The staff and trainers at Interfaith Worker Justice were busy these last few weeks preparing for IWJ's national Organizing and Capacity Building training in Chicago. More than 30 aspiring and committed organizers joined our team to talk about power, worker justice and being a part of the movement. Isaac Reichman is a volunteer at Interfaith Worker Justice and a recent graduate of Notre Dame Univeristy.
Why worker justice?
I asked myself this question repeatedly last week at IWJ’s organizing and capacity building training in Chicago. “Why worker justice?” as in, “why am I forsaking my free time (I also work full-time at Misericordia here in the city) to attend a training session for a movement of which I have little knowledge or experience?” How will volunteering my time make a difference?
With great teachers and a strong Catholic faith, I am lucky enough to have developed a commitment to justice, but that doesn’t answer the question. There are many places to volunteer offering more conventional outlets for my service ethos. At a soup kitchen, for example, I could have specifically seen the benefit of my service. Worker centers, conversely, might focus an entire year’s effort on a few objectives with little success.
Why, then, have I chosen worker justice?
The answer, initially hidden, became apparent at the IWJ's week-long training. Like many other young people of faith, I want to change the world. Unfortunately, this feeling often fades as one becomes disillusioned with the seemingly overwhelming problems in society. People lose the attitude entirely or turn to direct service, realizing that if they can’t change the world they can at least make things a little better.
That is what struck me immediately at the training- my fellow trainees and the staff at IWJ still believe they can change the world and in fact they are doing it.
Every major religion calls on its followers to improve the lives of their fellow people. The people, like those at the training, that are doing this best are not directly serving but are organizing people to realize their own power. I have chosen worker justice because it is the best way for me, a man of faith, to help create profound and lasting change.
What about you? Why worker justice? Join Isaac and consider volunteering with IWJ or our affiliates, or click here to sign up to be an online advocate and receive special updates on our campaigns!
I wanted to cheer when the first segment on the economy was a focus on simply, “Jobs.” Jim Lehrer made the wise decision to begin with the most critical issue facing the nation. To end poverty we need jobs—good jobs for American workers that pay enough to support our families. But it was all downhill from there.
It’s unfortunate that beginning with the right subject didn’t evolve into detailed proposals on plans for creating new jobs and employing millions of workers. Even more troubling was the absence of debate about the critical concerns for worker justice that are at the center of the focus of IWJ. There was no discussion of collective bargaining, no discussion of immigration and the plight of the immigrant worker, no discussion of the desperate need to raise the minimum wage, very little discussion and especially concrete detail about creating new and well paying jobs with benefits that enable security for individuals and families.
If our presidential candidates can’t talk about these things how can we expect to create a legislative climate in which real solutions to these problems can be constructed? People of every faith need to remain vigilant in our strong advocacy of jobs and justice for working people. We need to continue to organize, educate, and advocate for individuals living in poverty, for unemployed and underemployed people struggling to make ends meet.
Download the Vote You Values voter's guide for information on issues impacting working families.