At Pentecost, a group of multilingual, multicultural people was transformed by the powerful coming of the Holy Spirit. The early followers of Jesus began to speak about God’s great works to people from “every nation under heaven” in their native tongue. Christians believe that the Holy Spirit is given to all who put their faith in Christ and become His disciples. The Holy Spirit guides us in our endeavors and leads us to be more like Jesus.
More than 2,000 years after Pentecost, those of us who are Christians must ask ourselves: are we open to the power and presence of the Holy Spirit to guide us and change us? Are we open to the Spirit’s call to be active participants in bringing about the Kingdom of God on Earth? Are we willing to contribute to the often difficult and time-consuming work of social change within a diverse body of believers? We must be listening for the Spirit’s prodding as it pushes us towards acts of peace, justice and love.
Today, we feel the rush of that holy wind, and it pushes us to call for justice for workers. We pray and work with our immigrant brothers and sisters for a just path to citizenship and fair treatment in their workplaces. We stand with minimum wage earners and call upon our local, state and federal governments to raise and index the minimum wage so all workers can earn a living wage. We’re motivated by God’s love and our belief in human dignity to call for and end to wage theft and the many ways employers abuse and exploit workers.
We “hope for what we do not yet have, and we wait for it patiently” (Romans 8:25). We invite you to join us on that journey and strengthening the rights of workers!
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We’ve all heard the numbers on immigration: 11 million undocumented immigrants, 16.6 million people in mixed-status families, 1,100 daily deportations that tear families apart, close to 500 border deaths.
It’s easy to get lost and feel overwhelmed by the numbers. So, for the next two minutes, I urge you to listen to Lisa’s story. Lisa was one of the many young speakers at yesterday’s May Day Immigration Reform rally in Chicago. Everyday she lives in constant fear of losing her father to deportation. Lisa is only nine.
At many May Day rallies across the country, children like Lisa shared similar stories. No child should have to go through such a heartbreaking experience.
Next week, the proposed immigration reform bill will head to the Senate Judiciary Committee for mark-up and amendments. We all know that the bill is not perfect, but it is an important step forward and a real source of hope for families likes Lisa’s. But it is up to us to push for legislation that reflects our values of compassion and justice.
Ask your Senator to support humane immigration reform that provides an accessible and inclusive path to citizenship, stops deportations and protects the rights of all workers.
We have a real opportunity (and responsibility) to overhaul our broken immigration system and give the millions of Lisa’s out there a chance to enjoy a childhood with their families.
“An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust.” – St. Thomas Aquinas
The time to reform our unjust immigration system is now. Click here for resources on how to get your family, community and congregation involved in the campaign for comprehensive immigration reform. Our country is not only ready for reform, we need it!
Worker advocates are steeped in the debate to bring about real immigration reform. The possibility of a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, work authorization, driver licenses and other essential benefits are on the table. Safer workplaces is also a core element to bringing about real reform that honors the contributions of our immigrant brothers and sisters… and is a matter of life or death for thousands of hard working immigrants in America.
The American dream for some immigrant workers fatally ends on their first day at work. Irresponsible employers and unsafe workplaces are the main reason behind those deaths. In 2011, 4,609 workers died in on the job, 16 percent of those fatalities were foreign-born workers. A broken immigration system leaves workers unprotected and allows unethical employers to abuse these workers to fatal extremes.
Hundreds of the fatalities are reported as "NN" (an unidentified immigrant worker that dies in the workplace), while family members wait in their home country with no knowledge of the tragedy. Many fatality reports are recording with sparse information about the victim such as: “male” and “cause of death: fall from roof”
In 2013, a Raani Corporation worker, 50 years-old Carlos Centeno, died after falling on a 500-gallon tank filled with acid solution, as reported by Chip Mitchell on WBEZ. According to the Occupational Safety and Heath Administration of the Department of Labor, employers are required to protect workers from known hazards. The argument “he knew or reasonably should have known of the possible risks of personal injury” should apply to employer. Deaths in the workplace should never be explained as involuntary suicide as Raani Corporation put it by saying: “by voluntarily undertaking to work with such substances, [Centeno] elected to accept such possible risks.”
But not only immigrant workers die in the workplace; from the 4,690 fatalities in the U.S. in 2010, 774 were foreign-born workers. According to the Occupational Safety Health Administration regulations, employers are required to protect ALL workers from known hazards.
