Stand up. Live Better.
Brave Walmart strikers are spending the week in Arkansas standing up to live better. Some have been on strike for more than a week already and aren’t planning to head back to work until they deliver a strong message calling for dignity and respect to Walmart executives and shareholders on Friday at the company’s annual shareholder meeting.
On Monday morning, the nearly 200 striking workers greeted the executive staff at Walmart’s corporate headquarters as they arrived for work. For more than an hour, these workers stood in silence with tape across their lips holding signs telling Walmart to stop trying to silence them and other members of OUR Walmart. Then, in a roar, they removed the tape and began called out “Stand up! Live Better!” and other chants and songs.
It has been a blessing to join these workers during the week. Workers organized direct actions, store visits to local Walmart stores and canvassed residents and businesses here in Bentonville, Ark. all week. They're working from all angles to change the culture of Walmart to one of respect and dignity.
Tonight at 6:30 p.m. CST, they'll join other leaders from across the globe and host a forum of all Walmart stakeholders including store workers, workers along the supply chain, community members, and faith leaders including IWJ’s Kim Bobo.
Join us tonight online (we'll have the live stream below) and be sure to tweet @IWJnational using the hashtags #Faith4WmtRespect and #WalmartStrikers and let Walmart workers know you are standing with them in the struggle for change at Walmart.
People of faith are calling on executives from Patriot Coal to protect the healthcare benefits and pensions of retired union coal minors who worked for Peabody Energy.
Peabody Energy created the company Patriot Coal in 2007 and the company took on $1.3 billion of Peabody’s healthcare and pension obligations to retired union mineworkers.
Although Peabody is making soaring profits, Patriot Coal is filing Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The company now is looking to terminate benefits in the union contract for more than 20,000 retired Peabody mineworkers who never worked a day at Patriot Coal.
Mineworkers have one of the most dangerous jobs in the country, and rely on the good healthcare benefits in their union contract. Patriot’s attempt to terminate those benefits is troubling for people of faith; many are working with the labor community in St. Louis (where the two companies are headquartered) and across the region to organize support and action.
Nearly faith leaders signed an open letter urging the corporation’s leaders to protect the pensions and healthcare benefits promised in the Peabody contract. Union leaders plan to deliver the signed open letter to Patriot leadership next week.
As Christians begin our Lenten journey this year, I was touched by a Homily I heard yesterday at a small Catholic parish in D.C.
During this season we are asked to strip away the excesses obstructing our connection to God, and to intentionally build our relationship with the Spirit. Micah 6:8 tells us exactly how to do this.
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
It’s so simple and yet so daunting in the world where we live, especially considering why I was in D.C.
This week, IWJ organizers and affiliates joined workers and advocates for immigrant justice from across the country for a convening of the United Workers Congress.
Together with organizations like Jobs with Justice, the National Domestic Workers Alliance, and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, National Guestworker Alliance and National People's Action, we met workers and organizers and worked on national strategy to push lawmakers for fair reform.
During the two day convening, we shared stories and struggles in our broken immigration system.
Stories like the four undocumented workers from a warehouse in New Jersey who were misclassified as independent contractors and forced to clean their bosses’ homes on the weekends without overtime pay or lose their weekday job. One worker couldn’t clean on a Saturday, and the workers were unjustly fired. While the Department of Labor was able to recover nearly $40,000 in back pay, they did not proceed with the workers’ retaliation claim because of their immigration status.
We’re fighting for inclusion, as NDLON’s executive director Pablo Alvarado said at the convening. It’s a core part of worker and civil rights. The abuse of the most vulnerable workers is a crisis people of faith need to support fixing.
Let us use this Lenten season to renew our push for comprehensive immigration reform that raises the standards for all workers in America, paves the way to citizenship and stops the breaking up of families.
Join Interfaith Worker Justice and call for justice for the immigrant, mercy for those who are abused and exploited because of their immigration status and walk humbly with your God.
