Seven Ways IWJ Helps the Local Organizations that Help Low Wage Workers

There are 65 local and statewide organizations around the country affiliated with IWJ. Roughly 40 of these independent groups are religion-labor coalitions. There are also 25 worker centers in IWJ's growing network from California to Maine, which work directly with low-wage workers. While each religion-labor coalition or worker center does excellent, life-changing work on its own, all are also more effective because they are part of IWJ's network.

Here are seven ways that IWJ helps these local city, county, and state groups:

(1) IWJ connects local groups with one another and across state borders. For example, Rev. C. J. Hawking, Executive Director of Arise Chicago, went to Madison to assist Rabbi Renee Bauer, Executive Director of the Interfaith Coalition for Worker Justice of South Central Wisconsin, during the mass demonstrations in support of public employees in Wisconsin in March and April this year. Rev. Hawking described the feeling in worship services inside the Capitol rotunda in her moving article "A People's Cathedral in Wisconsin."


  • More than 400 religious leaders state-wide signed a statement in support of a just solution.
  • More than 120 religious leaders marched together in a rally of 100,000 supporters.
  • Seventeen religious leaders wearing stoles, collars and yarmulkes stood ready to risk arrest in a civil disobedience action with hundreds of occupiers of the Capitol.
  • Hundreds of clergy preached on the importance and power of the average citizen acting on behalf of the common good.

(2) IWJ shares the best practices from one worker center to another. They are connected in regular meetings and a monthly phone call with Dianne Enriquez, IWJ's Worker Center Network Coordinator. IWJ's 2011 National Conference this June will provide the venue for religion-labor and worker center leaders to connect in workshops, actions, celebration, prayer, and informal networking.

(3) IWJ helps build strong local leaders. In February, Dianne Enriquez convened a meeting of 25 women leaders at "Safe Spaces: Women Retreat" to share their experiences, both good and bad, as leaders for worker justice. As one participant said, "It is not often that a national or base group takes the time to create space to discuss women-focused issues or strategize on how to develop female-based leadership." They left with a plan for four strategies to continue their commitment to help each other.

(4) IWJ can consolidate the good works of the religion-labor coalitions and worker centers to build a movement to change public policy, especially at the federal level. When IWJ Executive Director Kim Bobo testifies before a congressional committee on issues like wage theft, immigration, or health and safety, she is carrying the concerns of all the members of the network.

(5) In times of crisis, IWJ can be the first responder to help an affiliate group strengthen its religious support.For example, when the Ohio state legislature ambushed public worker unions with anti-worker legislation in March, IWJ staffers Aina Gutierrez and Honna Eichler flew to Columbus to help IWJ's affiliate there organize a meeting of local religious leaders literally overnight. They had 10 clergy at the table by 10:00 am the next morning. The Columbus affiliate is now exploring ways to develop a permanent religious outreach committee.

(6) IWJ can reach out to large national funders to solicit larger grants for the networks that individual local organizations would not get on their own. National foundations trust IWJ to regrant funds to the religion-labor groups and worker centers to achieve positive outcomes for low-wage workers. Foundations such as Ford, Kellogg, Public Welfare, and OSHA's Susan Harwood Training Grant Program have funded IWJ to support the work and training for our local affiliates doing great work on the ground.

(7) IWJ helps to foster the growth and development of local organizations. Rabbi Laurie Coskey, Executive Director of the Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice of San Diego County, recalled when Regina Botterill and Kim Bobo came out in 1998 to partner with other local groups to start the San Diego Affiliate. Coskey notes:

"Fourteen years ago IWJ gave one of several $5,000 grants that helped us get started. It was so helpful to have their staff and their materials to help us grow. Today we are one of the largest Religion/Labor Coalitions with an operating budget of more than $350,000. San Diego uses IWJ's materials all year round. Their staff helps us in framing national messages and their national convocations let us meet with organizers for all over the country."

If you would like to support this work of IWJ's, which will multiply the value of your work through 65 affiliates and worker centers, and through them to tens of thousands of workers, please donate online or contact Joan Flanagan, IWJ's Development Director, or             773-728-8400       x 27.