Let’s join hands in prayer on Workers Memorial Day today for all those workers whose lives are taken by unethical employers and unsafe workplaces. Let’s keep up the fight to protect all workers from wrongful occupational injuries and fatalities. Let’s keep up the fight to make employers accountable for those deaths.
Click here to download a Litany in memory of those who have died on the job and in hope for strong workplace safety regulations and enforcement for the safety of immigrant and native workers all across the U.S.
On April 17, the Senate's bipartisan "Gang of Eight" introduced an immigration reform bill that attempts to address key issues: a path to citizenship, enforcement, worker protections. These issues affect millions of immigrants and their families. The bill is an important FIRST STEP. We will continue to work to make sure we end up with legislation that reflects our values of family, justice and compassion.
Marilu Gonzalez, Immigrant Education Coordinator of the Archdiocese of Chicago's Office for Immigrant Affairs, joined on Wednesday, April 24 for a training on engaging YOUR community in the push for immigration reform.
It is with great sadness that we report our dear friend and ally for worker justice, Stephen Coats, died in his sleep on Tuesday.
Stephen was the founder and long-time executive director of the U.S. Labor Education in the Americas Project (USLEAP), Stephen was known for his tireless commitment to worker struggles in Central and South America. His life's work will continue to inspire and touch the lives of many across the globe.
Stephen reminded us at home that a world of global workers demanded justice throughout the supply chain. Through his work with USLEAP, he helped connect fair labor advocates here to the incredible need for their support across the globe. He worked to improve workers’ rights in the apparel, cut flowers and banana industries in Central America, Ecuador and Colombia. His advocacy and the work of USLEAP brought about justice for thousands of workers and helped end sweatshop conditions in a number of Latin American countries. Stephen was also a leading advocate combating violence against trade unionists in Colombia.
To many around the IWJ office, Stephen was more than just an inspiring global worker advocate. He was part of the IWJ family —the loving husband of IWJ's Executive Director Kim Bobo and proud father of their twin sons, Benjamin and Eric. Stephen worked beside us both as an ally in the work, but also out of our national office in Chicago.
As the Interfaith Worker Justice family mourns the loss of our dear friend, we ask for your thoughts and prayers and continued commitment to worker justice for the world's workers so as to honor the work our friend Stephen championed throughout his life.
To heal a broken economy, lawmakers around the country are beginning to realize that working families need to be able to support themselves and their families. Paid sick time is a modest policy that will keep people in their jobs and money in their pockets.
Three cities, Portland, Ore., Philadelphia and New York City recently passed paid sick leave laws. They join San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Milwaukee and Seattle and provide workers job protection when they are ill.
Last month, the Portland City Council passed a citywide paid sick days law; and the mayor’s signature made Portland the fourth city in the nation to guarantee workers the right to earn paid sick days!
The Philadelphia City Council approved a similar law for the city. Now, advocates in Philadelphia, with more support on the city council, are pushing Mayor Michael Nutter to sign on. Nutter vetoed similar bill last year.
Soon workers in New York City will no longer be forced to choose between their job and their health as the New York City Council is set to adopt a paid sick days policy after a three-year campaign. The New York Paid Leave Coalition (comprised of faith leaders, small business owners and labor unions) pressured 2013 mayoral frontrunner Christine Quinn to support the bill. As Council Speaker, Quinn had not supported the bill until now.
Statewide paid sick time campaigns are active in Massachusetts, Vermont and Washington State. Miami and Orlando in Florida are also working on paid sick leave legislation at the city level.
Pressing for paid sick leave at the state and local levels have added momentum to our effort to gain a national labor standard to protect workers from having to decide between their job and their health. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) introduced the Healthy Families Act (HR 1286/S. 631) in Congress. More than 40 million Americans have no access to paid sick days. The Healthy Families Act allows workers to earn up to seven paid sick days a year to use to recover from short-term illness, to care for a sick family member, to seek routine medical care or to obtain assistance related to domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.
The national campaign is seeking official support. While your organization may have signed this letter before, a new Congress and new legislation means we need you to reaffirm your support. National, state and local organizations are all encouraged to sign by April 26.