This week lawmakers announced plans to make immigration a serious issues in 2013. A group of eight Senators (four Democrats and four Republicans) developed outlining principles for comprehensive immigration reform. While all their policies don't reflect the values IWJ and our affiliates support, we are encouraged by the nod that serious discussion around immigration reform would be underway.
As people of faith, we honor the economic contributions made by immigrant workers. The faith community is preparing to push Congresspersons across the country to support comprehensive immigration reform and call for stronge labor laws and enforcement around the abuse of undocumented workers.
"Immigrants come to the U.S. to work, and yet when they are kept in the shadows without a path to citizenship, they are easily exploited and undermine standards for all workers," said IWJ's Executive Director Kim Bobo. "Thus, it is right morally and economically to create a clear and quick path to citizenship for immigrants. We should “welcome the immigrant” now."
IWJ and our affiliates are developing resources to help allies, congregations and denominations talk about immigration and what faithful reform should look like.
As a member of the Interfaith Immigration Coalition, IWJ affirms the coalitions policy reccomendations, including:
- Address the cause of migration
- Create a process for undocumented immigrants to earn citizenship
- Keep families together
- Enact the Development, Relief, and Education for Minors (DREAM) Act.
- Protect Workers' Rights, including agricultural workers
- Place humanitarian values at the center of enforcement policies
- Protect refugees and migrant survivors of violence
Workers, labor leaders, unions and allies pushed for some really awesome worker justice campaigns in 2012, according to an article published by AlerNet on Dec. 31.
IWJ supporters and allies, clergy and people of faith stood beside workers in a number of the struggles highlighted by AlterNet.
IWJ is working closely with organizers from Making Change at Walmart to develop close relationships among faith leaders in communities across the country and workers and groups supporting better pay and working conditions at Walmart stores and across the supply chain. People of faith hosted more than 100 prayer vigils, flash mobs and letter delegations to local Walmart stores on Black Friday calling for Jubilee at Walmart and urging the corporation's executives to start listening to workers' concerns rather than punish or bully them for speaking up.
In 2013, IWJ organizers plan to beef up their support for Walmart workers and connect more faith leaders and people of faith to their local Walmart work by reaching out to more congregations across the country.
Chicago Teacher's Union
In September, Chicago teachers stood up to the Chicago Board of Education. More than 30,000 teachers and thousands of supporters called for better working conditions, more fair evaluation processes and drew national attention to the privatization of public school systems. People of faith stood beside the CTU as organizers pushed for grass-roots and community supported actions. IWJ's Chicago affiliate ARISE Chicago activated members and supporters to join the teachers in the first strike since 1987. IWJ Chicago staffers also joined the picket lines in the morning before heading into the office for work.
Interfaith Worker Justice and affiliates worked on other amazing campaigns for workers in 2012. Together we look forward to 2013 as we begin work strengthen the rights of workers.
People of faith are remembering the victims of the tragic fire at Tazreen Fashions in Bangladesh at candle light services across the country this weekend. It’s one small way we can affirm to workers the dignity of a safe workplace and urge corporate leaders and lawmakers to put people’s lives ahead of profit.
The factory fire at Tazreen Fashions, which produced Faded Glory brand clothing, is a grave concern to many of us, as consumers and as people of faith. In the fire 112 workers lost their lives due to management's negligence.
Walmart is not acting responsibly nor ethically when it allows working conditions that put the lives of workers in danger. All faith traditions affirm the dignity of work. As people of faith we stand with workers and ask Walmart to support a full and transparent investigation, to publish all audit reports relating to the factory fire, and to adopt meaningful measures to prevent future incidents all along its supply chain.
In the faith community, we are extremely concerned about the corporation’s poor labor practices in the U.S. and abroad. We demand that the company's executive leadership make the necessary changes to make Walmart an ethical employer that honors the lives and dignity of all its workers. The factory fire was just one example of the difficulties Walmart workers suffer because of the corporation’s unethical labor practices.
