I called a friend of mine a few weeks ago, and he asked me how work was going. I told him it felt ambitious, we were gearing up to ask folks across the country to pledge to Fast from Fast Food in support of fast food workers who were taking big risks to stand up for their rights at work.
Knowing I'm an avid lover of Wendy's and everything fried, he asked, "Whoa, are you gonna do that too?"
I half-heartedly said, "I guess, it'd be really awkward to ask a bunch of other people to do it, and then they catch me sitting in McDonald's one day during the fast."
As we spoke with others about the fast (how to make it happen, how to include everyone we could, and most importantly why we should even attempt it) it became increasingly obvious that it made sense for me to join the fast. Why would I not join an action to draw attention to the bold moves fast food workers are making?
I spent a couple days last week in Atlanta, meeting with fast food workers who were a part of the Fight for $15 National Organizing committee. We listened to folks talk about the disrespect they endured at work, and how they were treated when they called it out. I reflected on my own days in retail, being intimidated from talking to other unionized workers at one job, and being unjustly fired from another. Most of the workers on the committee were regular folks like me (except one who is a low-key superstar, and took the mic later in the meeting) who were easy to connect with.
Although I casually expressed this in 140 or so characters via Twitter, it is my genuine belief that it doesn't take much for me to give up my beloved Jr. Bacon Cheeseburgers for a little while. Especially given that these leaders are risking their livelihoods when they talk to their co-workers, sign petitions, and walk out on strike. The organizing committee spends hours after work talking on conference calls, planning at strategy meetings, going out talking to other workers, and speaking in public spaces...and then they head back to their regular jobs and continue to face their managers each day.
They've seen other fast food workers removed from the schedule or get their hours reduced, and even facing that threat and knowing what it could mean for them at home, they still fight. They take these risks not only for themselves and their families, but for an entire industry of people who are constantly disrespected at their jobs. Bearing this in mind, I'll proudly be forgoing my post-meal frosty for the next 40 days.
Yesterday, a district court judge in Brownsville, Texas, issued a preliminary injunction that temporarily blocks the implementation process of the new immigrant deferred action programs, announced by President Obama back in November.
The programs were designed to offer relief for many hard-working immigrant families from the threat of deportation. Immigrants and advocates pushed hard for a comprehensive solution to this country’s broken immigrant system. Congress ignored their cries for reform. The president answered with relief for nearly 5 of the 11 million undocumented people in our country.
But back in December, governors and attorneys general from 26 states (led by the state of Texas) sued the government to block the directives. This immoral attempt to stop or slow this application of justice was motivated by GOP lawmakers aggressively pursuing an anti-immigrant agenda.
Since then, 12 states, D.C. and 33 cities (including the largest cities in the nation like Houston) cited a myriad of benefits to the programs.
We at Interfaith Worker Justice will continue to work towards and pray for a legislative fix to our broken immigration system that provides the country's 11 million immigrants with an opportunity to live and work in the U.S. as active and full members of their communities.
We’re hopeful that the U.S. Fifth Court of Appeals will reject this lawsuit.
For several years, battles have raged in religious schools about whether or not their adjunct faculty had the right to organize unions. Mostly Catholic universities had argued that their adjunct faculty should not be able to organize into unions because they were religious schools – despite incredibly strong Catholic Social Teaching in support of unions.
On Dec. 16, the National Labor Relations Board issued a decision about Pacific Lutheran University, a Lutheran school claiming a religious exemption for its adjunct and non-tenured faculty. The decision laid out a new test for schools to meet in terms of being able to exempt their faculty from National Labor Relations Act coverage. The first test is whether the schools provides a religious educational environment. This is a relatively easy test to meet for most religious schools.
The second one is more significant. To be exempt from coverage, “the petitioned for faculty members are performing a religious function.” The universities promote themselves as welcoming diverse students from other faith traditions and hire faculty with little regard for faith backgrounds.
The decision said that Pacific Lutheran University’s adjunct and non-tenured track faculty, 176 of them altogether, did indeed have the right to be in a union if they wanted. Then last week (February 12, 2015), the National Labor Board told the regional boards to review the cases filed by Duquesne University of the Holy Spirit, Saint Xavier University, Seattle University and Manhattan College using the new test as outlined in the Pacific Lutheran University decision. Good news for adjuncts at all these schools.
