What can immigrant workers teach America about democracy?
On April 18, Interfaith Worker Justice and Arise Chicago teamed up with the political scientistPaul Apostolidis to explore this question at a thought-provoking event for his new bookBreaks in the Chain: What Immigrant Workers Can Teach America about Democracy held at the Harold Washington Library Center.
An audio recording of the event is available here, but it doesn't do justice to the multilayered texture of the presentation, a PowerPoint rich with photograhs and quotations from workers, from advertisements, from social theorists, and other sources. A video will be available soon -- check back for that.
As the publisher's website says of Breaks in the Chain, the book:
investigates the personal life stories of a group of Mexican immigrant meatpackers who are at once typical and extraordinary. After crossing the border clandestinely and navigating the treacherous world of the undocumented, they waged a campaign to democratize their union and their workplace in the most hazardous industry in the United States. ... Examining their personal narratives, Apostolidis recasts our understanding of the ways immigrants construct and transform social power. ... Linking stories of immigration to stories about working on the meat production line--the chain--he reveals the surprising power of activism by immigrant workers and their allies and demonstrates how it can-and should-promote social and political democracy in America.
I was honored to give the introduction at the event. Shelly Ruzicka of Arise Chicago provided a wonderful overview of the work that organization does defending the rights of immigrant workers in the city.
Following the event, Shelly and Gabriela Rivero (Arise Chicago's Worker Center Member Organizer ) and I joined Paul for this photo outside the library.
Also check out Paul's recent blog post "Working conditions, the battle at Tyson, and the Wisconsin moment".
MEDIA ADVISORY for March 29, 2011
Kristin Ford, Faith in Public Life, 202-459-8625 , firstname.lastname@example.org
Danny Postel, Interfaith Worker Justice, 773-728-8400 x24, email@example.com
Faith Community Rallies Against Attacks on Workers, Middle Class
Interfaith Worker Justice, NAACP announce plans for "We Are One" Events across U.S. on April 4
Faith leaders, workers, and labor leaders will hold a telephone press conference on Tuesday, March 29 at 2:00 EDTto announce coordinated actions across the country on Monday, April 4 and the weekend before to stand up for working families.
Martin Luther King was assassinated on April 4, 1968 while fighting for workers' rights, and in commemoration, the faith community will stand alongside civil rights organizations, labor unions, and people from coast to coast under the banner We Are One to advocate for working families.
The religious and labor leaders on the call will stand up for police officers, firefighters, nurses and caregivers, teachers, students, and working families who are under attack. Right-wing ideologues and political leaders in states like Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, and others are proposing drastic cuts that would hit hard-working public sector employees and middle-class families hardest.
WHAT: Telephone press conference announcing coordinated "We Are One" actions to stand up for working families
- Rev. Nelson Rivers III, Vice President for Stakeholder Relations, NAACP
- Mario Ramirez, Worker at a manufacturing company and leader with Voces de la Frontera Worker Center in Milwaukee (an affiliate of Interfaith Worker Justice)
- Arlene Holt Baker, Executive Vice President, AFL-CIO and board member, Interfaith Worker Justice
- Rev. Frank Raines III, Pastor, Dexter Avenue Church in Detroit, Chairman of the Labor Relation Department of the National Baptist Convention, U.S.A. and board member, Interfaith Worker Justice
- Jonathan Currie, National Organizer, Interfaith Worker Justice (moderator)
Tuesday, March 29, 2011 at 2:00 p.m. EDT/1:00 CDT
DIAL-IN INFO: 888-674-0222 , call ID: "We Are One"
RSVP: Please RSVP to Kristin Ford at Faith in Public Life to reserve your place: firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-459-8625
In December IWJ launched Faith Advocates for Jobs, a campaign aimed at tackling the unemployment crisis through national advocacy, educational outreach, and organizing unemployed worker support committees in congregations.
Faith Advocates for Jobs has now produced a toolkit for congregations that want to get involved with the campaign. Standing With the Unemployed: A Congregational Toolkit can be downloaded here (it's a PDF).
In the toolkit you'll find:
- Campaign Goals
- Worship Resources
- Congregational Pledge
- What Can Your Congregation Do?
- Coming Together in a Time of Crisis
- Getting Immediate Help to Unemployed Workers
- The Spiritual Meaning of the Economic Crisis
Please download the toolkit and let others know about it -- via e-mail, facebook, listservs, or however you share information.
Rev. Frank Raines III is a member of IWJ's Board of Directors and is the pastor of Dexter Avenue Church in Detroit. He wrote the following statement in his role as Director and Chairman of the Labor Relation Department of the National Baptist Convention, U.S.A.
As Director and Chairman of the Labor Relation Department of the largest body of Black Baptist Believers, We the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. must acknowledge that we represent a body of not only "Worshippers and Believers" but, many of our constituency are laborers across the county. Some states are "Right to Work" states, but we have no control over that; some are non-labor states, and most are labor states. We could not stand idly by without expressing grave concerns over these misfortunes of legislation that's affecting many of our citizenry.
Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana and several other states must acknowledge labor laws exist to protect the workers. We massage the fact that compromise is imperative but we cannot allow the dark days of slave labor, conditions and unfair wage practices set us back hundreds of years.
As the representives of this agust body, we must stand on the side of laborers' rights and principled compromise that's equitable for everyone.