Worker advocates are also pushing Walmart to work with local and global unions and labor rights organizations on a safety agreement that would allow for independent inspections with public reporting, mandatory repairs and renovations, and a central role for workers and unions in both oversight and implementation. The agreement would call for supplier contracts with sufficient financing and adequate pricing, and a binding contract to make these commitments enforceable.
People of faith and worker advocates are delivering a letter to store managers on Saturday, Dec. 22, asking managers to pray with them in honor of the lives lost and to support a safety agreement that would make working conditions safer all across the supply chain.
This Labor Day, many of us across the country will enjoy a day off. We might even pause and celebrate work and labor with our families and neighbors. Unfortunately, some low-wage workers will still be working, and it is those workers we should be celebrating and whose concerns we should be lifting up.
Employers are constantly finding new ways to cut costs, often at the expense of the very workers who help sustain their business. Workers suffer from low-wages that don’t provide adequate income and force families to go without necessities. They struggle with no health benefits, no paid sick days, and stolen wages. Since the economic crisis of 2008, many Interfaith Worker Justice-affiliated worker centers have reported a sharp increase in cases where employers were stealing wages from their workers.
On Labor Day, honor a worker with a gift to IWJ. Throughout the month of September, IWJ will feature honorees on our website.
Wow we have been busy at IWJ these last few weeks. Folks on staff and some of our affiliates, allies and supporters are finishing up preparations for Labor in the Pulpits/on the Bimah/in the Minbar programs at local congregations and faith communities all across the country.
Do you have any plans for Labor Day weekend?
Join the thousands of people of faith across the country and honor workers with your faith communities this Labor Day weekend. Together we can honor the Sacredness of Work and reflect, pray and lift up the issues affecting struggling workers in this economy.
It's not easy working these days! Immoral employers are cutting corners and stealing wages from hard-working employees. Nationally, minimum wage workers are working for an immorally low wage (if the Federal minimum wage just kept up with inflation it would be around $10.50 and hour). Some workers are pushing their employers for safer conditions. Lately, we've seen the institutionalized degradation of unions and collective bargaining rights in both public and private sectors. Together we must remember to honor the Sacredness of Work.
Every year for 15 years, IWJ and our affiliates and allies connect faith and work in a special way for Labor Day weekend. Programs include workers in the pulpits, discussion groups after service and special resources in bulletins and newsletters. Join us as we honor the struggle for respect and dignity for all workers, economic justice and fair treatment at work.
This is what religion looks like!
Last month, people of faith in two major Protestant denominations confirmed a commitment to workers and the struggle of working people in today’s economy at their national governing conferences.
Delegates from the Presbyterian Church (USA) met for the General Assembly in Pittsburg. The General Convention of the Episcopal Church convened in Indianapolis.
Representatives voted on resolutions urging each denomination to commit support for working people and work towards a more fair and just economy. This is what the resolutions outlined:
The Presbyterian General Assembly
- Approved a resolution recognizing its support for just compensation, pension and benefits for people and will "speak loudly on their behalf."
- Vowed to renew commitment to a living wage for all workers and offered support to minimum wage campaigns.
- Recognized its historic support of collective bargaining rights for wages, benefits and unemployment and commissioned a pastoral letter calling congregations to advocate for collective bargaining rights and directed the Office of Public Witness in the Church to advocate for those rights.
The Episcopal General Convention
- Agreed upon a resolution a resolution condemning Wage Theft and encouraging congregations to learn more about wage theft in their local communities.
- Encouraged Episcopalians to support efforts to stop wage theft by being responsible consumers.
- Vowed to support educational programs like IWJ's Labor in the Pulpits.
- Resolved to build networks in the labor movement and work with those in the labor movement to strengthen for a more just society
- Opposed legislative attempts that eliminate or reduce collective bargaining rights.
- Consider union rights when making purchasing and contracting decisions
Both denominations approved all worker justice related resolutions, recognizing the Church's role in advocating against economic oppression and injustice and to work to alleviate poverty in the world. That's pretty great, right?!?
Join IWJ in thanksgiving for these resolutions, and tell officials of both congregations Thank You!