Cynthia Brooke

Keeping Faith in Labor on this Labor Day and Everyday

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The US Department of Labor has a blog called "Keeping Faith in Labor."

Rev. Phil Tom has a nice post just in time for Labor Day.  He writes, "As a clergy member of the Presbyterian Church (USA), we believe that work is a Godly endeavor and as such, should be performed with integrity and contribute to the well-being and transformation of society. As part of our religious teachings regarding work, we are also directed to ensure that all workers are treated with justice."

The post has some good quotes and then he writes that members of faith communities are responding to their religious calling by working address injustices such as hazardous working conditions and workers whose wages have been stolen because of underpayment by their employers.

For the faith community, such service is intended to help uphold our country's labor laws and statutes, but it also appeals to a higher calling to support and to protect the life, dignity, and respect of each worker.

Well said, Phil!

Huckabee Tone Deaf on Immigration-America is Like Disney World

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Great post from The Plum Line- Mike Huckabee was asked whether he supports the anti-immigrant law in Arizona. He dodged the question and then gave a wimpy reference to Disney World.

He said "It's not my place to agree or disagree." He also said: "What does concerns me is that if it's not carried out and applied carefully, you could end up in the situation where people are indiscriminately stopped who are absolute citizens... America is a lot like Disney World in that once you get a ticket, you're in. You don't have to keep showing your ticket to keep riding the rides. That's the whole point of liberty."

Union busting techniques at work!

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When I worked at a state university a few years ago I saw the raw deal that adjunct professors had. A majority of them didn't hold full-time jobs elsewhere. They weren't hired to teach a single course for one term. They had been at the university for years, performing the same duties as full professors without the same pay. At the university I was at, full professors often did no research. So the main difference between the adjunt and full professors was in pay and benefits.

Adjunct professors often aren't entitled to benefits such as health care and retirement plans, and they are usually not given offices. At the university I was at they had to share office space. I know of once case where five adjunct professors shared an office the size of my walk-in closet. On top of that, they often had to teach at several universities to cobble together a living.

So, this union busting strategy of East-West University is no surprise.

According to Higher Ed, a few days after the Illinois branch of the National Education Association filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board for a union election to represent adjuncts at East-West University, they all received a letter. It said that all of the adjuncts were no longer employed, and would not be employed for the summer, and that full-timers would teach classes to be offered.

That will be difficult, since the university has 1,200 students and only about 18 full-time faculty members. It is only able to function with the teaching of more than 50 adjuncts.

The university claims that this action has nothing to do with the union drive going on. It's all just a coincidence.

Sounds fishy to me.


Push back on the anti-immigration law

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The Chicago Tribune religion reporter yesterday blogged that "Clergy condemn anti-immigration law, demand reform."

Yet, the religious response isn't enough to overcome the racist, fearful reaction from people in Arizona and across our country. While we need to tackle this within our faith communities we need to do more.

What is needed is a wide-spread push back on the anti-immigrant misinformation from recent months. Boycotts are a start. So are the online campaigns. We don't need to hear from the usual suspects. Fox, Drudge, Michelle Malkin, etc. don't add anything to the discussion.

We must hold our political leaders accountable- politicians like a former "Maverick" who has now flip-flopped on immigration to win a primary.

But, even more importantly, our friends, families, coworkers, and Facebook pals all need to hear from us. A movement starts with our voices.

It is easy to sit back and let our religious leaders to condemn the Arizona law. But, it is better to join the discussion.

Arizona's awful immigration law

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As you can imagine, we have been talking a lot about the racist and draconian new immigration law in California. We knew this was coming...  Ten other states are considering Arizona-style immigration laws.  Who? OK, MS, SC, CO, GA, MD, SC, TX, UT, NC.

I just heard from Kristin that PA and OH are also on the list. Please let me know if you hear any updates on what's going on.

Illinois House Passes Wage Theft Bill

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The Illinois House of Representatives has passed a measure aimed at strengthening the state's ability to fight wage theft. 

A recent University of Illinois-Chicago study brought new attention to the prevalence of companies short-changing workers. Ted Smukler is the policy director for Interfaith Worker Justice. He says organizations like his have been more successful at recovering lost wages than the state.

SMUKLER: You know these scrappy little organizations can do things government offices can't. They can take a group of workers to directly confront the boss or talk to the boss's customers. They can get them in touch with private attorneys. Government process on this is slow and redundant. And Smukler says that's why this bill is important.

Adam Kader of Arise Chicago says the law would streamline the state's process of helping workers receive money they deserve. 

The state Senate needs to approve a House amendment before the bill could go to the governor.

How has the economic climate impacted your faith community?

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Interfaith Worker Justice has a question for you: How has the current economic climate impacted your faith community? We have developed a congregational survey to answer that question.

Please take five minutes to complete the brief survey. Help IWJ get a snapshot of activities around the country that congregations and faith communities are doing to support neighbors and friends who have been affected by job loss. IWJ will compile the survey results and send them out over the next few weeks.