Frank Raines, III
Labor Relation Chair of NBC, USA, Inc.
You've helped us build the movement.
Join us to celebrate!
Benefiting 15 years of Interfaith Worker Justice.
We invite you to celebrate with us to honor leaders in the worker justice movement and to network with over 400 members of the IWJ community:
Monday, June 20, 2011
6 - 9 p.m.
DePaul University, Chicago
with Live Entertainment and Silent Auction
Tickets will be available for $100 each.
For more information please contact Dani Samons at email@example.com or 773-728-8400 x18.
IWJ's Executive Director Kim Bobo has a pointed Letter to the Editor in today's Chicago Tribune in response to a harrowing article about an undocumented immigrant worker who became quadriplegic as a result of a work accident and was moved to Mexico against his will. Kim's letter appears at the end of the batch in today's Voice of the People section -- scroll down to the bottom of the page, or read it here:
The appalling story of Advocate Christ Medical Center whisking away an undocumented quadriplegic man without his consent and dumping him in a woefully inadequate facility raises questions about charity care and immigrants ("Seriously injured, abruptly deported; Area hospital's decision to send undocumented quadriplegic man back to Mexico angers many," Page 1, Feb. 7).
Advocate clearly shirked its responsibilities. But Advocate is not alone. The employer and government health-and-safety-enforcement agencies share blame.
Quelino Ojeda Jimenez fell from a roof on which he was working. The young man was hired by a contractor who was hired by Imperial Roofing Group, whose owner, Anthony Ritter, said he wasn't sure if the subcontractor carried active workers' compensation.
Well Ritter should know. Employers who hire contractors and subcontractors should know if workers, who risk injury on their jobs, are covered by workers' compensation.
This worker's injuries should clearly have been covered by workers' compensation insurance, a no-fault system of benefits paid by employers to workers who experience job-related injuries. In Illinois, almost all employers, even those with only one part-time employee, are required to provide workers' compensation insurance.
Roofing is notoriously dangerous for workers. Falls are one of the leading causes of traumatic occupational death, accounting for 8 percent of all occupational fatalities from trauma. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires that construction workers have fall protection when they are working more than 6 feet off the ground. Jimenez fell backward more than 20 feet to the ground.
This worker's injuries should have been paid for by his employer's workers' compensation insurance, not his personal health insurance. Jimenez was not only failed by Advocate. His employer failed to ensure workers' compensation coverage; his employer and OSHA failed to ensure his safety on the roof.
Workers shouldn't risk their lives to put a roof over our heads. And when accidents occur, workers' compensation insurance should cover them.
- Kim Bobo, executive director, Interfaith Worker Justice, Chicago
2010 has been a challenging year for workers. Many have given up on a vision of full employment, fair pay for workers, and decent benefits. While it is tempting to give in to that sense of hopelessness and resignation, now is not the time to stand back on issues of fair jobs and the economy. We must act -- together.
For 2011, IWJ has mapped out a plan that will address issues of joblessness, wage theft and workplace injustices head-on. Among other things, we plan to organize and support at least 1,000 congregation-based job support committees, ratchet up our campaign against wage theft and continue to mobilize religious communities in campaigns to raise the bar for workplace standards.
We cannot do all that alone! We need your support. If you haven't already, please consider making a year-end contribution to support IWJ's campaigns and programs in 2011. Your contribution will be valued and used wisely to challenge despair and strategically improve wages, benefits and working conditions for our sisters and brothers.
To make a year-end gift, you can either mail a check to Interfaith Worker Justice, 1020 W. Bryn Mawr Ave., Chicago, IL 60660, or donate online by clicking here. For questions or more info, please contact me, Cathy Junia, at 773-728-8400 x 42 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
We've completely revamped our Toolkit on Wage Theft and made it available for downloading here. Here's the Table of Contents:
National Day of Action Against Wage Theft - November 18
What You Can Do
Sample/Template Press Advisory
Wage Theft - A National Disgrace
National Legislation to Protect Workers From Wage Theft
Talking Points on Wage Theft Legislation: Answering the Opposition
Organizing a Congressional Wage Theft Delegation:
A Step-by-Step Guide to Legislative Visits
Wage Theft Questions & Answers
Faces of Wage Theft
State and Local Campaigns to Stop Wage Theft
- Case Study: The First County-Wide Ordinance Against Wage Theft in the Country
- Case Study: Fayetteville, Arkansas Passes Wage Theft Proclamation
- A Compendium of State and Local Legislation Against Wage Theft
Getting the Message Out about Wage Theft
- Talking to Religious Groups about Wage Theft
- Talking to Students about Wage Theft
- Talking Points for Unions about Wage Theft
- Working with the Media: Pitching Your Wage Theft Story
Educational and Religious Resources
Broken Laws, Unprotected Workers
Responsive Reading: Loosening the Bonds of Injustice
Educational Bulletin Insert: Stop Wage Theft
Congregational Study Guide for Wage Theft in America
‘Go Ahead, Try and Make Me Pay You': Wage Theft and S.B. 1070
The Imperative of Ending Wage Theft: An Interfaith Perspective
So download away -- and share the link!
A newly revised Wage Theft Toolkit will be available for downloading on IWJ's website very soon. Here are three pieces from the Toolkit that are useful to have as stand-alone documents: