Issues

Issues

As working people and faithful allies, we believe in:

Fair Wages for All

Journalist Malcolm Fleschner breaks down the wage theft epidemic in this short video from The Young Turks.

Every working person deserves to be paid fairly and fully for their labor. Interfaith Worker Justice was the first national organization to identify and tackle the problem of wage theft in America. We were also an early supporter of the Fight For $15 movement to win a living wage and a union for all working people. We will continue organizing for fair wages until all working people can count on a fair paycheck. 

Wage Theft

Employers are stealing money from working people by cheating them of wages owed or not paying them at all. Failing to pay for even a few minutes of labor, such as not paying for time spent preparing a work station at the start of a shift, or for cleaning up and closing up at the end of a shift, can quickly add up. The Economic Policy Institute found that working people lose as much as $50 billion every year to wage theft. In Los Angeles alone, working people lose $26.2 million every week, according to a study conducted by UCLA.  

One recent campaign we undertook to fight wage theft was to advance Pay Stub reform. As many as 20 million U.S. workers do not receive pay stubs documenting how their pay is calculated or what deductions were taken from their wages. There is no federal requirement that employers give workers pay stubs, and requirements vary widely from state to state as our list of pay stub regulations across the country shows. Often, workers who don't receive pay stubs are victims of wage theft, cheated of the pay they legally earned. We and others have advocated for a Pay Stubs for All regulation. It would require employers to provide workers with information the employers already must keep and would help deter wage theft. 

A Living Wage

A living wage is the amount a working people must earn to adequately provide food, housing, utilities, transportation and health care, without outside assistance from public benefits programs. For a family head of household it would also include child care. A study by the Economic Policy Institute has shown that a living wage of $15 per hour would lift the wages of 41 million working people -- nearly 30% of the workforce. Every ten percent increase in the minimum wage would correlate to a 5.3% decline in the poverty. 

We’ve worked to pass living wage ordinances and protect them after we’ve won from state legislatures looking to overrule local communities’ wishes. We’ve also created programs to certify firms that do pay a living wage as good corporate citizens and other strategies. In addition, we will continue to support the Fight For $15 movement both nationally and locally until every working person is paid a living wage. 

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Health and Safety at Work

Learn more about our work to reform the poultry processing industry in this short video produced by our campaign partners, Oxfam America. Note: since this video's production, Tyson has come to the table to negotiate better health and safety for the working people it employs.

We help save lives in the workplace through advocacy to hold employers accountable for safe working conditions and providing workers with essential safety training.

In 2007, nearly 6,000 working people died on the job; in 2016, that number was 4,836, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In fact, the New York Times reported in December 2016, the number has been on the decline over the years.

Working people in low-wage industries are more likely to die on the job, in particular due to what OSHA calls the “fatal four” causes of on-the-job deaths: falls, being struck by an object, electrocution, and being caught-in/between. Read about one example in an August 2016 cover story by Boston Business Journal: “Profiles in Pain,” featuring IWJ affiliate MassCOSH.

We collect stories from working people to learn the scope of health and safety violations in their communities, conduct train-the-trainer sessions for other workers back home, host public forums on health and safety, and conduct legislative visits to urge the passage of laws that will protect all working people.

Poultry Processing Plants

IWJ affiliates like Northwest Arkansas Workers' Justice Center, Western North Carolina Workers' Center, and Greater Minnesota Worker Center have been organizing a worker-led campaign to reform poultry processing, one of the most notorious industries for abusing working people. In partnership with Oxfam America, these worker centers have exposed the horrific working conditions inside the processing plants. From an epidemic of arthritis to workers being denied bathroom breaks in order to meet always-rising quotas, working people in poultry plants, many of whom are undocumented, have bravely stepped forward to lead the organizing efforts to bring justice and dignity to this infamous industry.

This hard work has been paying off. Tyson, one of the largest poultry producers in the nation, has recently agreed to come to the table to negotiate better health and safety standards at their plants. It's a small step, but a step forward indeed.

OSHA Trainings

Since 1978, more than 2.1 million working people have been trained to identify and report unsafe working conditions through the Susan Harwood Training Grant Program, with a particular focus on low-wage and dangerous industries. For nearly a decade, IWJ has trained more than 10,000 working people under the auspices of the Harwood grant. But if budget cuts proposed by the Trump Administration are enacted by Congress, funding for the Susan Harwood Training Grant Program could be cut entirely.

IWJ is part of a broad coalition pushing back on the Trump budget cuts and demanding a Faithful Budget from Congress.   

Paid Sick Leave

One in three working people must choose between staying home sick and earning their salary. We advocate for legislation that requires states, counties, and cities to mandate paid sick leave for their employees. But thanks to IWJ affiliates such as Washington, D.C. Jobs with Justice and others, cities like Washington, D.C. have been passing laws that mandate this benefit for a growing number of working people.

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The Right to Organize

Issues

The Department of Labor (DOL) administers and enforces more than 180 federal labor laws. Most came about to correct past workplace abuses. From wages to workplace safety to the WARN act for workplaces that are closing, Labor offers a one-page guide to the law and rulemaking processes here. These mandates and the regulations that implement them cover many workplace activities for about 10 million employers and 125 million workers. 

Laws alone are not enough; they must be enforced. We help working people know their rights and provide a moral voice in the community to hold employers accountable for how they operate. It’s no secret the job market of today looks very different than it did even just a few years ago with contingent and contract work for the day laborer, the domestic worker, the free-lance writer or adjunct professor. We help Worker Centers to represent workers on the front lines of the new marketplace. 

Across the country, employers have made unions a major focus of their attacks on workers. Our work began in labor solidarity and we also educate, organize and mobilize people of faith to stand with our labor unions as the strongest force for employees we have. In Minnesota, IWJ affiliate CTUL won union rights for retail janitors who had been organizing for years.

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Immigration and Racial Justice

Issues

The bigotry that exists still in America today has a direct impact on two communities of working people: the immigrant community and the African-American community. Immigrants, particularly undocumented immigrants, have been the targets of harassment and wrongly accused of stealing jobs for years, but only now has that type of mentality been given a seat in the White House. African-Americans, often black men, are under physical attack every day in the United States, a plague that is far from new but is now being documented extensively in this age of digital media. Both immigrants and African-Americans are faced each day with the realities of white supremacy and the sense that they are the "other" in the United States. We will only overcome these inhumanities when we see the humanity in one another. But too often, identity politics are used cynically to divide us instead of uniting us.

All worker justice issues are seeded in or fueled by structural racism that must be addressed before we can win justice and dignity for all. At this time of racialized, erratic, and feverish policymaking, we see more than ever the need to fix our broken immigration system and address the embedded racism that forces black and brown people to live in fear everyday.

We and our affiliates are pushing for policy changes on all fronts, from Workers Center of Central New York advocating for driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants in New York State, to Workers Dignity/Dignidad Obrera Nashville leading a Day Without Immigrants protest in Nashville, to the Worker Center for Racial Justice who are working to hold the Chicago Police Department accountable and address systemic racism in one of the most segregated cities in the nation. 

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