Interfaith Worker Justice (IWJ) is a national network that builds collective power by advancing the rights of workers through unions, worker centers, and other expressions of the labor movement and by engaging diverse faith communities and allies in joint action, from grassroots organizing to shaping policy at the local, state and national levels. We envision a nation where all workers enjoy the rights to:
- Living wages, health care, and pensions that allow workers to raise families and retire with dignity
- Safe working conditions, free from discrimination
- Organize and bargain collectively to improve wages, benefits, and conditions without harassment, intimidation, or retaliation
- Equal protection under labor law - regardless of immigration status - and an end to the practice of pitting immigrant and U.S.-born workers against one another
- Fair and just participation in a global economy that promotes the welfare of both domestic and foreign workers
Grassroots worker centers, faith-labor allies and other groups in our network support workers and lead their communities and states in shaping policy and advocacy. The network includes more than 60 faith-labor organizations and worker centers across the country. See the full affiliate list here.
We provide training, programs, and support to our affiliates. If you are interested in becoming an affiliate, please contact Executive Director Laura Barrett.
Interfaith Worker Justice is overseen by a national interfaith board of labor and spiritual leaders. See the full board list here.
Organizers, policy staff, and trainers make up our staff, based in Chicago as well as Washington, D.C. and Texas. See the full staff list here.
In 1996 Kim Bobo launched the National Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice from her living room with a small $5,000 investment.
“I tried to think about in each denomination who were the best people on labor issues... and then I just tried to recruit them all to the board,” Bobo recalled recently. She connected with 45 national religious leaders and activists -- including Rev. Addie Wyatt, Rev. James Lawson, Rev. Joseph Lowery, Rabbi Robert Marx, Monsignor Jack Egan and others.
“We did a huge amount of work in our first five years just talking to the religious and labor communities, organizing to get them in the same room,” Bobo said. “We really built a lot of the interfaith committees as organizing groups that work on labor issues, in that period.”
Worker centers were another group of constituents that emerged early on and continued to grow in importance. These grassroots groups are the leading and among the most innovative institutions in their communities fighting to raise wages and workplace standards for low-wage workers. They offer bold visions and exciting actions that are also connected to and supported by the larger progressive community.
With its base of grassroots faith and worker-center leaders, IWJ took an early lead role in criticizing Wal-Mart for forcing employees to work off the clock, not providing affordable or comprehensive health insurance, and refusing to pay an adequate wage. In 2006, we sued the United States Department of Labor to obtain the names of migrant agricultural workers who had been victims of unpaid overtime (in the end, they got their money).
We have been active in supporting higher wages for workers and the use of unionized laborers in the reconstruction of New Orleans, and condemned importation of lower-paid illegal immigrants to displace American workers. In 2010 we rallied to support unions as labor came under attack across the country. In 2013, we helped advocate for relief from deportations for undocumented youth and their parents.
In the decade or so since identifying and coining the phrase "wage theft," IWJ affiliates have worked tirelessly to pass local ordinances strengthening the penalties for employers who steal wages while lobbying at the federal level for a national pay stub standard and the codification of national legislation outlawing wage theft.
Since the election of Donald J. Trump to the White House, IWJ has been a leader in resisting the dangerous agenda of this Administration. We were at the forefront of the effort to defeat fast-food CEO Andy Puzder's nomination to lead the Department of Labor and have been in direct contact with DoL career officials to ensure that our partnership with the department continues to support working people, despite the current Administration.
IWJ faith leaders have been an integral part of the Sanctuary movement to protect undocumented people from detention and deportation as the Trump Administration ramps up efforts to deport immigrants.
Despite GOP control of the White House and Congress, we continue to push for national legislation to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour; to enact paid family leave; to win a national pay stub standard and help curb wage theft; to make every workplace safer and to hold accountable those employers that ignore safety regulations; and for the right of all working people to join a union and organize for dignity and respect on the job.
We will continue this work to improve the lives of working people everywhere regardless of the political landscape and the challenges we face.
Annual Report: Insist on Love
Read our program review of 2016 work: Insist on Love, Resist all Hate, Persist in Hope.