Greater Boston Interfaith Organization
The Greater Boston Interfaith Organization (GBIO) was founded by a group of 45 clergy and community leaders who began meeting in January of 1996. These founders were motivated to create a new organization that could build relationships across Boston’s historic race, class, religious, and neighborhood divides, and provide a new vehicle for different constituencies to act together on common interests. In November of 1998, GBIO held its founding assembly. GBIO now consists of 44 institutional partners, mostly congregations – Jewish, Muslim and Christian of every stripe, urban and suburban, white, African-American, Haitian and Latino.
The Greater Boston Interfaith Organization (GBIO) is now a broad-based, multi-issue organization that works to coalesce, train, and organize the communities of Greater Boston across religious, racial, ethnic, class, and neighborhood lines for the public good. Our primary goal is to develop local leadership and organized power to fight for social justice. GBIO strives to hold both public and private power holders accountable for their public responsibilities as well as to initiate actions and programs of our own to solve community and economic problems.
GBIO is affiliated with the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) , the nation’s first and largest network of multi-faith citizen organizations. Today, the IAF is made up of 65 organizations working in cities and metropolitan areas across the country, on issues ranging from healthcare to education to housing. GBIO works most closely with the 20 IAF organizations operating in the East, Midwest, and Southeast that have joined together to form Metro-IAF.
How is First Church connected to GBIO?
First Church in Cambridge has been an active member of GBIO since 2006. Over the years, First Church members have been active participants in GBIO’s Healthcare, Aging with Dignity, Debts to Assets, Anti-Usury, Dearborn School and Gun Violence Prevention campaigns. First Church has turned out more than 75 of its own members for recent GBIO events and regularly attends the quarterly or so GBIO Delegate’s Assemblies. Rev. Dan Smith has been serving on the Strategy Team (Board of Directors) since 2008 and has been Vice President since 2011.
What has GBIO Accomplished?
GBIO has had many achievements, some of which have earned it a serious credential with both city and state policy makers:
❖ Affordable Housing Trust Fund:
In 2000, GBIO collected 125,000 signatures on a petition calling on the state legislature to make new funding for affordable housing a top priority. A year of organizing and legislative advocacy led to the creation of the state’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund. To date, 416 million dollars have been invested by this fund toward the creation of or preservation of 25,000 units of affordable housing across the state.
❖ Boston Public Schools Text Books:
In 2002, GBIO leaders discovered that many of their children in Boston Public Schools had no textbooks to bring home at night. Leaders from across the city came together to work with Mayor Menino and the school committee to secure $2 million in funding for textbooks.
❖ Civil Rights for Nursing Home Workers:
In 2003, GBIO’s Haitian congregations organized to improve conditions for certified nursing assistants (CNAs) who worked in nursing home situations that were unsafe for them and their patients. Our organizing led to then- Attorney General Thomas Reilly issuing an unprecedented Advisory to the Nursing Home industry
clarifying the civil rights of nursing home workers. It also led to mandatory training sessions for industry leaders regarding how to properly protect the rights of these workers on a daily basis.
❖ Financial Literacy Program:
In 2004, GBIO successfully negotiated with Citizens Bank to fund and begin the Moving from Debt to Assets program, a groundbreaking financial education and empowerment program. Over 900 community members from 23 institutions across GBIO have graduated from the program. Classes have been held in Haitian Creole,
Cape Verdean Creole, Spanish and English. Class members who satisfy the requirements for graduation receive a cash grant from the program to begin a savings program, now totaling over $400,000 invested in these students’ futures.
❖ Heath Care Reform:
In 2005, GBIO joined with the ACT! Coalition to expand access to quality affordable healthcare to people across the Commonwealth. GBIO leaders collected over 55,000 petition signatures as part of the coalition’s 130,000 total signature collection in support of comprehensive health reform. This organizing work led GBIO to have significant influence on the passage of the Massachusetts health reform law. Over 450,000 previously uninsured got health insurance under the new law. MA health reform became the model for the federal Affordable Care Act.
❖ Access to Information for Elders:
In 2008, GBIO’s Aging with Dignity campaign negotiated an agreement with the Massachusetts Executive Office of Elder Affairs to create better systems to guide families caring for aging parents. The State committed to and delivered on: (1) a re-design of the Elder Affairs website, (2) adoption of standards for the Information & Referral workers fielding phone calls, and (3) a vigorous marketing and public education campaign as soon as the website and phone referral systems were established.
