In the summer of 2007, I met Kim Bobo for the first time. I was a few months into my role as an organizer at an IWJ affiliated worker center, Young Workers United, in San Francisco and not entirely sure what it meant to be an organizer.
I went to a lunch meeting with the executive director of IWJ. I didn’t really know who Kim was, but I got the sense that I should. Over lunch, we talked about how I got into the work (just three months prior) and how things we’re going at YWU. A lull in the conversation caused me to ask her a question that has influenced many things for me since.
I asked her what advice she had for a new organizer. Kim paused for a moment and I knew that she wanted to give me the right advice. She started to speak slowly and said just three things:
- Work harder than everyone else in the room if you want them to respect you.
- Find a mentor, someone in your field that is where you want to be and also that you like to spend time with, and meet with them regularly.
- Write. Write all the time. Write about the work so that people know you are thinking about it and you can shape the thinking around it.
I went home that night and wrote it down in a notebook (I still keep that notebook to this day). I would have never expected that one day I would be working alongside Kim, still striving to follow her sage advice and repeating it to other new organizers interested in guidance.
My time with IWJ began long before I was the coordinator of IWJ's National Worker Center Network. The organizers and staff of the affiliates and of IWJ's national office have become a huge part of who I am as an organizer and as a person. I have grown in the challenges of this work and the experiences of the people around me. For the opportunity to learn and share with all of you, I am grateful.
As I move on to continue my work in this movement for worker justice, I am also happy to leave a space for another leader to be a part of this family that the affiliated worker centers and IWJ have become for me. I look forward to continued growth, collaboration, victories and real advances in the struggle to bring justice to workers in this country!
The affiliate network is filled with capable leaders ready to helm the national work and guide new and developing worker centers with best practices and creative ideas.
Click here if you or someone you know would be a good candidate to lead the worker center network into its next chapter! I can't wait to see what amazing things come from IWJ and the amazing worker center network in the months and years to come!
The Northwest Arkansas Worker Justice Center and their allies scored a big win for wage theft prevention last week!
The NAWJC is leading the campaign against wage theft in Arkansas, and helped craft the language of the wage theft prevention law. After research and revisions to HB1881, the worker center as well as other allies of the statewide coalition presented a tremendous case to legislators. The chair to decide to create a special committee to review the legislation and introduce the bill in the next session this spring.
If passed, the law would:
- require employers to pay all employees by the next regular payday following termination or departure
- require the employers pay a civil penalty to the former employee if wages are not paid
- limit the wage deductions an employer can make to required taxes or other court ordered payments unless there is written authorization from the employee.
Members of the subcommittee responded to worker, Department of Labor, and other expert testimonies with overwhelming compassion and strong desire to end a terrible epidemic they had no idea was occurring in their very districts. Even members who do not favor pro-worker legislation could not deny that wage theft is hurting everyone and seemed to show no opposition for the advancement of the bill.
NAWJC is one of several IWJ affiliated organizations working on wage theft campaigns at the local or state leve. Learn more about wage theft.
For more information on the Arkansas Wage Theft Prevention bill, call the NAWJC at (479) 750-8015 or check out their website and facebook page.
Dianne Enriquez is the National Coordinator of IWJ's worker center network, and coordinating IWJ's national campaign against wage theft. She testified before the Arkansas sub-committee with our hark-working friends from NAWJC last week.
Photo courtesy John Lyon, Arkansas News.
Today, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on Arizona’s SB1070 in United States vs. Arizona. SB1070 is a wildly anti-immigrant legislation that has sparked a frightening national trend as several state lawmakers consider similar anti-immigrant legislation.
The decision made by the Supreme Court will determine if the United States has one national immigration policy or 50.
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed SB1070 in April 2010 in a flurry of controversy and public outcry. It has encouraged racial profiling, created fear and confusion across a general population unclear on how the law is enforced. SB1070 tears apart families and communities and pushes an already exploited class of workers farther out onto the margins of society and into hiding.
This is a new Jim Crow law.
Almost immediately after the law was signed, Arizona Interfaith Alliance for Worker Justice, reported a sharp increase in the number of wage theft cases—a direct result of employers using SB1070 as a shield to stop paying employees for their work. Employers believed most employees would be too frightened to defend themselves. In an already struggling economy, this type escalation in exploitation on the part of employers has lead to a further disenfranchisement of all workers in Arizona.
Today until May 1, across the state of Arizona and the rest of the country, thousands are gathering in protest of SB1070 and all other anti-immigrant legislation. As a movement of workers and people of faith in a global society, we must stand together and demonstrate that we are paying attention and will use our power to defend our rights as workers, families and communities. All religions believe workers deserve to live and work with dignity!
Contact Joe Hopkins for more information about actions in your area.