Several decades ago, I heard an Easter sermon by Bill Coffin in which he reminded us that there is nothing sentimental about Easter; that we dare not forget that resurrection is not only a promise, it is also a demand.
This is what he said:
“Picture, if you will, the disciples shortly after Good Friday. Surely they were grief-stricken. But doubtlessly, too, they were experiencing that sense of relief that comes with resignation from the struggle. ‘Well, we tried hard, but the Establishment was too powerful. He wasn’t elected king. So it’s back to fishing, to business as usual.’”
“And then comes the word, ‘He’s back.’ ‘Oh no, not again.’”
I don’t know about you but for me, at least, that statement strikes home. Promise is much easier to live with than demand.
It is certainly true. For those of us who are Christians, Easter is indeed a promise; that love is stronger than death, that love never dies, and that living within that promise rejuvenates and transforms. But Coffin is surely right; that unless we understand that Easter is also demand, our resurrection faith loses its promise and degenerates all too quickly into sentimentality.
So today, despite the ever-present temptation to go fishing, let’s use the promise of Easter as a stimulus to increased responsibility and to support and stand alongside those who hurt in the continuing struggle for a more just and merciful and peaceful world.
We at Interfaith Worker Justice are trying to do just that. Living within the promise and seeking to respond to the demand, we are standing alongside undocumented immigrants as together we seek a just resolution to their current plight. We are seeking to help build a society wherein all who seek work at a fair wage can find that work. We are advocating for a raise in the minimum wage so that the working poor can support themselves and their families. We are well aware that the changes we and many others seek will not come easily. The challenges are huge. But we believe also that by standing together we can overcome. Please join with us. We need your presence among us.
The promise of the resurrection is that love is real; that love can overcome the hatred and indifference that threaten to consume and deny and destroy. But along with promise comes demand. Promise without demand is sentimentality. Promise with demand is life transforming.
The Rev. Paul Sherry is the President of Interfaith Worker Justice's National Board of Directors. Sherry served the President of the United Church of Christ from 1989 to 1999, and from 2003 to 2007 as the Coordinator of the Anti-Poverty Program of the National Council of Churches.
Today Christians celebrate Holy Thursday or Maundy Thursday, which commemorates Jesus’ Last Supper and the Washing of the Feet. When Jesus stooped to wash the feet of his disciples, he did so in humble servant leadership and to give us a model to follow: “so that as I have done for you, you should also do.” Simon Peter, albeit after some prodding by Jesus, dispensed with his pride and allowed Our Savior to wash his feet.
On this first Holy Thursday of his papacy, Pope Francis answered Jesus’ call by being a servant and model, celebrating Holy Thursday Mass in a juvenile detention facility in Rome and washing the feet of the residents there.
This Easter season, our country and our communities continue to suffer the burden of an economy that cannot produce enough decent jobs. There are over 12 million unemployed people in this country. The average length of unemployment is nine months.
Another eight million people are working part-time though they want full-time work. That’s 20 million people total looking for full-time work.
How many jobs are there for these folks? About 3.7 million, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And we wonder why our economy is broken.
How do these two things relate? Jesus’ message in the washing of the feet is instructive. Our question shouldn’t be, “Am I called to serve my brothers and sisters, my neighbors and fellow parishioners, my friends and family members, who suffer the scourge of unemployment?” The answer to that is clearly yes.
Rather, our question must be “How do I serve?”
Since everyone is called to adopt the model Jesus has given us, it is up to us to determine how we, as individuals and as communities, serve.
And the possibilities are endless!
- Offer to babysit when a neighbor goes on interviews.
- Review your brother’s résumé.
- Invite job-seeking parishioners over to share meals.
- Start a job club at your parish (using the Faith Advocates for Jobs toolkit, of course!).
- Contact your legislators and ask them to support a strong safety net for struggling families and policies that create good paying jobs for struggling workers.
Most importantly, pray for them. Pray for the Lord’s protection, grace and guidance upon them.
And what of Simon Peter? Many can learn from him as well. Those among us who struggle to find decent work can humbly accept the gift of assistance. Many times, accepting help is much more difficult than giving. After all, it demands an acknowledgement that we need it.
But to accept the gift of guidance isn’t weakness, it’s real strength--strength that, like Simon Peter, can be used to repay that gift multiple times over.
serves on IWJ's National Board of Directors and is the Director of Domestic Social Development for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.