❖ Subsidized Transportation and Website for Seniors in Newton:
In 2009, GBIO’s Newton Congregations successfully negotiated with the city of Newton to restore funding for subsidized transportation to seniors seeking to visit loved ones in nursing homes, attend religious services and get to doctors’ appointments. In 2010, the organization negotiated a commitment by Newton to re-do its website on senior services to make it user friendly.
❖ Rights for Haitian Immigrants:
In 2011, GBIO negotiated a commitment by the state to render Haitian immigrants who are in the state under Temporary Protective Status eligible for public housing.
❖ English as a Second Language Classes for Haitian Immigrants:
In 2011 an increase in the amount of English as a Second Language classes offered by various state agencies and schools, particularly for Haitian immigrants.
❖ Information about Small Minority and Women Owned Businesses:
In 2011-2012 GBIO organized the Greater Boston Business Alliance, an alliance of small, local minority-owned and women-owned businesses in Boston.In 2012 the Alliance and GBIO negotiated an agreement with the city of Boston under which Boston would systematically collect the data representing the amounts and percentages of dollars going to minority owned and women-owned small and local contractors for every construction project in the city in which there was city funding. The city began collecting that data on April 15, 2013, and no contract with a general contractor can now be signed without the general contractor providing this data with regard to itself and all of its sub-contractors. The intention is to use this data to determine whether a fair percentage is going to minority- and women-owned businesses.
❖ Dearborn Middle School Renovation and Academic Turnaround:
In 2011, GBIO negotiated a commitment by the Boston Superintendent of Schools, the Mayor of Boston and the State Treasurer to turn the failing Dearborn Middle School in Roxbury into a state-of-the-art STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) school, with a state-of-the-art curriculum. This commitment includes both city dollars and a state bond, totaling $72 million, to pay for the school’s re-construction.
❖ Boston Public School Buses Running on Time: In 2012 GBIO organized a vigorous campaign to get the Boston Public School (BPS) school buses to run on time. City councilors were invited to join parents at bus stops to witness bus tardiness and numerous articles in the Boston Globe were generated. This work eventually led to buses running on time for 2012 and, in 2013, to the Superintendent contracting with a new bus company to ensure the start of the 2013 school year would be an on-time success.
❖ Heath Care Cost Containment:
In 2012 the passage of the nation’s first Health Care Cost Containment bill, requiring both medical providers and insurance companies to keep the growth of medical costs down to the growth of the overall economy for the next 5 years, and to 0.5% below the growth of the overall economy thereafter. The Attorney General appointed a co-chair of GBIO’s health care action team to the 11-person Health Policy Commission(HPC), created by the statute to implement the legislation.
❖ Public Accountability:
GBIO called for public accountability when, after the HPC determined that the Partners’ Health Care system’s purchase of South Shore Hospital would increase medical costs in the state by $53 million, the Attorney General nevertheless approved the deal. GBIO’s call for public review led to the Superior Court’s requirement for public comment before the court would approve the sale, and after a mountain of evidence was submitted supporting the HPC’s position, the court ruled against the sale - to keep costs down and bring notice to the fact that the HPC’s rulings have be taken seriously.
❖ Over 1,600 GBIO delegates attend May 12, 2015 Action:
On May 12, 2015 1,650 GBIO delegates met with Governor Baker, Attorney General Healy, Speaker of the House DeLeo and Boston Mayor Walsh, and negotiated the following public commitments:
Governor – to implement the new gun control law and require all MA police jurisdictions to trace each gun used in a crime back to the manufacturer who made it and dealer who sold it;
Mayor – (1) to work with the Massachusetts Historical Commission to resolve their concerns so the construction of the new Dearborn Stem Academy school building could begin and (2) to begin meeting with GBIO leaders on his “Boston 2030“ affordable housing plan;
Speaker – to make criminal justice reform (eliminating pre-trial jail for those too poor to post bail, repealing mandatory minimum sentences and returning drivers licenses to former felons after they completed serving their sentences) a priority in the upcoming legislative session; and
Attorney General – announced the Mariano Bill, supported by AG Healey, which seeks to make sure the HPC and the AG are on the same page regarding the MA health care market - and strengthens the significance of the HPC rulings in court.