As members of the interfaith community, we were deeply saddened by the murders of our Muslim brothers and sisters in North Carolina. Yesterday, the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) released a statement condemning the violence and offering condolences to the families of these three young Muslims who were killed in North Carolina. IWJ Board Member Naeem Baig is the Presdient of ICNA. The original statement can be found here.
The Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) extends its deepest condolences to the families of three Muslim students who were shot and killed execution style in North Carolina yesterday.
Yusor Mohammad, 21, her husband Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, and her sister Razan Mohammad AbuSalha, 19 were shot at the North Carolina State University parking lot. Deah was a second-year dentistry student; his wife was planning on starting there in the fall, while her sister was a student at North Carolina State University.
They were newlyweds with aspirations and plans for their lives; instead they have been killed by a man who openly spewed anti-Muslim rhetoric online.
Terrorism knows no religion, no skin color, and has no ethnic creed. ICNA calls on state and federal law enforcement to do a thorough investigation of this heinous crime.
The President of ICNA, Naeem Baig, has said “Our hearts go out to the families and friends of those who have been killed in such a senseless, abhorrent crime. This goes to show that savagery and hatred knows no religion, no culture, and no skin color. We urge all people of conscious to continue to keep Deah, Yusor, Razan, and their families and friends in your thoughts and prayers.”
Earlier this week, Rudy López spoke with Sean Salai, SJ from America Magazine about his thoughts about IWJ's Fast from Fast Food. Below is an excerpt from the Q & A interview, which was originally published at America Magazine online.
What inspired (IWJ) to launch a “Fast from Fast Food” during Lent this year?
Interfaith Worker Justice believes that an honest day’s work deserves an honest day’s pay that’s enough to support your family. We wanted to find a way to support the fast food workers who are calling for fair wages that are in line with these values. Given that the Lenten season is nearly here, we felt it was a great opportunity to support the workers in a way that speaks to the nature of who we are as an organization through prayer, fasting and lifting up the moral imperative to treat workers fairly. In solidarity with fast food workers who are calling for $15 an hour and for better working conditions, we are asking people of all faith traditions to “Fast from Fast Food” over the Lenten season. While Lent can be a time of deep significance for many Christian traditions, we are asking people of any faith tradition to take a solidarity pledge to abstain from eating fast food from February 18 to April 5.
The intention is to bring awareness and attention through an act of solidarity by prayer and fasting. It’s important that people understand that these two things go hand in hand. Someone once told me “fasting without prayer is just going hungry.” I couldn’t agree more, as I see the power of offering up our sacrifice for others as an act that deepens our connection to the suffering of our brothers and sisters. As an organization of people of faith, we find that the spiritual aspect of the “fast” is our most effective tool during this time. Fasting opens up a pathway to a spiritual power that has been known to shake prisons and swing open locked doors, as told in the story of the Philippian jailor in the book of Acts. I invite all your readers to join us in solidarity starting on Ash Wednesday.
What are your hopes for this fast?
We hope that through the Fast From Fast Food effort we can 1) bring greater national and local awareness to the plight of fast food workers and their struggle for fair pay and dignity in the workplace; 2) get more congregations and people of faith actively involved in advocating for just working conditions; 3) help those who participate grow in their personal prayer life; 4) raise the understanding of the importance of faith communities taking a stand and lifting up the moral side of social issues; 5) that this serves as a vehicle for fast food workers to develop their own leadership and prayer life; 6) and shift the national narrative on how we view and value low-wage workers and their contributions to our country. This is an important effort for us at IWJ and we see this as a potential model for other future efforts in the way we can offer a unique contribution.
On Feb. 3, David Weil, the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Administrator, sent an email out explaining that the President’s budget proposal requests money for 300 additional new investigators. This is great news!
In 2009, the President's budget added 300 new investigators to restore the agency to previous levels. Adding three hundred more investigators, while still not enough given that the Division is supposed to protect the wages of 135 million workers, is a significant – 30 percent – increase. Weil also said that the budget includes a call to increase civil monetary penalties – that’s government talk for fines. The department is trying to create meaningful penalties for those who routinely and willfully violate wage and hour laws. This is absolutely the right direction.
