2015 Faith Works Honorees

Rev. J. Cletus Kiley

Mario Mercado 

The National Organizing Committee for the Fight for $15



Rev. J. Cletus Kiley

Rev. Clete Kiley has been a priest of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago for 41 years. He has served in many capacities including work as a pastor of a large immigrant parish in Chicago, as a diocesan administrator, and as a seminary rector.

Currently Fr. Kiley serves as the Director for Immigration Policy for UNITE HERE and as a Trustee of UNITE HERE Health, the Taft-Hartley health plan for the union’s members. He also serves as a Special Advisor to Archbishop Blase Cupich of Chicago.  He was recently elected the first chaplain for the Chicago Federation of Labor. In addition, he continues to serve as a Member of the Board of Directors of CPWR- the Center for Construction Research for the Building and Construction Trades. Fr. Kiley also serves on the steering committee for the Justice for Immigrants Initiative of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. He is also currently a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies at the Catholic University of America. Fr. Kiley initiated and oversees a project to train a new generation of Catholic Labor priests. More than 125 priests are now part of this network. He has served on the Board of Directors of Interfaith Worker Justice and was named a Fellow by the Catholic Scholars for Worker Justice. He recently joined the advisory board for Arise Chicago.

Fr. Kiley came to UNITE HERE from The Faith & Politics Institute where he served as President and CEO from June 2006 to July, 2010. Prior to joining the Institute, Rev. Kiley served as the Executive Director for Priestly Life and Ministry at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. He also served as a member of the team drafting The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, helped establish the National Review Board and the Office for Child and Youth Protection. He represented the USCCB at conferences in Rome, Lithuania and Poland, as well as at meetings of the Comision del Clero of the Latin American Bishops’ Conference ( CELAM) in Bogota, Panama City and Mexico City, and at meetings of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Priestly Life and Ministry and the Comision del Clero of the Mexican Bishops’ Conference. He also participated in a USCCB delegation to the Church inCuba. More recently, he has served on delegations of the AFL-CIO Immigration Committee to the Central American Parliament in Guatemala City, and to the Comision de Asuntos Migratorios in the House of Deputies in Congreso Mexicano.

Fr. Kiley holds a Doctorate in Ministry from the University of St. Mary of the Lake, as well as a Master in Divinity Degree , and a Master Degree in Applied Spirituality (Ignatian) from the University of San Francisco. He is fluent in Spanish and Italian.

Mario Mercado 

A national of Argentina, Mr. Mercado came to Miami in 2001 with his wife and two daughters, Iris and Aylen Mercado. He worked picking vegetables in the fields of Homested, FL and washing dishes. He began volunteering at his daughters’ school, and soon formed a group with other parents who were interested in improving the health of the community. They undertook training on Health Prevention. Mario worked hard to give his children an education. In 2004, he moved to Memphis where he began working as a mechanic’s apprentice. There, he also volunteered at Latino Memphis and soon afterwards with the workers center, Memphis Workers Interfaith Network, giving workshops Know your Labor Rights.

As a member of TIRRC (2006) (Tennessee Immigrant Coalition Rights Refuge), he lobbied and gave also gave workshops on Knowing Your Rights as Immigrants. In 2012, Mario began working as an organizer in the downtown Nashville workers center, "Workers Dignity". Since then, he has been organizing low-income workers to recover stolen wages and promoting economic justice.  Mario has created strong ties in the community of Nashville and in his spare time, he continues organizing and supporting workers in the Memphis worker center. He is also a member of the IWJ national network of workers and each year supports the Immokalee tomato pickers. During the Black Friday event in 2014, he worked 17 hours straight in the strike of the janitors, with his daughter Aylen, to support CTUL Minneapolis. Aylen is an art student in high school. She made the photographic documentation of the Minnesota actions. Father and daughters working together for the same cause of social and economic justice. Currently, his wife and daughters are activists. It is the fruit of the seeds he has sown.

The National Organizing Committee for the Fight for $15

The Fight for $15 National Organizing Committee seeks to raise the minimum wage paid to those working in the fast food industry up to $15 an hour. The campaign also focuses heavily on the right for these workers to form unions without being penalized by company management. The Committee provides several resources, including petitions, information on the rights of workers and corporate employees, and toolkits to workers everywhere who have decided to exercise their right to organize.

Full of passion and determination, the Fight for $15 has celebrated numerous victories, the most recent of which being the raising of the minimum wage in Los Angeles to $15. For more information, you can visit their website to read the latest instances of FF15 in the news and the stories of workers in your area who are striving to increase the minimum wage everywhere.