Interfaith Worker Justice

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Mistead Sai

Dial-in for Comprehensive Immigration Reform

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Beginning today, March 12, until Thursday, March 14, people of faith across the country will take to the phone lines to ask elected officials to support real and inclusive comprehensive immigration reform.

The more calls, the stronger the message. Will you join us? Pick up the phone today and urge your representatives to support fair immigration reform that  includes a pathway to citizenship, protects all workers regardless of immigration status, and ends harsh enforcement of flawed immigration laws.

Click here to participate in this week's Immigration Reform Call-In Days.

Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering. 

-Hebrews 13:2

As I reflect on Hebrews 13: 1-4, I think about all the inhumane detention centers that hold hundreds of thousands of our immigrant brothers and sisters. These for-profit detention centers are making billions of dollars in profits by capitalizing on people's pain.

Every day, more than 11 million of our brothers and sisters - young and old - live in the shadows. Their immigration status makes them vulnerable targets for abuse and injustice, especially in the workplace. They live in constant fear of deportation and forced separation from their families and communities.  No person should have to live with that level of fear and alienation.

As people of faith, we are called to welcome and care for the strangers in our midst. As people of faith, we are called to take action and demand an overhaul of a broken, unjust, and inhumane immigration system.

 Call your representative TODAY!

On the Road Organizing for Immigration Reform

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“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” 

—Leviticus 19: 33-34

During the last few weeks I have been setting up district meetings in Pennsylvania with community members interested in helping out on the campaign for immigration reform. IWJ's Board President the Rev. Paul Sherry, former President of the United Church of Christ joined me on this road trip! We're expecting to hit four districts in four days as part of IWJ’s effort to move comprehensive immigration reform forward in key swing districts areas throughout the country.

Penn State imm meetingOur first stop. State College, Pa.

In State College, Paul, his lovely wife, Mary and I met with a student group leader and the student group advisor of Student Works At Penn State (SWAPS). This newly founded Penn State student group is mobilizing and educating students to achieve progressive change both locally and nationally. They believe students are the future of the labor force and should advocate for fair working conditions and policies that strengthen the middle class. SWAPS students are advocating for worker rights and immigration reform.

In a conference room of the Keller Building of Penn State, we conversed about the current issues surrounding immigration reform, and how we can collaboratively work to encourage our legislators in Congress to vote in favor of the eleven million undocumented immigrants.

Undocumented immigrants are facing hazardous working conditions and labor disputes by employers who are using their immigration status to threaten and intimidate workers from unionizing, organizing and speaking out. It’s really sad to think such things happen in the land of immigrants, but it’s sadly true.

As a US-2 missionary for the United Methodist Church working with IWJ, I try to contextualize my experience in the lens of faith, especially when it comes to immigration, I think that we should do as the Bible proscribed, we should welcome the stranger and sojourner in our mist for we were once strangers in the land of Egypt, and once strangers in the nation we’ve come to love.

To simply put it, Paul Sherry said it best during our State College convening, “People are hurting so badly. It’s about getting back to what it means to be Christian.”

On this year’s World Day of Prayer focused on migration, I pray that the broken immigration system will provide the millions of immigrants with the justice they deserve and that their deeply sacred worth is recognized.

Click here to download IWJ's Prayer for the Immigrant to use and share with your faith community for this year's World Day of Prayer

All Christians should remember one of the greatest commandments of all, to love their neighbor, because like Matthews 25:40, “ The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

On this World Day of Prayer, I ask you to pray for the millions of immigrant workers striving to provide for families and live honorably for you were once strangers in the same predicament.

National network celebrates Wage Theft win in Chicago

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IWJ and interfaith worker advocates across the country are celebrating a major win for Chicago workers thanks to the amazing work of IWJ's Chicago affiliate ARISE Chicago and their members! 

Arise Chicago w CheckOn Thursday, Jan. 17, the City Council in Chicago unanimously passed an anti-wage theft ordinance. Recognized as one of strongest wage theft ordinances in the country, and the second of its kind nationally, the new ordinance could revoke business licenses for businesses found guilty of wage theft. Worker advocates attest that this new ordinance will protect vulnerable and defend ethical business.

As a collaboration between Arise Chicago and Alderman Ameya Pawar of the 47th ward, the new ordinance provides a much needed tool to crack down on wage theft in Chicago and ensure employers are obeying labor laws on behalf of their employees or face the consequences. It is estimated that $7.3 million of workers' wages are stolen by employers every week in Cook County alone according to the University of Illinois-Chicago's Center for Urban Economic Development. 

 "When workers receive their full paycheck, they spend more in their local communities, the government collects more taxes, and law-abiding businesses do not suffer from unfair competition," said Adam Kader, worker center director, in a press release this week.

This passed anti-wage theft ordinance was endorsed by the National Employment Law Project and approved by the Committee on License and Consumer Protection earlier this week and it makes Chicago the largest city in the country with an anti-wage theft legislation. Mayor Rahm Emanuel who helped co-sponsored the ordinance has pledged to sign it.

Join IWJ in thanksgiving for this amazing victory. Be sure to share a big "THANK YOU" with ARISE Chicago on social media!

Network stands in solidarity with Palermo's workers

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Since 2008, workers from Palermo's Pizza have been working with Voces de la Frontera, a Milwaukee affiliate working with immigrants and low-wage workers, to address the faulty, unsafe machinery and inadequate training at the Palermo's factory. Palermo's management failed to address workers' concerns and workers were suffering severe lacerations from the machines that lacked safety protections.

"One day, my sleeve got caught in the machine, sliced open my pinky and I almost lost two fingers. I was in so much pain, but the company wanted me to go back to work almost immediately," a Palermo's worker named Alberto told Slice of Justice, an online tool and resource center focused on the dispute between Palermo's workers and management.

And since management didn't respond to the concerns of the workers, they're working to form a union to improve the working conditions and issues regarding low-wages and benefits. Nearly 150 workers decided to strike. Recently, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) began an audit of work authorization documents at Palermo's, even though there is an official agreement between ICE and the Department of Labor that ICE wouldn't audit places where workers are organizing. ICE has since stopped the audit, but not before Palermo's fired 85 employees for immigration problems.

ICE didn't stop Palermo's Workers, and they need support from the worker justice community to improve the working conditions, wages and benefits. There are a few things you can do to help!

The labor movement has launched a national boycott against Palermo.

Costco is a large distributor of Palermo's pizza under the name "Kirkland" brand that buys 60 percent of Palermo's pizza. Costco, often reputed as an ethical alternative to Walmart, needs to act and put pressure on Palermo's to reform the way it treats their workers. 

 "We need to be united to tell Costco to stop buying Palermo's pizza and be on the side of the workers," said Rosemarie Molina, the National Boycott Coordinator of Palermo's Pizza. "Immigration status should never be used to union bust."

You can join the effort urging Costco to tell Palermo's to abide by its Supplier Code of Conduct for the better treatment of their workers.

Striking workers need your help too!  Sixty-seven of the families who are on strike and have lost their income desperately need economic support from you in order to continue this fight. There are at least 20 couples that are both on strike, and most have children or elderly parents that depend on them. Donate to the strike fund and support the workers and their families.

Check out Slice of Justice to follow the campaign and find an action schedule.