IWJ

Urge Support for Dream Act and Healthy Families Act

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Dream/Healthy Families Act

As Congress clocks out for the weekend many members of Congress can be proud of the shifts they put in this week. Two very important but very different pieces of legislation were introduced that, if passed, will improve the lives of millions of people living in the United States.

On Wednesday, Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard introduced the Dream and Promise Act of 2019 which will provide permanent protections for those whose protections were carelessly stripped away by this administration. This Act would provide a clear pathway to U.S. citizenship for people with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), Temporary Protected Status (TPS), and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) and others who are eligible for such statuses.

Though the bill is not perfect, and we remain committed to strengthening it, it is a big step in the right direction. One very important thing that this bill does NOT do is trade protections for some for increased militarization of our border communities or the detention of immigrant families.

On Thursday, Rep. Rosa DeLauro introduced the Healthy Families Act of 2019. This bill would create a national paid sick days standard so workers can take the time they need to recover from an illness, care for a sick child or family member, obtain preventive health services, or seek assistance related to domestic violence, stalking or sexual assault. Nearly 1 in 3 working people (more than 34 million private sector workers) in the United States don’t have access to paid sick days, threatening their financial security, their health, and the health of our communities.

Paid sick day laws currently exist, or will soon, in 10 states and 22 other jurisdictions across the country, and evidence shows that these policies are working well. Access to sick time shouldn’t depend on where a person lives or works. Everyone should be able to recover from illness or care for a sick loved one without risking financial insecurity or job loss.

Congress took the first step by introducing these two bills and now it is up to us. Take the next step and urge your Representatives to sign-on!

Big Victory For Poultry Workers As USDA Rejects Increased Line Speed Petition

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The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has rejected a National Chicken Council petition to increase line speeds in poultry processing plants. This is a significant victory for thousands of poultry workers across the country and a direct result of the worker-led coalition of IWJ affiliates and allies that have been organizing tirelessly for years on the issue.

Just last month IWJ affiliates, staff, and coalition leaders met with USDA officials to urge them to reject National Chicken Council’s proposed elimination of the line speed regulation and presenting the officials with hundreds of petitions signed by poultry workers. The USDA also received 100,000 public comments in opposition to the industry proposal.

Our coalition met with USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Carmen Rottenberg in Washington, DC

Under current rules regulating line speeds, working men and women resort to wearing diapers and forgo water breaks in sweltering processing plants just to keep up with current quotas. They work through serious injuries that frequently cause lifelong disability and chronic pain.

"We applaud the USDA decision to stop the petition of increasing the line speed in poultry processing plants," said Magaly Licolli, Executive Director of the Northwest Arkansas Workers' Justice Center, an IWJ affiliate. "This is a huge victory for thousands of poultry workers who often risk their health and safety by processing chicken at high speeds. However, we will keep fighting to assure poultry companies don’t get away with continue petitioning line speed waivers for individual processing plants.

So while we celebrate today’s decision by USDA, we know that there is much work ahead for IWJ, our affiliates, and our allies — together we will continue our organizing to challenge the already-breakneck speed and inhumane conditions that working people endure in so many poultry processing plants from coast to coast.


Bringing it Home for Mondel─ôz Executives

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After a four-month international investigation that resulted in the release of the Interfaith Worker Justice report Breaking Faith: Outsourcing and the Damage Done to our Communities alongside Congressman John Lewis in December, Mondelēz executives will soon receive at home a package including the Breaking Faith report and letters from faith leaders and members of Congress urging the mega-corporation to stop outsourcing American jobs to Mexico to avoid paying a living wage. 

The letter signed by 35 faith and labor leaders who comprise the Interfaith Worker Justice board of directors urges Mondelēz to “recognize the moral urgency in respecting your workers on both sides of the border by paying a living wage and ensuring stability of employment as an alternative, values-driven strategy that will at once bolster your bottom line, retain the loyalty of your consumers, and ensure a healthy return for Mondelēz investors while redefining your brand as one committed to worker justice and corporate stewardship.”

After attending the report release in December, Congressman John Lewis and four other members of Congress composed a letter to United States Trade Representative Robert E. Lighthizer using Mondelēz’s outsourcing to illustrate the need to ensure that trade agreements like NAFTA include “strong, enforceable labor standards that raise wages in Mexico and reduce incentives for offshoring; encourage domestic investment; and support well-paying American jobs.”

“Companies like Mondelēz must understand that treating its workers with dignity and respect while paying a living wage is both the right thing to do and a savvy business strategy,” said Doug Mork, president of the Interfaith Worker Justice board of directors. “Time and again, we see companies that commit to corporate responsibility and worker justice thrive in terms of positive brand association and increased consumer loyalty. We will continue to work to convince Mondelēz that a commitment to good, family-sustaining jobs on both sides of the border is good for workers and good for business.”

Where That Turkey Comes From

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Photo credit: Earl Dotter/Oxfam America

Each year as the holiday season approaches, the nation’s appetite for poultry products grows exponentially. Consumption of chicken and other poultry is on the rise every year, with just a handful of mega-corporations controlling the production and supply chains.

Now these same corporations are pushing the Department of Agriculture to ease rules regulating line speeds in poultry plants, putting the lives of the working people in these plants even further into danger. While the increased production will further pad the corporate bottom line, those working women and men being asked to work faster and faster will likely never see a penny.

This Thanksgiving week, as we gather together in gratitude for the blessings and good grace that we’ve experienced this year, please consider saying a prayer or offering explicit thanks for those working women and men in poultry processing plants, who all year long work at breakneck speeds, putting their own health and safety on the line.

The abuses in poultry plants are rife. The combination of lax regulation and the industry’s penchant for hiring undocumented workers create an environment where working people are either unaware or too afraid to seek recourse when they have been the victim of abuses ranging from illegal line speeds and other serious health and safety violations to indignities like the denial of bathroom or water breaks, even for pregnant or sick workers.

What’s more, big poultry corporations are lobbying Congress to pass the Agricultural Guestworker Act (H.R. 4092), which would allow them to hire unskilled immigrant laborers who often end up the victims of wage theft, human trafficking, or much worse and who have even fewer options for seeking justice in the face of these abuses.

Interfaith Worker Justice has long been part of a national coalition effort to end these abuses in poultry plants across the country. And we’ve seen real results.

But in the context of the Trump Administration’s war on workers, poultry corporations are going all in to try normalize these abuses as just part of doing business and leaning on the federal government to codify these abuses into accepted law.

That’s why Interfaith Worker Justice joined sixteen other faith organizations to call on Congress to reject the Agricultural Guestworkers Act and pass legislation banning the increased line speeds favored by the poultry industry.

You can read the letter here.

In the meantime, stay tuned for ways you can take action to bring justice to the poultry industry in 2018 and beyond!