By: Elena Richardson, Grants Program Manager for The Fund for Santa Barbara
From Casa Magazine published August 3rd, 2015.
For the first time in 16 years, people in Guadalupe can take the bus to Santa Maria on Sundays. The long overdue service may seem insignificant, but it makes a big difference to Guadalupe’s 7,000 residents, most of whom are Latino farm-working families. Guadalupe is ten miles west of Santa Maria in Northern Santa Barbara County, and the tiny town is isolated by the miles of agricultural fields surrounding it. For many Guadalupe residents, the bus is the only access they have to essential services in Santa Maria.
Farmworkers work six days a week, so “Sunday is the only day that many Guadalupe residents have to go into town to run errands, buy groceries, and plan activities with their children,” said Hazel Davalos, Community Organizing Director at CAUSE (Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy). This is why CAUSE has worked for two years to make Sunday bus service a reality.
Equitable access to public transit is only one of the many issues that CAUSE is working on at any given moment. CAUSE’s community organizing is characterized by leadership training and constituent-led campaigns. Employing grassroots leadership and coalition building, CAUSE has successfully passed five living wage ordinances benefiting thousands of workers in Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties; stopped environmental health hazards like the liquefied natural gas terminal in Oxnard and the metal scrapyard in Santa Maria; and expanded public transportation throughout the region while improving bus access in farmworker communities.
CAUSE helped focus the community’s protest of a proposed ICE Detention Facility in Santa Maria in early 2014. The city’s planning commission had to move its meeting to the fairgrounds to accommodate the crowd of over 3,000 who wanted to be heard–the largest protest in Santa Maria’s recent history.
CAUSE began as two separate organizations: CAUSE in Ventura County in 2001 and PUEBLO in Santa Barbara County in 2003. Both organizations emerged during the living wage movement and each won milestone victories in their respective counties. In 2012, the two organizations merged, creating a regional force for social, economic, and environmental justice.
The Fund for Santa Barbara, a progressive community foundation, has provided core support and funding to CAUSE over the past 14 years.
Estela Cortez has volunteered with CAUSE as a committee leader since 2008 because, she says, “I saw how people in my community were being abused, and I wanted to speak up against that abuse.” One of the barriers to organizing in her community, Estela says, is access: “our constituency works from sunrise to sunset; they have children. I can’t blame someone for not showing up to a city council meeting that may or may not have [Spanish] interpretation”.
Despite the challenges, CAUSE continues to organize everyday working people to create the social, economic, and environmental change that they want to see in their communities. To learn more, please visit http://causenow.org/