The one thing we were still hoping to hear was a commitment to put Clear Paystubs for All back on the Department of Labor’s regulatory agenda. If you haven’t yet sent a letter to Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, thank him for increasing investigators and fines for violators and urge him to put Clear Paystubs for All back on the regulatory agenda.
Yesterday, President Obama unveiled a budget plan that targets income inequality and echoes the challenge he posed to Congress in last month’s State of the Union Address: create an economy that generates rising incomes and chances for everyone who makes the effort.
Again, we thank the President for his commitment to working families, particularly for his leadership in making Paid Sick Leave and childcare access economic priorities.
As people of faith, we are called to advocate for wages and working standards that honor the human dignity of workers. We welcome a budget that supports policies that provide tax credits for families and the working poor, but recognize that it is not a permanent solution.
A few days before the President’s budget speech, the U.S. Census reported that 16 million children had to rely on food stamps in 2014, compared to nine million in 2007. The number of innocent lives hurt by poverty wages and income inequality is growing at an alarming rate.
Isaiah clearly states what God expects of government leaders: “Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow” (Isaiah 1:16-17).
Too many workers, many of them parents, are pushed into poverty by low wages and job instability. Often, hardworking parents are forced to depend on the generosity of family, friends, community organizations or government just to survive.
As the President said, we need a budget that helps working families feel more secure with paychecks that go further.
His budget proposes a six-year $478 billion program to rebuild public infrastructure. The plan to invest in our roads and bridges will not only make America safer, it will also create good jobs that could help lift working families out of poverty and funnel money back into our local economies.
We urge Congress to follow the President’s lead on passing a budget that prioritizes the creation of good jobs and on setting a livable federal minimum wage that would allow workers to provide for themselves and their families.
In addition to some of the good steps in the budget, we urge the President to put the issue of paystubs back on the Department of Labor’s regulatory agenda. This can have positive far reaching effects all on its own. Currently, millions of workers do not know how their pay is calculated and what deductions are taken from them, leaving them vulnerable to wage theft. Workers need clear paystubs to understand if they are being paid according to the law. When tens of millions of dollars of unpaid wages are stolen from workers annually, putting Paystubs for All on the regulatory agenda is an important complementary step for raising workers’ incomes.
We urge Congress to pass a budget that prioritizes the creation of good jobs and on setting a livable federal minimum wage that would allow workers to provide for themselves and their families.
Photo courtesy: AP
On Super Bowl Sunday next week, some of our larger and faster union brothers—members of the NFL Players Association (NFLPA)—will be battling it out in Glendale, Ariz., at Super Bowl XLIX (49 for those of us who are shaky on Roman numerals). While the Super Bowl carries a union label, from players to broadcast crews to stadium workers—your Super Bowl party spread can, too, with union-made in America food and drinks.
Check out these union-made Super Bowl party products, compiled by our friends at Labor 411, the union business directory from the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor. Food and drinks are brought to you by the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM), the UAW, Machinists (IAM), the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) and the Teamsters (IBT).
Beck's, Budweiser, Busch. Goose Island, Hoegaarden, Land Shark Lager, Leffe Blond, Michelob, Natural, O'Doul's (non alcoholic), Shock Top, Stella Artois, Iron City, Rolling Rock, Red Stripe, Kirin, Labatt Blue, Stegmaier, Lionshead, Steelhead, Butte Creek, Red Tail Ale, Blue Moon, Henry Weinhard's, Killian's, Mickey's, Molson Canadian, Olde English 800, Steel Reserve, Miller, Keystone Light, 1845 Pils, Bass Pale Ale, Moosehead, Schlitz, Pabst, Sam Adams, Hamm's and Kingfisher Premium Lager.
Alexander & Hornung, Always Tender, Ball Park, Banquet, Butterball, Dearborn Sausage Co., Farmer John, Farmland, Hebrew National, Hormel, Omaha Steaks, Oscar Meyer, Thumann’s and Tyson.
Act II Popcorn, Bagel Bites, Lay’s, Cheetos, Cheez-It, Chex Mix, Chips Ahoy, Doritos, Fig Newtons, Fritos, Rice Krispies Treats, Rold Gold Pretzels, Ruffle, Triscuit and Wheat Thins.
Chips and Salsa
Mission Chips, Old El Paso Chips, Dips and Salsa, Pace Salsa, Stacy’s Pita Chips, Sun Chips Tostitos Chips and Salsa.