Rudy López is the newly appointed Executive Director of Interfaith Worker Justice. Born and raised in East Chicago, Indiana, he grew up with a migrant farmworker father who was a union member at Inland Steel Co. and an immigrant mother from Mexico. Mr. López studied political science at Indiana University and is an active member of Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church.
Mr. López has extensive experience in community organizing and legislative advocacy on behalf of immigrants and workers. As Political Director for theCenter for Community Change (2007-2013), he worked with groups nationally to register, educate and turn-out hundreds of thousands of voters in low-income communities and communities of color. He previously served as Wellstone Action’s National Field Director (2005-07), training grassroots leaders to manage campaigns and run for political office, and was the National Field Director of the Chicago-based U.S.Hispanic Leadership Institute (2000-05) where he oversaw Latino leadership development programs and voter-registration drives. His first experience came in the immigrant neighborhoods of Pilsen and Little Village in Chicago, where he worked as a community organizer with Gamaliel affiliate the Metropolitan Alliance of Congregations (1998-99).
For the last two years, prior to assuming his current job, Mr. López worked for comprehensive immigration reform as a senior organizer for the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM) based in Washington, D.C. He was one of the core fasters for Fast4Families, touring the country to raise awareness about immigration reform. He is a frequent media guest focusing on issues of social justice and active community engagement.
On Ash Wednesday, Feb. 18, Interfaith Worker Justice will launch a “Fast from Fast Food” for Lent, raising awareness about the needs of low-income workers in the fast food industry. I interviewed Mr. López by email about his new job and this project on Feb. 10.
What is Interfaith Worker Justice (IWJ) and what does it do?
IWJ is a national non-profit organization dedicated to advancing the rights of low-wage workers by engaging diverse faith communities in action, from grassroots organizing to shaping public policy at the local, state and national levels. We work on efforts to secure paid sick days and maternity leave, keep Wal-Mart accountable and support the Fight for $15 an hour. We also lead the way on wage theft and on an effort called Paystubs for All. We organize, educate and advocate for a just and fair economy where an honest day’s work deserves an honest day’s pay. We do this through a network of more than 50 interfaith groups and worker centers, along with thousands of individuals throughout the country.
How did you become Executive Director?
I had been involved in civic engagement and community organizing for most of my career. One of the great parts of my past positions is that I would get to work on the ground level in communities all across the country. Although my Catholic faith has always been a deeply important part of my life, most of my work was not connected to faith-based organizations. What I found was that when my work did intersect with my faith, it was then I felt most alive. After some time of discernment I decided that I needed to pursue my calling and focus on the intersection of faith and community organizing. Fast4Families was an important experience as it really cemented for me the power of bringing people together around a set of values and beliefs centered through prayer. I then went on a four-month sabbatical and during part of it I walked the Camino de Santiago in Spain. It was an amazing experience and it helped me to spend a lot of time in prayer and reflection. It was soon after I returned from sabbatical that I received a call from a dear friend that encouraged me to seek out the position at IWJ. After more prayers and discernment, it became more and more clear that IWJ was where I was called to be.