Laura Barrett, Executive Director

Laura Barrett, Executive Director

I’ve had the privilege over the course of my career to work for a better life for all working people, a goal informed and inspired by the traditions of justice present in my faith and in every faith.

During my time at Gamaliel, a network of community and faith leaders across the country, I helped grassroots leaders win millions in transportation funding. I worked with grassroots leaders to craft the Missouri Model of workforce diversity that led to jobs for thousands low income people, people of color and women in the construction trades.  As campaign director, I  had the privilege of working side by side with affiliate directors, board members and leaders on all kinds of cutting edge community organizing campaigns, including worker justice, affordable housing, education equity, voter engagement, and the civil rights of immigrants.

As Executive Director of the Center for Health, Environment & Justice (CHEJ) I secured the organization’s largest grant in ten years.  I worked with local groups to fight corporate polluters and bureaucratic red tape.  I headed up many of the monthly training webinars that improved the skills of local leaders and sharpened their campaigns.  I also worked directly with Just Moms STL to help them advance a bill in Congress, get results from local public officials and prod the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) into action on one of the worst Superfund sites in the country.  

With these experiences in mind, I’m eager to connect with the workers, the affiliates, and Interfaith Worker Justice’s staff and board to develop a comprehensive vision for where we can grow the organization and continue to be a national leader in the fight for worker justice.

Foremost, I believe Interfaith Worker Justice’s mission is to improve the capacity of its network affiliates. That means providing resources and support to the faith-labor organizations and worker centers who are organizing to improve workers’ lives in their communities each and every day. It means a focus on strengthening our network as the principal goal. Everything we do must improve the lives and increase the power of working people.

I also believe that an organization committed to justice must be nimble and able to quickly pivot to working on issues that we may not have foreseen, but that are too urgent to be ignored. With that in mind, Interfaith Worker Justice has an obligation to speak out against police brutality and the systemic oppression of black and brown lives in America. We will stand in solidarity with the movement for Black Lives, with refugees fleeing violence in Syria and Central America, with immigrants whose status means a life in the shadows.

I believe that we must engage and activate the younger generation of Americans. We must invigorate and agitate Millennials and urge them to take their future into their own hands by working all year round, every year, to create a political environment where candidates who share our values can be elected and have the space to operate and induce meaningful change.

Finally, I believe we must focus on organizing to move the next President of the United States to take bold action for worker justice in her (or his) first year in office. We’ve seen the challenges facing working people under both Democratic and Republican control of the White House and Congress and we know that regardless of the politics of the party in power in Washington, DC, we always stand ready to face the challenge of ensuring our leaders do what’s right for working people and families, not just those who have the resources to give huge donations or spend big money on lobbying efforts.

We must seek justice for all working people. This means an acknowledgment that a system that puts profit over people is a flawed system. We know that it will take a huge amount of work to create lasting change, but we also know that we are called by the Creator into this work: “... let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” Amos 5:24

I very much look forward to this journey with you.

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