is making the problem worse. I’ve heard them auctioning off homes in my own neighborhood – on streets I drive down every day.”

The group called for a moratorium on foreclosures and for Bank of America and other Wall Street banks to end the practices that crashed the economy and continue to hurt LA communities.

South LA residents join Good Jobs LA march at Occupy LA

by Jacob Hay, Good Jobs LA


Hundreds of Occupy LA activists and about 100 South LA residents organized by Good Jobs LA marched in the downtown LA financial district while people around the country closed accounts at Wall Street banks on Saturday to support National Bank Transfer Day.

image“I’m tired of the way Wall Street banks are treating their customers and our communities, said Viviana Sepulveda, who closed her account at Bank of America on Saturday morning.

“After taxpayers bailed out Wall Street, the banks were supposed to lend money to small businesses, invest in our communities and create jobs. Instead, banks are continuing the same practices that caused this mess, failing to invest in jobs and putting people out of their homes,” she said.


“I’m retired and still doing my part to help my community. If these Wall Street banks don’t do their part, we’ll lose Medicare funding and in-home services for seniors and disabled,” said Doris Fletcher, a retired social worker, who closed a savings account with Wells-Fargo on Saturday morning. “The banks don’t care about us, so I’m moving my money to make a difference.”

Customers closing accounts on Saturday will transfer their funds into credit unions and other institutions that invest in communities and engage in more responsible practices.

imageSaturday’s march is part of a series of planned events in the downtown LA financial district to protest the corporate greed that is hurting local communities and killing good jobs. On November 9th, activists will march against budget cuts that threaten the jobs of teachers, firefighters and police.

On November 17th, hundreds will gather at a structurally deficient downtown LA overpass to protest Congress’ refusal to tax millionaires and wealthy corporations to pay for legislation that will create good jobs building LA.

Students Occupy LA

Jacob Hay, Good Jobs LA

More than 40 high school and middle school students from South LA, Compton and Inglewood, gathered at Occupy LA on Saturday to learn about the growing movement. The outing was organized by Good Jobs LA’s youth outreach program.

“I learned that a lot of people are struggling and about the inequality in our economy,” said Melissa Estrada student at Jefferson High School. “Wall Street corporations have all the money and they need to help fix our economy.”

“99% of the people are left with a scarce amount of money – and the top 1% has everything,” said Curtis Ray, a student at Lloyd High School. “They need to share some of that money. I’m working to do well in school but will there be good jobs for me? It’s too easy to be left behind.”


The students interviewed activists, participated in music and dance activities, stenciled arm bands and made their own protest signs. Students also shared their stories on the impact of the down economy, lack of jobs and budget cuts on their families and communities.

“Right now, it’s the 99% against the 1%,” said Shamvoy Smith, a student at Perry Middle School. People don’t have money for food, we’re losing teachers at school and we don’t have enough good jobs in our communities. We need to work together so that we make it 100%.”

Good Jobs LA has engaged more than 50,000 families in struggling LA communities on holding wealthy corporations accountable for fixing our economy and creating good jobs. In August, Good Jobs LA brought 230 high school students together for a two day youth leadership conference at UCLA. Saturday’s event was part of an ongoing effort to develop youth leaders in LA.

South Los Angeles residents rally for Obama’s job bill

Listen to an audio story by Annenberg Radio News

imageThe activist organization “Good Jobs LA” waved signs and handed out leaflets to passing cars on an overpass of the 110 freeway this morning in support of president Obama’s American Jobs Act.

The activists are residents of the South LA community and gathered on the overpass that is structurally deficient. If passed, the jobs act would provide funding for such projects.

Pamela Hall says the act would connect unemployment worries with infrastructure needs.

“Today we’re here in our first demonstration to show that this bridge needs to be fixed and create jobs and get jobs back to our community,” Hall said.

If passed, the act will save or create over 51 thousand jobs building California’s roads, highways, bridges and mass transit.

Jacob Hay said that passing the act would benefit the entire community.

“Well the condition of our country and our city, the roads, schools, bridges, it effects all of us,” said Hay. “LA traffic is the most congested in the nation. Potholes on the road contribute to the need for car repairs and accidents and creates dangerous conditions. And of course the unemployment crisis, that impacts everyone as well.”

Obama has been traveling around the US with the same message to gain support for the bill.

