This week lawmakers announced plans to make immigration a serious issues in 2013. A group of eight Senators (four Democrats and four Republicans) developed outlining principles for comprehensive immigration reform. While all their policies don't reflect the values IWJ and our affiliates support, we are encouraged by the nod that serious discussion around immigration reform would be underway.
As people of faith, we honor the economic contributions made by immigrant workers. The faith community is preparing to push Congresspersons across the country to support comprehensive immigration reform and call for stronge labor laws and enforcement around the abuse of undocumented workers.
"Immigrants come to the U.S. to work, and yet when they are kept in the shadows without a path to citizenship, they are easily exploited and undermine standards for all workers," said IWJ's Executive Director Kim Bobo. "Thus, it is right morally and economically to create a clear and quick path to citizenship for immigrants. We should “welcome the immigrant” now."
IWJ and our affiliates are developing resources to help allies, congregations and denominations talk about immigration and what faithful reform should look like.
As a member of the Interfaith Immigration Coalition, IWJ affirms the coalitions policy reccomendations, including:
- Address the cause of migration
- Create a process for undocumented immigrants to earn citizenship
- Keep families together
- Enact the Development, Relief, and Education for Minors (DREAM) Act.
- Protect Workers' Rights, including agricultural workers
- Place humanitarian values at the center of enforcement policies
- Protect refugees and migrant survivors of violence
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!
On 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!
I just learned that Hilda Solis has submitted her resignation letter to the president. She has been a tireless champion for low-wage and immigrant workers. We thank her for her work, dedication and passion. She will be deeply missed by faith and worker advocates around the country.
Now we need the President to appoint another worker rights champion to follow in her footsteps –and quickly. There is so much work to be done and the Department of Labor needs someone with Secretary Solis’ passion and vision. We need a fighter and a prophet. We need someone who will push forward regulations designed to bring the nation’s labor laws into the current century, like the caregivers regulation that provides minimum wage and overtime coverage to professional home care workers. IWJ would also like to see the paystub transparency regulation moved forward quickly. This would require every employer to provide a paystub explaining clearly (yes, clearly) how workers are paid. This would help workers who are routinely cheated by their employers who pay in cash, offer direct deposit with no accounting for hours or take unusual (and illegal) deductions without explanations.
We need a Secretary who will fight for resources for enforcement. In the current budget-cutting frenzy, there is bound to be efforts to cut enforcement. With only one enforcement staff person for every 135,000 workers, we can’t afford any cuts.
We need a Secretary who will push for job creation. Job training is good, but it isn’t enough. We need investment in job creation. Despite the declining unemployment figures, for which we are grateful, there are still millions of workers without jobs and millions more who’ve given up looking for jobs. We can do better as a nation and the Secretary must lead us in finding ways to invest in and create new jobs.
We need a Secretary who will champion immigration reform. Every worker in the country is affected when 11 million workers do not have the protection of citizenship. Employers know they can exploit workers without documents, and too many unethical employers do so, driving down wages and standards for all workers in the nation.
And, we need a Secretary who will keep the concerns of working men and women on the front of the public dialogue. There are many advocates of corporate interests in the Cabinet and Congress. Not nearly as many advocates for workers. We need a Secretary who recognizes the power of and is not afraid to use the bully pulpit.
Today, we give thanks for all Secretary Hilda Solis has done. Tomorrow, we pray for a new leader who will champion the nation’s workers.
What characteristics are you looking for in the new Secretary of Labor? What policy should the new Secretary of Labor push? Who should fill the position? What advances made by Sec. Solis are you most thankful?
Workers, labor leaders, unions and allies pushed for some really awesome worker justice campaigns in 2012, according to an article published by AlerNet on Dec. 31.
IWJ supporters and allies, clergy and people of faith stood beside workers in a number of the struggles highlighted by AlterNet.
IWJ is working closely with organizers from Making Change at Walmart to develop close relationships among faith leaders in communities across the country and workers and groups supporting better pay and working conditions at Walmart stores and across the supply chain. People of faith hosted more than 100 prayer vigils, flash mobs and letter delegations to local Walmart stores on Black Friday calling for Jubilee at Walmart and urging the corporation's executives to start listening to workers' concerns rather than punish or bully them for speaking up.
In 2013, IWJ organizers plan to beef up their support for Walmart workers and connect more faith leaders and people of faith to their local Walmart work by reaching out to more congregations across the country.
Chicago Teacher's Union
In September, Chicago teachers stood up to the Chicago Board of Education. More than 30,000 teachers and thousands of supporters called for better working conditions, more fair evaluation processes and drew national attention to the privatization of public school systems. People of faith stood beside the CTU as organizers pushed for grass-roots and community supported actions. IWJ's Chicago affiliate ARISE Chicago activated members and supporters to join the teachers in the first strike since 1987. IWJ Chicago staffers also joined the picket lines in the morning before heading into the office for work.
Interfaith Worker Justice and affiliates worked on other amazing campaigns for workers in 2012. Together we look forward to 2013 as we begin work strengthen the rights of workers.