Unemployed workers hopeful on president’s job plan

Around 50 unemployed people gathered in Mercado La Paloma just off the Figueroa Corridor to watch President Obama speak about his American Jobs Act to a joint session of Congress on Thursday. The event featured two viewing areas where attendees could watch the speech in English or Spanish.

Larry Taylor, a former security guard now on disability hopes the plan includes an extension on unemployment benefits.

Many came with friends or family members. Larry Taylor came to watch with his union, United Service Workers West. Before the speech began, Taylor, a former security guard now on disability, said he hoped Obama would offer an extension on unemployment benefits and a jobs package with new growth in construction jobs, as well as better opportunities in the arts and sciences.

“We need people with good brains to be paid to use them,” Taylor said. He also shared his frustrations with Congress. “I’m tired of this obstructionist attitude. Now is the time to come together.”

He’s not the only one who felt that way. Once the speech began, people clapped when the president said it was time to stop the “political circus” and put Americans back to work. But the biggest reaction from the crowd at Mercado La Paloma came when Obama addressed some of the inequities in the current tax and income structure. Viewers shouted and applauded in agreement.

Paul Villegas expressed on concern on the growing social and wealth disparities in the U.S.

For John Paul Villegas, this is an argument that defines the social inequality in this country. “The people at the top are making so much more than they used to,” he said. “But the people at the bottom are still making next to nothing. How can anyone ever catch up?”

Villegas liked what he heard in the speech, especially the promise of tax relief that would provide a $1,500 tax cut to the typical American family, but part of him worries that it’s too good to be true.

“It sounded so good, but it’s up to the people to re-elect him. If he doesn’t win in 2012, the whole plan could be out the window,” Villegas said.

Rosa Gudiel, about to lose her home, is looking to the president to create jobs and help homeowners.

For some, the evening presented a chance to talk about an issue closely related to jobs – housing. Rosa Gudiel, speaking through translator Peter Kuhns, said she was in the process of losing her house, but was determined to fight to the very end to save it. “I hope that the president really can create more jobs,” she said. “Then maybe we could really help the economy by helping homeowners.”

The gathering at Mercado La Paloma was one of nearly 200 “job speech viewing parties” held in homes, community centers and parks throughout South Los Angeles hosted by community organization Good Jobs LA. The South LA-based non-profit organized the events to emphasize how unemployment is “the number one issue” affecting local communities.

Kitchen Table Summit asks for jobs

Some 200 residents gathered around mock kitchen tables in South Los Angeles to challenge Congressman Xavier Becerra (D-Los Angeles) to be a voice for jobs in the upcoming budget negotiations.  Becerra is one of 12 members appointed to the committee charged with reducing the federal budget deficit over the next ten years.  image

The summit was organized by Good Jobs LA which says the debate in Washington is dominated by budget cuts and protecting tax breaks for corporations. 

“Big corporations and the rich might be out of the recession but we’re still seeing the devastation of foreclosures, bankruptcies and layoffs in our communities,” said Jonetta Rivers, an Inglewood resident who lost her job as a real estate agent when the housing market crashed and now relies on public assistance to pay her rent. “Congressman Becerra needs to remember our voices as he negotiates with the ‘super-committee” – real people who are desperate for good jobs – not just the big corporations and Wall Street investors who caused this mess.”

imageBefore the summit, residents marched to an Exxon Mobil station at W. Adams Boulevard and South Figueroa.  Exxon Mobil is one of the companies that has benefited from corporate tax loopholes and has fought efforts by Senate Democrats to raise oil and gas taxes by about $2 billion a year for 10 years. 

According to Good Jobs LA’s Web site, “ExxonMobil earned nearly $10.6 billion the first quarter of 2011, which means the company made $116 million a day.  One week of profits could create more than 2000 green jobs, save childcare for 30,000 Californian children, or save the jobs of thousands of teachers by ending the entire LA Unified School District Deficit.”

Good Jobs LA claims that although corporations are sitting on almost $2 trillion in cash, they are not investing in jobs.  One in four workers in Los Angeles County is unemployed or under employed, according to the U.S. Labor Department.

Later on Tuesday, Rep. Becerra hosted a “coffee”  at the New World Open Academy in Koreatown, which, according to drew more than 100 constituents on Tuesday evening, many of whom asked him to continue his support of Medicare and Social Security.